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THE FALL OF TROY: How USC Can Regain Their Respect
What the Trojans and their football team need to do now
OK, just in case you were living in a cave in Antarctica this past week and missed it, the NCAA found the University of Southern California in Los Angeles guilty of "Lack of Institutional Control" within their athletic department, particularly with regards to their much heralded football team.
Among the sanctions that were imposed on the school just south of Downtown L.A. were:
* Having to vacate 14 football wins earned from December 2004 through the 2005 season, meaning that their 2004 BCS championship is officially stripped
* A loss of 30 scholarships in football, to be enforced over the next three seasons, and...
* The Trojan football team being banned from the post season in 2010 and 2011.
This punishment is harsher that what I would have given them; it's safe to say that the NCAA threw the book at Southern Cal.
The thing that makes me angry, and the reason why USC's sanctions were as harsh as they were in my view, is the arrogance that the entire Trojan community, from athletic director Mike Garrett on down, has shown throughout the NCAA's investigation of various infractions that some of SC's athletes committed.
It is apparent to me that Garrett, football coach Lane Kiffin, and the countless Trojan supporters frequenting the USC fan web sites are showing no remorse for what at least some of their school's athletes have done.
According to Garrett, who was USC's first Heisman Trophy winner in 1965, the NCAA has "...nothing but a lot of envy. They wish they were Trojans."
I'm sorry to say this Mr. Garrett, but nothing can be further from the truth.
Kiffin, who took over for Pete Carroll this past January, likewise gave the NCAA the finger when he told reporters, "SC is more powerful than anything else. The university, the football program...no matter what they try to do to us, it won't matter."
If this is not pure, unadulterated arrogance, than I don't know what arrogance is.
Then again, this is a school where a member of their marching band proudly proclaimed that "...arrogance is a part of the image that we exude," and even the Daily Trojan, USC's student news source, stated in a 2005 article that "an arrogance has taken over the (football) program", so statements like Garrett's and Kiffin's is not that surprising to me.
This sense of untouchability, conceit, and entitlement is so pronounced that I'm convinced that it earned USC football the punishment that it got.
Having said that, this is what I firmly believe USC must do to clean up their house and earn back the respect of the NCAA and the rest of the nation:
1. TAKE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR WHAT HAS HAPPENED AND SHOW REMORSE
This may be difficult for the USC community and fan base, as a whole, to do given their nature. Though it would be nice, I don't expect an open letter of apology to come from any Trojans anywhere in the near future.
2. SHOW MIKE GARRETT THE DOOR
Steven Sample, who has been the president of USC for nearly twenty years, is stepping down and being replaced by C. Max Nikias this summer.
Upon taking office, the very first thing that Nikias needs to do is offer Garrett a very substantial retirement and pension package, as he is ultimately responsible for the "lack of institutional control" in his athletic department.
By doing this, USC will be able to start fresh; that is what the Trojans desperately need to do.
If Garrett refuses the offer of retirement, then Nikias needs to ask for his resignation. And if he refuses that, then the next words out of Nikias' mouth need to be:
"Clean out your office, you're fired!"
3. HIRE PAT HADEN AS THE NEW DIRECTOR OF TROJAN ATHLETICS
This former USC quarterback of the mid-1970s who was the hero of the 1975 Rose Bowl, beating Ohio State with a last minute touchdown pass, is exactly what that institution of higher learning needs - now.
This former L.A. Rams star is as clean and straight arrow as Trojans come, being that he was a Rhodes Scholar and currently a prominent lawyer. USC athletics would exude a cleaner image right away, because upon his hiring Haden would waste no time in cleaning house.
And he wouldn't stand for any violations or incidents.
4. WATCH LANE KIFFIN AND CO. LIKE TEN HAWKS
Absolute zero tolerance must be given with Kiffin, his staff, and the running of the Trojan football program.
Officials from the school's compliance department must be on hand at all practices, games, and functions.The first time that anything happens that shouldn't happen, Kiffin needs to be told the same thing that Garrett should be told:
"Clean out your office, you're fired!"
Should the coaching staff need to be released of their duties, the next thing that should be done is something that should have been done when Carroll left to coach the NFL's Seattle Seahawks back in January...
5. HIRE TYRONE WILLINGHAM
Yes, he was fired at Notre Dame after failing to satisfy that Irish faithful, and he did go 0-12 the last time he was a head coach at Washington in 2008.
Forget all of that, however: Willingham is a very good coach.
And in addition to that, like Haden he is as straight arrow as they come in college sports, which is precisely what USC needs to lead them on the gridiron.
Being the upstanding individual that Willingham is, stunts such as players punching students at parties and crowing "I own the police" (Rey Maualuga) and attempting to solicit prostitutes who are undercover cops (Winston Justice) would not be tolerated under his regime, nor would anything else that was against the law or the rules.
If Maualuga, Justice, or the many other players who shirked the law or NCAA regulations under Carroll were coached by Willingham, they would have been immediately and permanently kicked off the team, because integrity would rule the day over anything else.
Indeed, if Garrett had hired the former Irish, Husky, Michigan State and Stanford - who he took to the 2000 Rose Bowl - coach rather than Kiffin, SC's sanctions wouldn't have been as harsh.
The reason? The NCAA would have seen that by hiring a clean, straight arrow coach like Willingham, the Trojans were at least doing something to get their house in order.
The University of Southern California would gain from the college sports world something that their overall arrogance has denied them from achieving by following these suggestions - respect and admiration from the rest of the country.
Otherwise their reputation as being arrogant with a sense of untouchability will continue, and the next step for that school's premier sports team may be the death penalty.