College football fans are all witnessing an incredible run at Alabama under Nick Saban. He has built an enormous support system deeply in to the heart of the best and brightest in the High Schools of America. The law of attraction is alive and well in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. This is a city that is devoted to it’s proud football program. The bottom line is that they stood with their team through the good years of Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and the lean years leading up to the Nick Saban good fortune. Do they have an unfair advantage being Big Program in a small town? I say, No. Why? If they did then the down years would be very limited (Outside of our friends at the NCAA interrupting their good fortune a times).
The University of Southern California has had the pleasure of many such runs of good fortune. Early years of the program through the McKay years and clearly the Pete Carroll amazing run. Not to try and compare one stroke of great luck to another but today’s college football “Dynasty” level is clearly an amazing proposition and tip of the hat to Saban for all that he has been able to accomplish. Today’s coaches do not have the unlimited scholarship pool as many decades before them enjoyed. Today you have 85 guesses. The Power 5 schools are all working hard to achieve that limited window of time in front of the players and families of the top high school football programs in America.
We titled that discussion “Building Trust”. This is where it all comes to that ultimate decision in that living room where a player and family commit. Do they trust the program and school? What’s important to the athlete and family? The informed decisions are inclusive of academic focus combined with the NFL preview of good fortune and health. Does the school offer a solid program and can their child athlete succeed in a Big City vs a Small Town? If you have had the pleasure of going through the multiple visit and offer experience this is a mind blowing experience and one that has a beginning and end of course but the path along the way is enormously wide and deep with phone calls and visits. Official visits versus unofficial visits? Why do we care? It’s a visit. Let it be. These are big decisions and the families and athletes should be able to visit as often as they can on the tab of the School. Not every family can afford to travel to a school of interest outside of their community. Unfair to the advantage of the big schools with deep funding sources? Of course it is but lets not lose sight of the goal which is information deeply understood. That takes time.
USC had an amazing run under Pete Carroll. It began challenged to produce results from the lean years to a point where they were the Alabama of their day. The envy of the college football world and recruiting was definitely coming their way with the top stars of the high schools. It ended. It came to an abrupt end on a tragic flurry of acquisitions that even today remain questionable. It ended. People moved on. The rebuilding post sanctions has been difficult but for the first time in many years post Pete, the program has hope. In fact, the program has a legitimate shot at the ultimate redemption which is the College Football Playoffs.
After shaking off the impact of Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkasian the then Athletic Direction made the choice of Clay Helton. Clay had been through all the downs of the program post sanction. Fanbase was clearly questioning this decision but then the season started and kaboom. All hell broke loose with a 1-3 start and a great kid, Max Browne, was benched in favor of the unproven Sam Darnold. We all know the rest of the story as Sam lost his initial game to Utah but the team responded with a fight. They were in this game and it took a great last possession drive by Utah to steal the victory back. They did just that. But something happened that night. Something very obvious to those that were there and those of us who watched the game on TV.
Sam Darnold had the Team on his shoulders. The team played with inspired efforts in all three areas of the program, Offense, Defense and Special Teams. You could feel it and see it live. Nine games later and what most are calling the greater Bowl Game every the Trojans defeated the red-hot Penn State Nittany Lions with a come from behind victory against all odds in the Rose Bowl of Rose Bowls.
Building Trust takes time. The Trojans wound that clock with Coach Helton staying the course after the pressure of that dismal start. He never pointed fingers and only showed deep loyalty to his team and staff. He willed this team to respond and trust in his path to rebuilding the USC Trojan Football program back to the top of the college football world. He is well on his way to being one of the most amazing turnarounds ever seen in college football. One year does not make a dynasty but all evidence is pointing to a great step in the right direction.
We wish all the Trojan current and future families great success and hope that we will see the Cardinal & Gold at the top of its game in 2017 and beyond.
Fight On Trojans!