As a graduate of the University of Southern California, I am often accused of viewing the world through Trojan-colored glasses. While there’s some truth to that charge, I currently believe that recent reports of USC football’s return to national relevance have been greatly exaggerated.
Yes, beating Arizona on October 10 was a big win for team that had lost its identity and for a fan base that had become frustrated, unhappy, and – worst of all – disinterested. Also, it appears that Interim Head Coach Ed Orgeron has brought “fun” back to USC football.
Fun is important at USC. Under Pete Carroll, it meant Snoop Dogg and Will Ferrell making cameos at practice. Under Orgeron, it means sweets served at dinner and “Get Crunk” blasting during pre-game. (In a statement that surprised exactly no one, Athletic Director Pat Haden admitted that the song is not currently on his iPod.)
Right now, the Trojans are having so much fun that there are people who want to see Orgeron hired full-time, Haden’s desperately-trying-to-fly-under-the-radar coaching search be damned.
Not so fast, my friend.
First of all, it was one game. Orgeron’s predecessor also enjoyed a successful debut, a 49-36 win over Hawaii. Less than three full seasons later, Trojan fans were screaming for “Lame Kiffin’s” head. (Which Haden eventually delivered – after a 62-41 loss at Arizona State.)
Secondly, it’s easy to institute a culture change on a short-term basis, especially when the outgoing coach wasn’t winning. In both collegiate and professional sports, “disciplinarians” are replaced with “players’ coaches” on a regular basis – and vice versa. Orgeron’s honeymoon period isn’t at all uncommon. It will likely last until he loses a game … or two or three.
That’s not to say that he shouldn’t eventually be considered for the full-time gig. For years, Orgeron has been regarded as one of the most tenacious recruiters in a profession that’s full of them. His 10-25 record as head coach at Ole Miss has apparently caused him to re-examine his leadership style. Current USC players sing his praises.
But Trojan fans should wait before anointing Orgeron the second coming of Carroll. Let the current season develop before deciding who’s going to be at the helm for the next one. See how the Trojans perform against rivals Notre Dame and UCLA, both of whom defeated USC last year.
Over thirty years ago, Haden guided USC to a national championship as a quarterback. Now he’s trying to do the same as an administrator. Step one is hiring the right coach – at the right time, for the right reasons.