Dear Mr. Football: Does USC even care any more? Is it everybody-for-himself time?
A: The Trojans’ new play-caller, Clay Helton, told the Los Angeles Times that he has been sleeping in his office, and did so even while Lane Kiffin coached the team.
That’s absurd. That’s an indictment on the total overkill of college football both in finances/facilities and coaching excess. If I were King of the NCAA, one of the first rules I would implement is that coaches are limited to 40-hour workweeks.
Fired Cal coach Jeff Tedford was notorious for persuading his assistants to sleep in their offices early in each game week. Even Jim Young’s former Arizona assistants, in the mid-’70s, those who hoped to out-work a workaholic head coach, would periodically bunk at McKale Center.
It began 40 years ago at USC when national championship coach John McKay bought a house in Newport Beach and persuaded the school to pay for him to stay at a near-campus hotel during football season. His assistants, often stuck in freeway traffic, living in affordable and distant suburbs, began sleeping in the office.
The rest of the schools began to follow the leader, and here we are in 2013, with Clay Helton sleeping on a couch at the John McKay Center while his three children and wife are at home. Sanity has become the first casualty of modern college football.
Dear Mr. Football: Is USC Tailback U? Or could it be Arizona?
A: Since the Pac-10 was formed in 1978, USC has produced six first-team All-Conference tailbacks. So has Arizona. You can look it up.
The Trojans had Marcus Allen, Charles White, Steve Webster, Leroy Holt, Ricky Ervins and Reggie Bush.
Arizona’s big six: Vance Johnson, David Adams, Ontiwan Carter, Clarence Farmer, Trung Canidate and Ka’Deem Carey.
Some did well against USC: Canidate gained 194 yards in 1999; Farmer ran for 134 yards at USC in 2000 and Adams rushed for 105 yards in a 1986 loss to the Trojans. Johnson, however, was limited to 11 yards on 11 carries against USC in 1982.
Dear Mr. Football: What about Joe McKnight?
A: He’s the older brother of UA starting cornerback Jonathan McKnight and was strongly recruited by former Ole Miss head coach Ed Orgeron, now USC’s interim head coach.
At the time, Orgeron delivered one of the classic quotes of any recruiting season, saying, “If Joe goes to USC, he’s gonna win the Heisman. His highlight tape is way better than Reggie Bush’s high school tape. If he comes to (Ole Miss), we’ll change the bricks on Manning Way to
Alas, Joe McKnight wasn’t even all-conference at USC. He gained 540 yards as a freshman, 695 as a sophomore and 1,014 as a junior, and then bolted for the NFL (he was a fourth-round selection in 2010). He was a backup tailback for the Jets until being released this year.
Dear Mr. Football: Does firing a coach in midseason inspire a college football team?
A: It is so rare in the Pac-12 that there is no real book on it. Until Kiffin was fired, the only midseason sackings in the modern league were at ASU in 1979 (Frank Kush out, Bob Owens in); at Arizona in 2003 (John Mackovic out, Mike Hankwitz in) and at Arizona in 2011 (Mike Stoops out, Tim Kish in).
Colorado, then in the Big 12, fired Dan Hawkins in 2010, appointing Brian Cabral to coach the final three games.
Owens went 3-4 at ASU, Hankwitz went 1-6 at Arizona, Kish was 3-3 at Arizona and Cabral 1-2 at Colorado. That’s 8-15 overall.
The win-one-for-the-Gipper approach usually works for a few minutes. After that, the team with the best players usually wins.
Dear Mr. Football: Is Arizona ever going to play a home game again?
A: When the Wildcats next play at Arizona Stadium, Oct. 19, it will have been 34 days between games in Tucson. No wonder Rich Rodriguez this week said “I would like for our fans to get a chance to see us play.”
The UA’s dreadful schedule, drawn up in the Pac-12 office, is only the fourth time in school history Arizona has had four successive weekends without a game in Tucson. It previously happened in 1972, 1978 and 1986. Arizona’s Oct.19 game against Utah will start at 7 p.m., the Pac-12 announced Wednesday, but there are no kickoff times established for the UA’s three other remaining home games. Fans of college football teams are now held prisoner by TV programmers. Witness tonight’s 7:30 kickoff at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Arizona has played before as few as 49,342 fans at the Coliseum (in 2000). I anticipate fewer than that tonight — the actual in-house count — which will be outnumbered by those cars stuck on the nearby Harbor Freeway.
Dear Mr. Football: Does USC need the TV money that badly?
A: The Trojans are in the process of trying to raise $300 million to renovate Heritage Hall and redo other campus athletic facilities. In addition, they have agreed to spend about $100 million to refurbish the Coliseum, a 92-year-old relic, of which the school recently gained operating control.
Further, it will probably cost Trojan AD Pat Haden about $6 million to $8 million to sweep out Kiffin and his coaching staff, and hire a new one. And USC also must pay $1 million a year to rent the Coliseum.
Someday, adding to much-needed TV revenue, Haden is likely to sell naming rights to the Coliseum. These off-putting, late-night games will be played in something like the Panda Express Coliseum. Get used to it. College football in the 21st century is a money grab and there’s no turning back.
Dear Mr. Football: What did UA linebacker Marquis Flowers mean this week when he said “we want to show we belong’’?
A: Beating USC no longer shows that a team belongs, or has arrived, or is legit. Arizona beat the Trojans last year and lost 66-10 at UCLA a week later.
When Flowers chose Arizona over USC four years ago, he was the UA’s top-ranked recruit. It appeared his timing was perfect: Arizona had just won 16 games in two seasons and seemed destined for a run near the top of the Pac-12.
Instead, Flowers has played on Arizona teams that have gone 22-20. Had he chosen USC, his record wouldn’t be much different, 28-15. Either way, he would not have avoided chaos.
In its first platoon of players, the Trojans are superior to Arizona in almost every position, especially in the defensive front seven. I don’t think USC will suddenly become a spirited, unselfish and we’re-all-in-this-together outfit tonight.
But can the Wildcats score more than 20 points? It’s unlikely, but I do like RichRod and his staff to make it close by out-coaching the Trojans. USC 27, Arizona 20.