The Point After: USC football has reached threat level midnight

first_imgAs the Trojans marched off the field at the Coliseum on Nov. 24 later after another heartbreaking 24-17 loss — the team’s seventh of the season — to archrival Notre Dame, there was certainly a belief amongst the USC faithful that this was the point at which the team had bottomed out. A season that would end with no bowl game for the first time since 2011 and four rivalry losses (five including Texas), the program fell from the leader of the West to the laughing stock of the nation’s worst Power Five conference. Jimmy Goodman is a junior writing about USC sports. His column, “The Point After,” runs every other Tuesday. It was bad enough that Kingsbury, the man labeled by fans and — to a degree — the program as the future of Trojan football, had left before seeing the field. But the timing of the decision could not have been worse. It came just weeks after Early Signing Day and days removed from star receivers Bru McCoy and Kyle Ford announcing their commitments to USC on national television. This sent the situation into further freefall behind the scenes. The extreme discontent was made public on Thursday when McCoy, the sole 5-star recruit and clear leader of an uncommonly low-ranked 2019 recruiting class for USC, made it known that he intended to transfer from USC after spending just 16 days on campus. Despite the obvious wealth of talent at the position with junior Michael Pittman, redshirt sophomore Tyler Vaughns and freshman Amon-Ra St. Brown, fans saw the loss of McCoy as the yet another final nail in the coffin for a once-great program. Surely, Trojan fans thought, there would be massive, unmistakable changes in the team culture, if not personnel. These hopes were swiftly dashed the next morning when USC Athletic Director Lynn Swann released a statement backing maligned head coach Clay Helton and ensuring that the team would remain on its current path. In his statement, Swann affirmed that “Helton has a plan in place to get USC back to the top.” The sky, however, caved in when it was announced on Jan. 8, just over a month after he became a member of the Trojans, that Kingsbury had accepted a job to become the next head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Reportedly, Kingsbury was easily able to take such a job due to the fact that the contract he signed listed his buyout at an insignificant $150,000, which the Cardinals covered without hesitation. Over the ensuing months, what Swann could have described as an off-year for a blue chip program with loads of young talent has devolved into an ugly nightmare that gets comically worse by the day. How much further down the rabbit hole this program will go is yet to be seen, but as things stand today, Swann needs to act swiftly and deliberately. The ball is firmly in Swann’s court, and if he has any intention on remaining employed at a school with expectations as high as USC’s, he will get in front of the press and, for the first time in months, do his job. Every hour he shies away from the microphone, another season ticket holder backs out. The reported hiring of Graham Harrell as offensive coordinator is potentially a positive step, but it wouldn’t be a problem if Swann hadn’t dropped the ball on Kingsbury’s contract. While all this madness has proceeded on and off campus, one man has been very obviously silent: Swann. Aside from making a few comments leading up to and following the hiring of Kingsbury, the athletic director hasn’t discussed football matters for months. It would be alarming for that to be the case in a business-as-usual offseason, but in a year such as this one, it has USC fans and boosters prepared to bring out their pitchforks. USC is under the leadership of an interim president with no timeline for finding a replacement and is in a town such as Los Angeles, where there have always been better sports options (and now, better football options) — it is a death knell to see USC football fall into such disarray. On Dec. 5, USC appeared to have made possibly the most impactful coaching hire in the sport when they signed former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury as its new offensive coordinator and, in the most obvious unspoken way, the “head-coach-in-waiting” akin to the likes of Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley. The time for sadness and disappointment is long gone. In fact, it’s possible that the time for pitchforks has passed as well. At this point, the USC “faithful” have begun to show signs of total disillusionment with the team, coaches and administration. Many fans, boosters and supporters are simply beginning to take their balls and go home. The excitement around the hire was not limited to fans, as USC Athletics sprung into high gear to promote the great victory of picking up Kingsbury. USC sent emails to fans asking them to renew season tickets with an advertisement prominently featuring Kingsbury. The team’s Twitter account gleefully posted videos of him settling into an office in Heritage Hall and ESPN reporter Shelley Smith even conducted an interview with Kingsbury regarding his decision to join the Trojans, where he deflected questions about NFL jobs by saying, “This isn’t a one month process … I want that job.”last_img

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