Reality smacks Matt Barkley and USC

I’ve never been a Lane Kiffin fan, and I’m hardly alone. Kiffin comes across as an arrogant punk, and frankly he’s done little as a head coach to inspire much confidence. He’s been a good recruiter at USC, but I wasn’t surprised to see USC lay another egg against Stanford last night.

Yeah, it’s over.

The idea of a perfect Trojans season. The idea of an easy Matt Barkley Heisman. The lovely notion that a college football team can come off two years of probation and dominate the football world as if it never left.

Oh, it’s ugly.

Just three games into what was supposed to be a dream season, the Trojans were slapped awake and senseless Saturday by Stanford in a 21-14 loss that felt like a 12th-round knockout.

Lying flat today is Barkley, tossed around in a backfield that became a dangerous place without injured center Khaled Holmes, leveled by poor communication with receivers that resulted in consecutive interceptions, the golden boy all bronzed.

Lying next to him is Coach Lane Kiffin, who began the week by causing a silly distraction with the media and ended it overseeing a team that followed his lead by playing undisciplined and, well, distracted.

Also, for all those fans expecting Matt Barkley to be a savior for an NFL franchise, this game has to throw some cold water on that notion as well.

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USC shocks Oregon; is for real again

Don’t look now, but USC is 9-2, and although it can’t go to a bowl game, it just seriously impacted the BCS picture.

The Trojans went into Autzen Stadium and put on an offensive clinic against Oregon, as Matt Barkley and company carved up the Ducks in a 38-35 USC win. That makes two teams who looked to have a good shot at playing for a national title (Oklahoma State and Oregon) who are now just hoping to win their conference and play in a BCS bowl.

That’s the major story that comes out of this weekend, that the BCS was shaken to its core, and Alabama’s path to a rematch just got a lot more clear. But maybe, just maybe, we should look a little at how good USC actually is.

This is a team that took Andrew Luck and Stanford to multiple overtimes. That went into South Bend and beat up on Notre Dame. And now, despite NCAA sanctions and not having a full complement of scholarships, the Trojans are coming together and looking like a top 10 team. Yes, top 10.

Matt Barkley is the real deal, and the team that loses the Andrew Luck sweepstakes should not be disappointed in having to “settle” for Barkley. His receivers, namely Robert Woods and Marquise Lee, are spectacular, and despite very little depth on the offensive line, the Trojans have put together a solid run game.

I realize nobody wants to admit this, and believe me, I’m in that group, but Lane Kiffin is doing one heck of a job right now in Los Angeles. He’s convinced a team with literally nothing but pride to play for that these games matter.

UCLA is the only game left on USC’s schedule, and that should be a win. And, frankly, 10-2 for the Trojans is an incredible accomplishment this year. I’m not sure if this will translate to more success when the Trojans become eligible for bowl games next season, as I’m assuming Barkley is going to jump to the pros. But if he stays, I don’t see why USC can’t compete for a national title next year. Seriously.

The absurdity of erasing college football’s past

How low can the NCAA and BCS sink these days?

Today we learned that the BCS stripped USC of its 2004 national title, vacating the results of the 2005 Orange Bowl where USC crushed Oklahoma. The BCS also vacated the Trojans participation in the 2006 Rose Bowl that decided the national championship for the 2005 season. Remember that game? Vince Young turned in one of the greatest performances in college football history as Texas knocked off USC, 41-38. According to the NCAA and the BCS, that game never happened.

The NCAA has become a joke (the BCS has always been a joke). The entire college football system has been hijacked by big conferences and universities looking to cash in and keep all the money for themselves through the BCS farce, and then you have the NCAA enforcing a code of ethics developed for a society that looks more like 1950s America than the real world of today.

I’m an Ohio State fan, so I’ve never been a fan of USC, but it’s appalling to see this title stripped away. One idiot on the team was taking money, and suddenly the accomplishments of a great team are nullified by the fools running college athletics. USC may have failed to uncover the problem, but it’s not like assistant coaches were handing Reggie Bush thousands of dollars.

You might say that a severe penalty is in order, but why punish all the college kids who played on that team? Why punish the fans? Why stain the memory of a great season, and then a year later a great game where Vince Young and Texas beat a team many considered to be the best of all time until that night?

If you’re looking for a way to punish the crime, why not follow the money? That’s what college football is all about these days. Instead of forfeiting the game, why not have USC forfeit the millions of dollars paid to them by the BCS that year? The kids never saw a dime of that money, yet they’re the ones getting punished. If you want to prevent this behavior, penalties in the millions of dollars will get the attention of the USC athletic department and the University president.

As for the coaches, punish them as well! In the case of USC, perhaps there wasn’t enough evidence to ban Pete Carroll from coaching for several years, but if he or his assistants were directly implicated, then the NCAA could have suspended them and/or fined them. I understand that Pete Carroll left for the NFL, but he could have been prevented from attending any college football games and interacting with any college football program for a number of years.

In the Jim Tressel case, he should be punished going forward so that he can’t cash in at another university, and Ohio State should lose the money it received for the Sugar Bowl.

Money talks. The big schools have pointed to things like tradition and education as reasons we shouldn’t have a playoff system, and then they play musical chairs with conference memberships and add championship games all while throwing tradition out the window. Nothing matters more than the money . . .

College football needs a complete overhaul, from a playoff system to an examination of all the idiotic rules governing the conduct of “student athletes.” But it needs to start by going after the money, hitting schools where it hurts, and it needs to stop the absurdity of erasing the past every time some dumb kid gets caught accepting money, cars or tattoos from a booster or agent.

Jeff Fisher criticizes Lane Kiffin for his lack of professionalism

SEATTLE , WA - JANUARY 03: Head Coach Jeff Fisher of the Tennessee Titans a walks the sidelines against the Seattle Seahawks Qwest Field on January 3, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

After Lane Kiffin hired Tennessee running backs coach Kennedy Pola to be his new offensive coordinator at USC, Titans’ head coach Jeff Fisher was a little ticked off that Kiffin didn’t call him first.


“I am very disappointed in Lane Kiffin’s approach to this,” Fisher told The Tennessean on Saturday. “Typically speaking, when coaches are interested in hiring or discussing potential employment from coaches on respective staffs there is a courtesy call made from the head coach or athletic director indicating there is an interest in talking to the assistant.

“So I am very disappointed in the lack of professionalism on behalf of Lane, to call me and leave me a voicemail after Kennedy had informed me he had taken the job. It is just a lack of professionalism.”

Kiffin claims it was all a matter of timing.

“We reached out to Kennedy Pola [on Friday] to gauge whether he had any possible interest in returning to USC before we moved forward with the process,” Kiffin said. “Kennedy said he would think about it and get back to us today. Once Kennedy did call back earlier today, out of my great respect for Coach Fisher I immediately reached out to Coach to make him aware of the situation.

“I have spoken with Coach Fisher and he now has an accurate understanding of the timeline of events.

“We realize the timing of this isn’t perfect for all parties, but this is a great opportunity and promotion for Kennedy.”

This wasn’t the first time Kiffin has pissed off a fellow coach and it probably won’t be the last. If it was a matter of timing and therefore, a misunderstanding, then I’m sure Fisher can let the situation go. Then again, Fisher’s main beef was that Kiffin never contacted him when USC was interested in hiring Pola. Kiffin could have picked up the phone as soon as Pola was a serious candidate and this situation could have been avoided.

Either way, this story is sure to get buried soon. Fisher’s probably more upset that he lost his running backs coach one week before training camp starts than he is about Kiffin’s moral compass. Although I would have loved to hear Fisher drop the line, “Lane Kiffin is a guy that would bend you over and not have the courtesy to give you a reach around.” (I cleaned that line up for the kids viewing at home.)

USC trying to clean up image, starts by throwing out Bush’s Heisman

December 03, 2005 - Los Angeles, CA..USC's Reggie Bush #5 runs in action against UCLA...USC defeats the UCLA Bruins at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. USC won the game 66-19..Photo Louis Lopez Photo via Newscom

A day after helping Mike Garrett with his retirement decision (that’s a nice way of saying they gave him the boot) and replacing him with new athletic director Pat Haden, USC returned its copy of the Heisman Trophy that former running back Reggie Bush won in 2005.


The university’s incoming president announced an overhaul of the athletic department Tuesday, replacing athletic director Mike Garrett with Pat Haden, ordering the removal of displays honoring Bush’s and Mayo’s accomplishments at USC and returning its copy of Bush’s Heisman.

Haden said the school’s plan to get rid of nearly all references to Bush and Mayo — right down to scrubbing their images from school murals and removing Bush’s No. 5 jersey in its place of honor in the lobby of Heritage Hall — are all part of the NCAA’s directive to disassociate the school from the athletes.

It’s important to note that Bush is still in possession of the original Heisman, which is given out by the Downtown Athletic Club and the Heisman Trust. Outside of the fact that it’s given to a college player, the NCAA has no barring on who receives the award and therefore, whether or not one should be taken away.

Some may question why USC didn’t get rid of O.J. Simpson’s Heisman after he murdered two people all of his legal troubles, but don’t forget that his trial in the early 90s was nearly 30 years after he donned a Trojan uniform. Plus, everything that coconut did after his playing days had no affect on what he did on the field at USC.

Bush, on the other hand, is a different story. He directly played a role in USC receiving a two-year bowl ban and I can’t blame the university for wanting to scrub his name from its memory. Their message is clear: We’re moving on.

If this is USC’s way of embarrassing Bush, then so be it. He deserves it. I realize he was only a kid and kids are easily persuaded, but he still knew right from wrong. He still made the conscious decision to put himself ahead of the program.

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