After what has been the most tumultuous off season in USC history training camp opened yesterday with little fanfare but with a lot of anticipation.
Both the fans and the players are happy for this day come in order put the off season in the past. The players, because they can get on the field and put all the questions about the sanctions and previous regime behind them and the fans because we want to see the teams make-up and how they will respond given the new staff, the new rules and the roster restrictions that have been placed on the program.
You're either in or you're out...Right Now!
Your perspective on the start of the season depends on what side of the fence you are on........literally!
A motivational sign taped to the gate of the practice facility read "Lock In." But for fans and others accustomed to attending practices, it was a lockout.
More like KEEP OUT!
If you are ever lucky to get into practice, which is not likely a given the new rules that the VP of Compliance has put in place, (they do realize that if you are a season ticket holder that you are technically a booster, right?) you may get a small taste as to what what is was like under Pete Carroll albeit significantly subdued...otherwise you are forced to greet the players outside of Howard Jones Field with a few brief "hello's" and "good luck" as the players set upon their business, as described here...
A group of fans that regularly attended practice during Carroll's open-door era was forced to stand outside, where it greeted players and coaches making their way to the workout.
It won't surprise me one bit if school officials don't allow that to continue either.
One fan and alum called it collateral damage...
"For all of us here, the regulars, it's like collateral damage," said Ed Bubar, who graduated from USC and its pharmacy school in the 1970s.
This is the intended consequence of the NCAA's ruling...the gutting of a program both on and off the field.
Welcome to the real world...
Dillon Baxter is just one of those that is happy to get on the football field.
Dillon Baxter knew a big change was coming when news broke in January that Pete Carroll was bolting USC for the Seattle Seahawks.
Baxter still signed a letter of intent with the Trojans and enrolled early, but the last seven months have been a blur for the freshman running back from San Diego.
"I didn't think it was going to be this much of a crazy experience," Baxter said this week, adding, "I'm happy it's just football now."
Baxter, of course, started a bit of his own controversy with his tale that he was contacted by "other schools" about transferring after the sanctions were handed down. We will never know the whole story there. But I think Baxter now knows that he can't say or do anything controversial that won't come under scrutiny from those looking to turn the littlest issue into a major conspiracy.
On the field happenings...
After reading the reports from the local papers there really isn't anything significant to report. Much of it was pretty much a repeat of spring ball as the incoming freshman who have just arrived on campus are just getting their feet wet. But there were a couple of tidbits...
- Offensive tackle Matt Kalil sat out because of a hamstring strain
- Defensive lineman Armond Armstead was treated for dehydration
- Tight end Rhett Ellison took snaps at the position and could remain there
- Here is some Video from the OCR
The proof is in the pudding...
Everyone is happy that Pat Haden has taken over as AD and brought his lifelong sidekick J.K McKay with him. Change was necessary, but they have some tough shoes to fill in Mike Garrett whose success as AD on the athletic side and on fund raising side is virtually unmatched.
Haden has to find a way to keep the fan base engaged.
To me, the new rules form the compliance department that I mentioned above come off as antagonistic in their approach...even though the result is necessary until we have a final ruling from the appeal.
I say keep everyone out!
Based on the press' attitude toward the school over the past couple of years Heritage Hall should take the same approach that the University of Florida has in not allowing the press into practice. What are they going to do? Write more bad articles about USC?
The letter to fans/alums was nice but I think Haden needs to set up a speaking tour; he needs to get out in front of this and have an audience with the teams most ardent supporters, to let their concerns be heard. Even if it is just window dressing, the act of "meetin' with the peeps" will go a long way to shoring up support for the program as they navigate through the murky waters of the appeal.
The fans/alums are more likely to support the team when you give them time to vent while laying out your plan of addressing concerns...ignoring them only increases their bewilderment and resentment.
It is pretty clear to me that USC has gone into bunker mentality mode when dealing with those who have been the most faithful...and the most generous. Yes, for the time being 'SC has to follow the guidelines set forth by the NCAA but I have seen very little with regards to USC setting up a campaign of making those who have been the most faithful still feel welcome...the result of the sanctions had NOTHING to do with boosters/Alums/everyday fans, yet they/we pay the price.
Unknown is USC's response to the NCAA when they file their appeal in a few short weeks. I am not hopeful...USC's lack of a PR offensive when this whole mess broke in 2006 and the way it appears that the school addressed the allegations back in February give me pause that 'SC will be successful. I am not saying that they should immediately go to court and seek relief because there is a process they must follow. But given past actions I don't really see 'SC having success, especially given the limited scope of of the appeals process.
It is definitely different that's for sure...