USC is primarily known as a football school, but football is only one of 21 Division I teams the school offers across a wide variety of sports. Each program brings its own history and well-known contributors, providing a way to help tide football fans over during the seven months of the year without a USC football game.
However, there are still numerous sports that are not included in those 21 teams, some of which are surprising given their popularity in both the college and professional realms. I have created my personal wishlist of sports that USC does not have a Division I team for that I would like to see them add. I have no expectation or insight of them being added in the immediate future, but they’re all sports I would enjoy having more of an incentive to follow. All of these teams also offer at least a club team on the USC campus.
The Pac-12 has developed into one of the strongest conferences in the nation in softball, with eight teams making it into this year’s NCAA Tournament and six closing out the regular season in the Top 25. This would be amazing for what is normally a 12-team conference, but it’s extremely impressive considering that only nine schools are a part of softball’s Pac-12. USC, along with Colorado and Washington State, are the three schools in the conference without a Division I team.
The Trojans baseball program has established themselves as one of the best in the sports history, winning an NCAA-leading 12 championships and making 21 appearances in the College World Series, which is tied for fourth in the nation with Florida State. A softball team would be able to come into Dedeaux Field and start their own history. They would face an uphill battle, entering a conference whose teams have won a combined 23 NCAA championships, led by UCLA’s 11. However, with a solid foundation and a few successful years of recruiting incoming talent to build the program, the Women of Troy could start climbing the mountain that is Pac-12 softball.
USC introduced the women’s lacrosse program during the 2012-13 season, finishing their inaugural season with an 8-10 record. The program has flourished since then, having made three straight NCAA Tournament appearances and finished as MPSF conference champion the last two seasons with a combined record of 37-5. Their first year has been the program’s only season with a losing record, showing that the young program is able to recruit top talent to play in Southern California and develop them into a title contender.
Men’s lacrosse has always been that sport that I enjoy watching, but will usually only turn it on if I find it while channel-surfing and I haven’t found something else to watch. There are some rule differences between men’s and women’s lacrosse, with the men’s game featuring more physical play, making it a little more appealing to the football crowd.
The Trojans would also be the first Division I men’s lacrosse program in the state of California, with the current western-most program being the University of Denver. This new program could join women’s lacrosse in playing their home games at McCarthy Field, with a game or two being held at the Coliseum each year for special occasions. The main issue the program would face from the start would be travel, as almost all Division I lacrosse programs are around the East Coast. Unless more schools in the Pacific Time Zone consider adding men’s lacrosse, it’s unlikely that a team that would accumulate so many travel expenses would be able to get off the ground. However, if the staff for a potential men’s lacrosse program could capture the magic that women’s lacrosse has captured in the last five years, it could lead to lacrosse being a continental sport rather than primarily on the East Coast.
Men’s and/or Women’s Ice Hockey
USC currently has a Division II men’s ice hockey team that plays in the Pac-8 conference, as well as a club women’s ice hockey team looking to join the Pac-8. Both teams primarily play at Lakewood Ice, and the men’s team leads the Pac-8 with 10 conference championships. Between the success of the men’s program and the growth of the sport as a whole, especially in Southern California, there’s potential for either a Division I men’s or women’s hockey team.
The Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks have combined to win three Stanley Cups and make seven Western Conference Finals appearances since the 2004-05 season canceled by lockout, including this season with the Ducks battling the Nashville Predators. This string of recent success has brought a newfound enthusiasm for hockey all over the state, and it’s this growth that introduces the possibility of bringing hockey to USC.
The Trojans have the opportunity to help spearhead the movement of the sport out west. The Arizona State Sun Devils debuted their Division I men’s ice hockey program in 2016, making them the western-most Division I team in the continental United States in either the men’s or women’s sport. USC can become the first Division I team on the West Coast, try to lead the charge with the Pac-8 or even Pac-12 moving to Division I hockey, and continue increasing the presence of the sport in Southern California. They can market their athletic history, location, and academics to college hockey recruits, as well as the allure of being the building block for what could be one of the nation’s strongest programs, similar to how the women’s lacrosse team has done it.
There are some questions that arise when it comes to starting a Division I ice hockey program at USC. Would the Trojans continue playing at Lakewood Ice for home games? Could the administration alternate between a basketball court and hockey rink at Galen Center like the Kings, Clippers, and Lakers do at Staples Center? How detrimental would the extended travel times be to the growth of this young program? These questions would have to be answered by someone more knowledgeable about the behind-the-scenes aspect of sports than myself, but as a USC fan I would love to chance to have more chances to cheer for my alma mater.