How about a little Friday Football Fix this week. We’re so close to actual football after months of anticipation, it’s time for some serious talk. And Friday is always a good time to do it.
So . . . here we go.
Post-sanctions . . . and post-NCAA, too
For USC fans, this will be, in a way, the first year of the post-NCAA sanctions period with fans in the stands for practice – some of them anyway. And fans on the team planes where space is available.
And there will be a full 25-person recruiting class coming in in 2015 as well. So even with a squad of just 67 or so originally recruited scholarship players this season, the Trojans are tiptoeing into a time when the NCAA’s vendetta to take the team down is in the rearview mirror.
Except for the NCAA, that is. Which gives us a nice symmetry here with USC’s return. Because when the books are written – and there will be a number of them – about the way college athletics moved on to a post-NCAA period, as it clearly is these days, the USC case will be seen as the catalyst that moved the bureaucratic, agenda-driven, lawless outfit in Indianapolis into total irrelevancy.
Of course it wasn’t just the USC case. The NCAA cooperated with its tone-deaf, good-old-boys treatment – or failure to do so – when it looked the other way in a series of high-profile cases involving favored schools or programs where its enforcement and investigative malfeasance was exposed before the facts of the case were even found out.
“[NCAA] enforcement is broken,” Bowlsby said. “The infractions committee hasn't had a hearing in almost a year, and I think it's not an understatement to say cheating pays presently.”
And with its inability to adjust to the changing times, even with the approaching autonomy of sorts for the 65 teams in the Power Five conferences, Bowlsby sees serious financial stress in the near future for NCAA schools whose revenue is increasing at 2.5 percent a year while expenses increase at 4 percent. Dropping sports may be the only solution.
We think that’s not the case and hope to be able to tell you about a potential solution that, like with the USC case, will have its roots here in Southern California. But that’s for another day . . . another day in what essentially is becoming a post-NCAA world in college athletics. Stay tuned.
37-1, 37-2, who’s counting?
It was a smackdown, a romp of epic proportions, the way the Pac-12 media went for the favorites – Oregon and UCLA in the North and South respectively, over runnerups Stanford and USC. And that should have been enough to set off some sort of talkback. But remember, this is the laid-back Pac-12 we’re talking about. The two-time North champs from Stanford seemed almost happy to hear it. They’ll put it away for now and remember it later in Eugene. And USC behind its crosstown rival that far, well we’re not sure anyone even asked.
And we know this: the media voters have missed 25 of the 53 years they’ve done this so maybe who cares. Although if we had to guess, Stanford does. The Cardinal guys just aren’t saying.
USC doesn’t care about this question
We really liked the way Steve Sarkisian answered the question about whether his players, the younger ones especially, were excited about the 2016 opener against Alabama in the Cowboys’ stadium in Texas. “Don’t even ask,” we paraphrase Sark’s answer. It’s two years away. And this is a team thinking about its first workout Aug..4 and Game 1 against Fresno State Aug. 30. Asking this team at this time about that, Sark said, would almost be “an insult.” It’s not anything they’re even remotely thinking about. So no one did.
Uh oh, are we sure it’s hypothetical
In its presentation at Pac-12 Media Days about how exactly the new selection process will work out, the College Football Playoff folks presented a hypothetical finish for this season that put a Pac-12 champions USC team in the absolutely worst of all places – No. 5 in the nation. And that’s a case where the relatively good news is the really bad news.
The last place in the world you want to be in a new four-team playoff is the fifth spot. With the playoffs opening at the Rose Bowl, that would mean no Pasadena for USC or any Pac-12 team in this hypothetical scenario. The way it worked out, USC ended up matched up in the Fiesta Bowl against a 25th-ranked Boise State, the top team outside the power conferences. All we can hope is that this projection is really hypothetical here. Although we’ll take that Pac-12 title.
Talking Trojan tickets here
With the announcement last week that USC was putting on sale single game tickets, we wondered how season ticket sales were going for Sark’s first season. We’re told they’re down maybe 2,000 or so. Not bad. Something of a wait-and-see attitude that could work out OK if USC cooperates on the field.
The opener against Fresno State should benefit from all those Bulldog fans coming down and then there are two road games of mammoth impact – at Stanford and Boston College with a bye week following. Win those games, come back ranked in the Top 10 and ready to make a run and the whole ticket deal works itself out. LA loves a winner.
To buy tickets, go to GetTrojanTix.com or call the USC ticket office at 213-740-GO SC (4672). Tickets are available for games in the Coliseum against Fresno State (Aug. 30), Oregon State (Sept. 27), Arizona State (Oct. 4), Colorado (Oct. 18) and California (Nov. 13). Individual tickets starting at $50 in the Peristyle and $55 in the west end zone. Tickets for the Nov. 29 home game against traditional rival Notre Dame must be purchased as part of a mini-plan or season ticket package. Both packages are still on sale, with mini-plans starting at $96 and season tickets at $295.
Some big ticket dollar numbers
We know there have been some serious concern about where USC ticket prices might go, or at least the premium or donation level required to maintain them after the spring survey, but for a point of reference, here’s a look at what it costs to purchase tickets at Kentucky’s top basketball program. To sit in the first four rows at Rupp Arena, not including the floor seats you’ll pay $283.10 a seat and it’ll cost $164.05 for seats in the middle sections above that. Donations per seat run from $500 to $5000 with every level increased for next year except the top one.
But if you’d like some more ticket numbers, how about these. There’s an outfit by the name of TiqIQ that tracks the secondary market for home football tickets and they’ve come up with some interesting numbers across the board for this season in a story in Forbes. USC, for example, is 14th in the nation with Notre Dame the marquee Coliseum matchup and an average secondary market ticket price of $142.66 thanks mostly to that Irish game where the tickets are going for an average $255.02, one of the higher single-game numbers in the nation.
UCLA, thanks to having USC at home this year, tops the Pac-12 and is No. 5 in the nation with an average price of $183.73 factoring in the $307.35 average for the USC game. Oregon is No. 10 at $154.95 average with the Michigan State game ($287.02) the big reason as the Pac-12 puts four in the Top 25 along with the Big 12.
The SEC, with eight Top 25 teams, leads the way with the Big Ten next with five. One surprising team not in the Top 25 is national champ Florida State with an average $101.93 ticket that seems to be a comment on the rest of the Seminoles’ ACC opponents. Notre Dame at an average $237.13 is No. 1 in the nation with home games against Michigan and Stanford.