NEWTON, Mass. -- There are plenty of reasons for a ninth-ranked USC team to be here on what may be the last glorious end-of-summer, early-fall day in the suburbs just west of Boston.
Steve Sarkisian ticked them off one by one the other day. You're playing a Power-Five conference team on the road. For a young team, they're learning to travel in a big way. And getting to a part of the country most of them have never been.
And of course, they're learnng to handle back-to-back road games finishing with a coast-to-coast trip after one to The Farm. You won't see a lot of teams doing that. But learning to handle that with focus, especially for the freshmen, can be one of those lessons that really does pay off down the road.
But there's also just learning a little bit about the rest of the world, even if that's not any part of what's going on here.
"Beautiful campus," Robby Kolanz was saying as the Trojans exited their get-acquainted walkthrough at 44,000-seat Alumni Stadium on the compact, but picturesque and exquisitely put-together English Collegiate architecture of the Boston College campus. "Oxford in America" is not a bad description for the place.
But that's not why a USC team, hoping to go 3-0 heading into a bye week and the meat of its Pac-12 schedule, is here. Nor is it a for a spot as the feature 8 p.m. EDT game on ESPN.
"Although that's a good thing," Sark said, as is the possibility of playing in the rain Saturday night. "That might help us down the road," he said with a late trip to Pullman looming.
But there's a better reason for being here, and being in New York a couple of years back for Syracuse and in 2008 for Virginia in Charlottesville and Washington, D.C. for Virginia Tech four years before that. USC is here for the USC fans and alums "on the Eastern Seaboard," Sark said.
"It's great to play in front of our fans." he says. Fans like Bill and Shirley Miller of Cincinnati, who have driven up here as they do when USC plays Notre Dame in South Bend or as they did on trips to Columbus, Fayetteville, Charlottesville and the Meadowlands.
A graduate of the University of Cincinnati, the retired executive fell in love with USC watching the 1955 Rose Bowl when he was seven, he recalls, on one of those little black-and-white TVs. But he knew USC was something special, even if the Trojans didn't win that one.
And even though he didn't get to go to USC after two years at UC, his original goal, he's made up for it since. His wife is a Glendale native and former Torrance resident so there is that for a connection. But mostly it was just loving USC and the USC story as Bill knew it.
His first USC game in person, Bill remembers it well, in South Bend in 1967 when the O.J. Simpson-led Trojans whipped Notre Dame 24-7 on the way to a national championship the year after losing 51-0 to an Irish national championship team.The memories come flooding back as Bill, in his cardinal USC sweat shirt, talks of meeting Pete Carroll in Heritage Hall the day before the Texas Rose Bowl game and getting invited by Pete to practice. He's made it out for three of Rod Sherman's old-timers camps and loved every minute of them, from the Ed Orgeron pep talk on the bus from the hotel to the photos with Lane Kiffin and Sark.
Pete told us that for all we went through, we were all Trojans," Bill says. He'll take it.
His Ohio license plate says "FIGHT ON" and he's amazed at how many USC fans he meets that way back in Buckeye country. And did you know, as Bill's Ohio State fan neighbors certainly do, USC has beaten the Buckeyes the last seven times they've played.
So after dinner at the Marriott team hotel, Bill introduces himself to J.K. McKay and an upbeat Pat Haden, arriving back from dinner. Both are happy to meet a USC fan from Ohio.
These kinds of things just happen for Bill, who once in a charity golf tournament run by then-Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, found himself in a foursome with Anthony Munoz.
It almost surely wasn't an accident. Everyone there knows about Bill and USC and now you do too.
So when the Trojans arrive at Gate A at Alumni Stadium Saturday, Bill and Shirley will be there. As they are every other year in South Bend. Greeting the Trojans on their visit to the Eastern time zone.
Just as Sark said, this is about bringing the Trojans to the Trojans fans.
Bill and Shirley are only too happy to oblige.
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