In August of 1996 I was sitting at my desk at Hughes Aircraft Company in El Segundo and came up with an idea. The idea had nothing to do with my day job, designing computer chips for satellite control systems. It was an idea that could merge several of my passions - college football, technology and writing – into one.
Pecking away on my Windows 95 machine a coworker showed me his latest creation, a “web page” that displayed his love of surfing (ocean, not web). At the time the World Wide Web was in its infancy and most households still didn’t have personal computers. So creating your own website was a fairly foreign concept, even to engineers who worked on computers constantly.
I jumped on a site called Geocities which allowed users to create and host their own web pages in one of their many neighborhoods. I picked the “Colosseum” (spelled differently from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum) neighborhood which was sports themed, read up on HTML coding and got to work.
At first, my site was going to cover the sports teams I cared about, USC Trojans football plus the Pittsburgh teams I grew up with, Steelers, Pirates and Penguins. That was short lived and my focus became solely USC football.
I actually started writing USC football commentary back in college. As an engineering student I didn’t have the time or opportunity to write for the Daily Trojan, so I created and produced my own newsletter that I printed out and snail mailed to my friends from high school. It was a great way to connect with my East Coast buddies and give them updates on what I was doing in the far away land of Los Angeles. There were eight installments of the USConnection with a circulation high of 50 (that was a lot of stamps for a poor college student).
Creating a site talking about USC football on Geocities meant there were no pages to print, no envelopes to stuff and the potential audience was unlimited.
That first year I would write extensive game previews and recaps with (what I felt was) humorous commentary. After that season I found out you could purchase your own domain names and was surprised to learn that “uscfootball.com” was still available. I bought that web address in 1997 and the site has been known as USCFootball.com ever since.
As the site and the message board traffic grew I was able to ride the dot-com boom and create something I never expected, a nice revenue stream. But after the bubble burst and the market crashed, advertising dollars dried up while traffic continued to increase and server costs climbed.
In 2001 I took the next step, joining the Rivals.com network and utilizing a new subscription-based business model. Our recruiting coverage expanded exponentially and with Pete Carroll at the helm, USC football popularity was through the roof and the popularity of the site was along for the ride.
As our memberships grew the time required to run the site, and provide quality premium information, also grew. In 2004 it reached critical mass and I made the decision to leave the world of engineering and pursue being the publisher of USCFootball.com on a fulltime basis.
The site continued to grow into the biggest USC site on the web and adding staff members like Gerard Martinez and Dan Weber only increased our presence in cyberspace.
In 2014 after 13 years at Rivals we were made an offer we couldn’t refuse and USCFootball.com moved over to the Scout.com network. Essentially starting from scratch it took us just 18 months to eclipse our membership numbers at Rivals and we haven’t looked back since.
20 Years of USC Football
As part of our 20th anniversary celebration we will bring you a series of weekly articles starting with the top-20 USC football moments of the past 20 years. We will also explore how USC recruiting coverage has changed, the top players we’ve covered and the lowest USC football moments of the past two decades.
There have been so many highs, lows and changes with USC football over the past 20 years and we’ll do our best to take you down memory lane in great detail.
So Many Stories
Being a small part of USC football over the past 20 years has given me the opportunity to meet and interact with countless people with ties to the Trojan program. From Heisman winners to season ticket holders, casual bandwagon fans to Hall of Fame members the countless handshakes, emails, text messages and phone calls with the Trojan nation has been inspiring.
I wanted to share one of the more recent interactions that epitomized how special this experience has been for me.
A few weeks back I got a phone call from a writer named Andy Furillo. He had written a book about his father Bud Furillo who was a legendary Southern California sports writer/reporter/columnist/editor for nearly 60 years. The book focuses on the golden age of Los Angeles sports and USC football was certainly a big part of that.
It isn’t uncommon for me to receive books from authors for review, but after talking to Andy for a while it was apparent this one was quite different.
Andy followed in his father’s footsteps and has been in the newspaper business since 1972. He started at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner and is currently a sports columnist for the Sacramento Bee.
And as it turns out, he has also been reading USCFootball.com for many, many years.
“I can't remember exactly how I found the board, or the first time I started hanging out on it regularly, although it was probably in the middle of the 2000 Cal-USC game when the Trojans called time out before a punt and then got penalized for having too many men on the field,” Andy Furillo said. “Rather that shoot myself, I felt it was better to commiserate with fellow lunatics.”
Talking on the phone with this author and quickly realizing he was this diehard USC football fan who spent countless hours on my message board was incredible. I followed up with Andy after our call to get more of his memories from being on the site.
“The controversial hiring of Pete Carroll split the board right down the middle,” he said in an email. “The debate kept me glued to my computer screen for weeks. It wasn't until the epic LOI day of 2002, however, that I got completely hooked. Would the Trojans land Lorenzo Booker? The Poly 4? I didn't get any work done on that day.
“Over the next number of years, it was always fun to get on and gloat, win after crushing win. It was the Golden Age of Sunshine Pumping.”
Sometimes we have prominent figures in the sports world tell us they read our site all the time. But there is a difference between reading the articles and knowing some of the more prominent message board posters by name.
“Too bad things didn't work out so well for Kiff, or Sark, or Coach O, or, in the early going, Helton. As a die-hard sunshine pumper, I only hope it improves for him, for the sake of eftzoons, who promoted Clay from the first time he ever met him.
“I drifted away from the board when BAP stopped posting. Nobody ever new more about football, ever. Big Scud of course was my hero. I never felt more proud than the few times Scud responded to something I wrote, although he used to irritate me for ripping on the Coliseum neighborhood. I've parked over near 39th and Broadway for decades and have loaded up on cold Modelo at the Y&Y for years without ever having a problem, except for one time when I gave an extra ticket to a homeless guy in a tent on Hill Street and he got mad at me for not giving him money instead. Must've been a Bruin.
“I have actually met a few posters in real life, face to face. Over in Berkeley, in 2003, I hung out before the game with SC Gary and Valley Trojan. They were terrific guys. Of course, there is always Artie C. here in Sac, who I know is enjoying his retirement.
“Congratulations on the site, Ryan, and here's to another 20 years. -- Andy Furillo”
Thanks to you Andy for those great stories and being a part of the reason why USCFootball.com has been such a passion for me over all these years.
Andy Furillo’s book is called “The Steamer” and contains a forward by Tommy Lasorda. I am looking forward to diving in as soon as the USC football season allows (which probably means December).
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Ryan Abraham has been the publisher of USCFootball.com since 1996. You can follow him on Twitter at @InsideTroy or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.