Mentioning the current Hazelton saga leads me to the main thrust of this opinion. Right now I can't help but think of the two biggest changes in USC Football over the past ten years or so, at least to my way of thinking. The first and foremost is the incredible journey back to the top of the heap and the associated improvement in the coaching staff and talent level. The other equally big and vital change just has to be the almost unbelievable role the internet and the associated recruiting sites have taken on in today's college football environment. Try as one may, there is simply no denying that organizations such as Scout.com and their chief rival, Rivals.com have changed the complexion of how recruiting is carried on, how fans follow the sports of football and football recruiting and how kids and their families discover information. It does not seem like it was all that long ago that when it came to learning about recruits and who was visiting, one could try to purchase the little book published by Joe Terranova or one could purchase the G&W report, or maybe, in the late 70's one could have subscribed to Blue Chips illustrated out of Oklahoma to find about who were the stars and where they might be going. Suffice it to say those days are over forever and now, at the flick of a Boot Up turn on button, one can be very well informed about the very latest stars in the making and one can even view videos of the kids who are still in high school.
This seems to be a perfect time to sit back and really reflect upon just what has gone on since Pete Carroll has become the head coach and what was really going on for several years before he came onto the scene. Although much of this has been documented time and again, coming off a loss in the national championship game, many folks are still understandably upset and many are still just ticked that SC was beaten by Texas. I mean just think about it. For the rest of the off season and until USC gets a chance to prove itself on the field once again, SC fans will have to tolerate the fact that SC was only number two in the nation. Yes, perhaps they were good enough to have been number one despite not having a healthy,or great defense, but given the chance to compete for the title, the Trojans came up short. So the fact is that of the 117 D1 Football Schools, only 115 finished below USC instead of 116. Funny how a few years change so very much. It was just 3 short years ago, in January of 2003 when the Trojans finished the season in the top five for the first time in what seemed like forever. The big bad bullies from Iowa talked the talk, but they could not back it up. SC tore the Hawkeyes apart and many people felt that by season's end, USC was the best team around, though they did not deserve to pass Ohio State or Miami in the rankings. The next year, SC took it one step better. The Trojans finished the season rated number one in both major polls, but in their infinite wisdom, the geniuses who ran the BCS found a way to have SC left out of the BCS championship game. Thankfully, the guys who ran the AP Poll knew right from wrong and they voted SC national champions after the Trojans once again clobbered the Big Ten Champion from Michigan. In 2004, SC left no doubt. On their way to another perfect season, the Trojans took on all comers and culminated the season with a convincing demolition of the Oklahoma Sooners. Of course, there was one little blip on the radar because the folks down at Auburn, the team that had lost to USC teams during the prior two seasons, also went undefeated. Though they ended up number one in neither major poll and despite the fact that Auburn had never been rated number one all season, the Tigers became self anointed National Champions in their own mind. And that brings us to the current season. During this season, USC had what has to be the most incredible offense that I have ever seen at the collegiate level. Nobody, and I mean nobody could stop them. SC was most fortunate to win the game at South Bend with a comeback that will forever live in Trojan Football lore. Unfortunately, the Trojans came up short against a fine Texas Longhorn Team at the Rosebowl and after being up by 12 points with about 6 minutes to go, SC could not hold on and Texas went on to win the title. Imagine that, USC had its incredible winning steak come to an end. The winning streak and string of consecutive AP national titles took a hit, but there is still plenty of talent around, and I honestly believe that USC will hover around the top of the college football world for many more years to come, so long as Pete Carroll remains at the school.
Let's also take a look at what SC brought to the table during its incredible run and how that compares to what was at USC in the prior five years or so preceding the Carroll era. Prior to Pete's arrival, USC Trojans had won 4 Heisman Trophies in its entire and glorious history. Since 2001, USC Trojan Football Players have managed to win three more Heisman Trophies. Folks, I don't know if everyone agrees, but in my opinion, that is simply mind boggling. Of the last four awards, Trojans have won three of them. There are 116 other schools and athletes from those schools managed to win one, while Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush, all SC All Americans, each won a Heisman Trophy, bringing the total number of SC Heisman winners to 7. Well, that just "ain't too shabby", now is it? At the same time, SC has put a whole host of outstanding ballplayers into the professional ranks at a rate much higher and much more prominent than in the prior five years. Amongst the more prominent names, two played in the recent super bowl. There was All Rookie team member Lofa Tatupu from the Seattle Seahawks and the incredible Troy Polamulu, an All Pro from the World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Other recent SC graduates who have gone on to make a name for themselves in the NFl since playing for Pete Carroll and USC are Kenechi Udeze, Mike Patterson, and Shaun Cody. Those three guys formed the core of one of the best defensive lines ever at the University. Of course there have been others, but the guys mentioned are numerous enough to point out just what an incredible group has played for Pete and what a great job the coaches and players alike have done to rekindle the glory of college football at the University of Southern California. Prior to Pete's arrival, there was talent to be sure, but the program was drowning in a sea of mediocrity or worse, and it is so nice to see how things have improved and will contine to improve as Pete and his great staff continue to bring in the talent and assistants such as the recently hired Nick Holt who will keep the run alive.
And now, time to get to that other little topic—the internet and the role it plays in college football. I have personally been involved with the internet chat groups and bulletin boards since the very early days of the internet. Although there are some specifics that might be missing, I think it would be accurate to state that two of the most prominent early forums on the NET related to USC Football were the AOL College Football USC Board and the Trojan Bulletin Board, the forerunner of the current forum known as TFO. Although there have been changes too numerous to count, the forums mentioned have evolved and really inspired a whole new industry that currently includes Scout.com and Rivals.com along with Student Sports and a host of other endeavors, including CSTV, ESPN-U and countless on the air recruiting shows with guys like Jamie Newberg here in the South, the very well received Lindsey Soto, our own Garry Paskwietz and John Jackson in the West and dare I mention his name, Tom Lemming, all over the place. Every major school has one or two "unofficial sites" devoted to its team along with their official site, and fans from all backgrounds simply cannot get enough of this stuff. Every site from every company has its own resident expert or "GURU", (dare I use that term to represent a guy who seemingly has "inside valuable information") and there is even a private site here in the West—with a green background-- that has no known formal affiliation but seems to make just as big a bang as the big boys. Hardly a day goes by when some of the more credible posters from one SC site or another does not take a shot at the other board, yet great information and misinformation simply flows all around with no end in sight.
For any of the older readers on this SC Scout.com site, just try to think how John McKay would react, at least initially to "internet rumors". I don't think there are enough four letter words in an unofficial dictionary to cover what he might have said. Even as recently as John Robinson II, Robo was less than thrilled with the whole internet concept. He once started to scream about certain information about Foo not showing up on any internet site. Yet, for a coach or his staff to ignore the realities of the internet and various affiliated recruiting sites today would be to ignore reality. I personally think that Pete Carroll not only embraces today's technology, he has mastered the art of using it to his advantage. Some things are hard to prove, but I just have a feeling that won't die that this current staff is as savvy as it gets and if there is a benefit to be had by cooperating with guys who run the SC sites then they will do it. If there is a way to get positive coverage of their camps, the SC staff will take every advantage as they should. If there is a way to get their message out to recruits in a legal and professional way by utilizing the internet, this SC staff will do it. If positive information about SC and its program can be communicated to recruits families via the internet, the SC staff will find a way to make it happen.
What is most incredible to me is how fast things have changes with regards to the Net. Only a few short years ago there was no such thing as the US Army All Star Football Game. And now, due in no small part to the efforts of Scout.Com, there is an annual game with major commitment announcements each year and it sure seems that more and more fans, families and players alike look forward to their chance to compete against the best and to get their chance to be in the national limelight. Others might disagree, but I don't believe for one second that such an event would or could have ever come about without the internet. Similarly, the annual game between the California and Florida All Stars would never have occurred if the recruiting and football sites had not evolved into what they are today. Rumors that spread like wildfire would never spread as they currently do, both good and bad rumors, without the vast network that now exists. Simply stated, nothing in college football or college football recruiting would be as it is right now without organizations like Scout and Rivals. One thing that I like so very much about Pete and his staff is that they certainly seem to have embraced the reality of what is and what will continue to be, and they show every sign of making the very best of the situation that exists. And come to think of it, what else would anyone expect from the nations top college football coach today, Pete Carroll of the University of Southern California!