It's not that we aren't open to the possibility of an NFL team at the Coliseum. To be honest, I would rather it didn't happen. It is a legitimate possibility so I've basically come to grips with the fact that it could happen. If it is going to happen, however, it needs to be on terms acceptable to USC. After what we've done over the years, the relationship that has been created between the University of Southern California and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, we deserve to be treated as more than sub-tenants. That's what is so bothersome right now. The current deal being discussed between the NFL and the Coliseum seems to have been drawn up without a whole lot of concerns for the needs of USC, a loyal rent paying tenant for three quarters of a century.
What are some of the key issues that could affect USC?
Downsizing the capacity to 80,000 for Trojan home games
Right now we are averaging over 80,000 fans per game. Granted, that may not always be the case but it is these days and so agreeing to that number would automatically mean a decrease in the amount of available tickets (and accompanying revenue). At this point we have over 60,000 season ticket holders, we must supply roughly 5,000 seats per game to the visiting team and we must also set aside tickets for students. In past years the students at USC have been allocated as many as 20,000 seats but in recent years that number has dwindled to almost half that amount. Would a reduction in stadium capacity mean even less seats for students? What about single-game seats? Are they a thing of the past?
Non revenue sports would suffer
If we lose large amounts of revenue from lost ticket sales, who is going to make up that difference? The Coliseum Commission? The NFL? These increased ticket sales in recent years have helped to grow the overall athletic department budget which, in turn, has greatly benefited the non-revenue generating sports at USC. If that money is lost and not replaced, how much will that affect those programs?
Subtenant at Coliseum
This is the part of the discussion between the NFL and the Coliseum Commission that really bothers me. One tenant has been loyal over the years, the other has come and gone at their behest without caring what happens to you and yet you agree to make the loyal one a subtenant? Would USC have to clear our schedule with the NFL? Would we have to check with them when we want to bring recruits to see their future home? On top of all that, one scenario being discussed has the NFL paying less rent per year than USC (while having more home games).
Possibility of altering or changing Peristyle
From what we understand, the Peristyle end of the Coliseum is designated as a historical landmark (as it should be) so it cannot be touched in any way but that doesn't mean any new construction would not alter or block the view of the Peristyle and take away its charm. We have a message for anyone looking to come into our Coliseum:
Do not, I repeat, do not mess with the Peristyle.
Or the tunnel.
Time frame for construction
The estimates on construction of the "New" Coliseum say it could take up to 4 or 5 years. Any kind of relocation would be tough in terms of the time frame but if it goes on for too many years you could end up having a whole recruiting class go through USC without ever playing a home game at the Coliseum. Where would USC play in the interim? The Rose Bowl is only option that makes sense because of the available size and we would be the 2nd tenant, not an ideal option.
One thing in our favor right now is the incredibly slow moving process that the NFL undertakes whenever it comes to Los Angeles. They are trying to convince everyone that Anaheim is still a viable option, I wish it were more of a legitimate player, but it appears as if finding a way to make it work on their terms at the Coliseum is far and away their top priority. This is a situation that could get fairly testy if not handled in the right way and the NFL needs to understand that USC is not going to sit idly by on this one. Pete Carroll has certainly seen his share of NFL politics in his lifetime before finding his niche at USC and the last thing we need is for the NFL to come in and mess up what has been built. Many years ago when the Brooklyn Dodgers looked to move to Los Angeles the process included a referendum which caused parts of the project to be put to a city-wide vote. What is to stop a similar referendum in this case? Nothing at all. My guess is there are plenty of details being discussed by the politicians and the NFL which could use a closer look.
Why is this such a big deal? Why do we care so much? As one Trojan fan said recently "I don't care about the Lakers anymore and I long ago gave up on the Dodgers. All I have left is USC football. Whatever happens, just don't take away my Saturdays at the Coliseum." We feel the same way.