Friday, December 6, 2013

Behind-The-Scenes Mess in USC Locker Room

You're probably familiar with those reports about things being rosy and hunky-dory in the USC football locker room now that Steve Sarkisian has been hired away from Washington to be the new head coach. Well, don't believe them.

SC football is a mess. There are some really unhappy Trojan players.That's the word from sources close to several members of the team. A bunch of  them are really angry. Regardless of what you hear, some don't like Sarkisian, considering him mediocre and not as good as either Lane Kiffin, who was fired in September, or interim coach Ed Orgeron, who chose to leave when he didn't get the head coaching position..Some players, report the sources, think it's a flat-out bad hire and aren't looking forward to playing for Sark. AD Pat Haden doesn't really know how dissatisfied many players are with the new coach and some of the assistants he's bringing with him.

On the one hand,  the players would like to present a united front, one brimming with positives. Some of that is out there for the media. But, quietly, behind the scenes. they're really miffed at what's happened--that interim coach Ed Orgeron is gone and has been replaced with a coach many in college football circles consider to be difficult, hard to like and just plain second -rate.

Some still think USC rates a coach in the Urban Meyer-Nick Saban class. Sark, however, isn't in that ball park--or anywhere close to it.

Were any other teams knocking at Sark's door? Not really. He wasn't considered a hot, in-demand coach. In fact, inside word from Washington is that some of the boosters were disgruntled with him. The feeling was that he'd elevated the Huskies to a mid-level Pac12 team but wouldn't take them any farther. Up in Seattle there was the beginning of a movement to find a better coach, someone who would raise Washington to that next level, where Oregon and Stanford reside. Many UW followers are happy he's gone.
So, from the point of view of SC players, this coach, one that wasn't even on solid ground at UW, is what we wind up with? This is the guy that forced beloved Coach O out the door? You can see why Sark isn't the darling of the SC locker room.

Most SC players think Orgeron got a raw deal, that losing to major rivals Notre Dame and UCLA should not have cost him his job. They respected him, played hard for him and looked up to him as a friendly father-figure. They knew he'd leave if he didn't get the permanent head coaching job. Staying on under those circumstances would have been humiliating, so they don't blame him for leaving. They're just bummed out that he's gone.

So the Trojans, who finished 9-4, will be led by offensive coordinator Clay Helton, in whatever bowl game they wind up in--the third head coach of this season. You expect the players to be focused and motivated? Forget it. You can bet gamblers will be be putting their money on whoever is playing against the Trojans in that bowl game.

And, next season, with the Trojans still short-handed because of those long-term penalties from the Bush scandal and many players not that crazy about the new leader, don't expect much from this team. The other eleven teams in the conference are already rejoicing.