Ted Tollner took USC to a Rose Bowl with a third-string quarterback. Larry Smith was perhaps a Rodney Peete interception away from a national championship. John Robinson snapped a 12-year winless streak against Notre Dame. Of course, when these coaches hit the inevitable "ebb" that is the flow of the ultra-competitive Pac 10, they got dumped by ultra-impatient USC administrators (that's you, Mike "I Just Want Good Coaching" Garrett).
Now, for perhaps the first time since the '50s, USC really does have a bad coach. Unfortunately, Garrett (who, laughably, preaches patience for Paul Hackett) seems too proud and insolent to fire his hand-picked coach. And the alumni seem numbed after previously running out three coaches who managed to accomplish more than a 13-20 record at Pittsburgh. So, get ready, Trojan fans. We could be stuck with Hackett until his contract runs out in two years.
I recently read in The Times that USC's freshman class SAT scores had just surpassed UCLA's freshman class. That puts USC just about on the same high academic footing with UCLA, Stanford and California. They really make sort of a Pac-Ivy league. They should do what the other Ivy league schools do and move from I-A to I-AA. It will suit them all much better and relieve the anxiety of their many fans.
If Paul Hackett and Mike Garrett are on the "same page" I think we can assume it's one of those blank filler pages at the end of a book.
Paul Hackett always says of his play-calling, "If I had to do it over . . . " Well, if USC had to do it over again, they wouldn't have hired you.
DIMITRI AL BAKER
To Carson Palmer: It is neither luck nor magic that causes the USC defense to leave opposing receivers uncovered. Is it so hard to believe that your team may just not be all that good?
There is hope though. UCLA's defense can't stop anything either.
I have met Coach Hackett twice. He is a classy guy. I don't have an opinion whether he should stay or move on. If we beat UCLA and Notre Dame, perhaps we should give him another year.
What I am sure about is that he deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.
RICHARD G. WONG
While Trojan fans can at least bask in the assurance that Paul Hackett is a dead coach walking, Bruin fans are left to contemplate the black hole of another 15 years of "likable" Bob Toledo.
It must be clear to even the truest blue Bruin that the 20-game win streak was a cruel mirage, not to mention having become the cornerstone of Toledo's self-justification. To repeat the obvious: It was Cade McNown and Rocky Long, stupid!
In any case, Bruin fans have seen this kind of football before: the complacent, vanilla offense; the bloodless lack of passion that has earned UCLA its infamous "soft" label; the inability to handle the pressures of the road; the defensiveness and whining that result in closed practices, a bunker mentality, wholesale scapegoating and the annual excuse. In short, what we have here is a poor man's Donahue--Terry grown fat.
Oh, and here comes Steve Lavin. Excuse me if I can't give an eight-clap.
In 1999, the Bruins lost to Cal, 17-0, and Oregon State, 55-7. This year against those opponents, the Bruins scored over 70 points and brought the games down to the wire. Things are looking up!
In August, USC coaches and players claimed the team's greatest strength was its stellar defense. After three losses they said the Stanford game was the beginning of the "soft" part of their schedule.
I have figured out their problem: They talk too much.
After reading and listening to the media bashing of Paul Hackett, Davey Johnson, Kevin Malone and Steve Lavin (each of whom deserves whatever is dished out), shouldn't the media add another name to that list? Bob Toledo. When Oregon State can gain over 600 yards, that's the final straw.
Bob Toledo blames injuries as the cause of this year's porous Bruin defense. The excuses for '98 and '99? Oh, in '98 it was all the fault of the guy who's now coaching Oregon's league-leading defense. And last year? Something about a parking scandal and the fact that the team was adapting to a "new system."
Bob, to remedy the situation, I humbly suggest you do one of two things: 1. Hire a coach who doesn't borrow from the 1939 defensive play book of the Polish Army. 2. Step aside so the next head coach can produce results, not excuses.
Forget the BCS, who needs it? We'll have our own championship game when our beloved Trojans and Bruins meet in their November showdown--the Los Angeles Incompetence Bowl.