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Coliseum can't let USC complete fade pattern

November 28, 2007|Bill Plaschke

Hearing USC's threat to move its football team from the Coliseum to the Rose Bowl is like hearing a well-dressed boardwalk preacher shouting that the world will end at midnight.

You walk past, you shake your head, you know it's baloney.

But later that night, if only for a moment, you quietly check your watch.

For peristyle's sake, there is no way the most tradition-bound sports program in Southern California would be willing to chop off the foundation of that tradition.

Right?

USC would never move out of a stadium so tied to the program that Pete Carroll recruits to it, boosters give big money to sit in it, and a departing Heisman Trophy winner once wept over it.

USC would never move out of a stadium where it has won 75% of its games while consistently selling nearly 100% of its tickets.

And, seriously, USC would never move to a stadium where it's the No. 2 tenant behind anybody or anything, particularly -- gasp -- UCLA.

Um, er, right?

Ninety-seven percent of my collective experience says the news about USC's negotiations with the Rose Bowl -- leaked in the middle of the most contentious week of the college football season -- is simply a negotiating ploy.

In attempting to gain control of a Coliseum that their football program has kept alive for years, USC officials have grown weary of dealing with a Coliseum Commission that works at the approximate pace of gravy, with missions as varied as stuffing.

In trying to convince the commission to act, the USC trustees have decided to lob a powder-blue-and-gold smoke bomb during a time when the town's senses are heightened.

Most of this story is that smoke.

After 85 years of walking across the street to a Coliseum that has helped bring the university national attention and great riches, those officials can't be serious about moving somewhere else because of toilets and hot dogs.

And it surely can't be serious about moving 14 miles up the freeway to a Rose Bowl that has done little for the UCLA football mystique.

Ninety-seven percent of this is hogwash.

But, well, the other 3% is scary.

Coliseum Commission scary.

One percent is Rams. That's one team that the Coliseum folks allowed to leave Los Angeles, which eventually led to their departure from Southern California.

Another 1% is Raiders. That's another deal that was blown by the Coliseum folks, even after a deal-announcing news conference had been arranged.

The final 1% is Dodgers. If city officials weren't so insistent on Peter O'Malley deferring to the Coliseum's NFL dreams, O'Malley would have built an NFL stadium at Chavez Ravine and never sold the Dodgers.

While building up USC, the Coliseum has torn down many others. No single entity in Los Angeles has been more responsible for the loss of more major sports than that danged building and its single-minded protectors.

So, of course, no matter what USC says, the world is not going to end at midnight.

But as long as the Coliseum Commission is involved, you can never be too sure.

The issue here seems clear.

USC wants to run the joint, and has even promised $100 million in repairs for that chance.

The majority of the Coliseum Commission wants to keep control of the state-owned building for mostly monetary and NFL reasons, the second of which is flawed.

League officials have repeatedly given the message that the NFL is never coming to the Coliseum, period, end of story.

Like it or not, the Coliseum and USC need each other.

Easy or not, they need to work hard to make a deal here, because it is the only deal that works for both parties, and I'm not the only one who believes this.

Just ask Bill Chadwick. He's one of the nine Coliseum commissioners.

"For USC to feel it needs to seek out other venues is a bad thing for USC, and a bad thing for the Coliseum," he said. "If we don't work to seek out a middle ground, shame on all of us."

As two of the most important beacons in Los Angeles, the Coliseum and USC are bound by not only private interests, but a public trust.

"In terms of impact on this community, we have an obligation, as do they, to make this happen," said Chadwick.

USC can back down on some of its money demands. Some estimate the football program makes between $40 million and $60 million a year, far more than other local sports teams.

The Coliseum can back down on some of its control demands. Even with the increased soccer use, USC has made it a relevant building again, and it deserves to steer its own fate there.

The most amazing part of this story is that UCLA has given USC permission to negotiate with the Rose Bowl.

That's UCLA, as in, a university owned by the state of California.

Which is the same entity that owns the Coliseum.

Has everyone here lost their minds?

The day that the Coliseum allows USC to leave is the day they fire up the bulldozers and tear that sucker down.

The day that Carroll has to drive a recruit through rush-hour traffic to Pasadena to show him his new field is the day that Carroll joins the San Diego Chargers.

This is a lose-lose proposition that needs to be fixed, and fast.

As smoke bombs go, this one really stinks.

--

Bill Plaschke can be reached at bill.plaschke@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Plaschke, go to latimes.com/plaschke.

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