I first saw the pictures of partying USC football players and lovely blonds on sportsbybrooks.com. It's no wonder the best football players go to USC.
Later I read a story in The Times quoting Dave Roberts, USC's vice president for compliance, basically saying the party is on at USC, and fine by us.
What a great recruiting tool — pictures plastered all over the Internet of happy USC football players accompanied by happy-looking blonds.
You look on the Internet and there are only pictures of unhappy UCLA football players.
You think anyone is in the mood to go to a party at UCLA after being berated by their head coach?
But at USC you even have very prim and proper Athletic Director Pat Haden talking about the posted pictures and saying, "If you were a college kid why wouldn't you want to go to those parties?"
There were reports that Lane Kiffin's Tennessee program was being investigated by the NCAA for using hostesses to lure recruits.
It's different here at USC. The Trojans are determined to draw no more NCAA attention. The school and most of the blonds who are enrolled are really committed to doing nothing wrong.
And besides, the players pictured were already enrolled. It's not as if anyone had to lure them to a party.
The compliance officer also pointed out that USC players paid the same admission prices and charge for refreshments as any other kids attending USC.
The only thing that separates football players and other kids attending USC is that the football players seem to attract blonds. UCLA talks all the time about getting better — they might want to enroll some more blonds.
As an added perk at USC, if you are a football player, your classmate might very well be a certified NFL agent.
OK, so occasionally there's a problem. USC running back Dillon Baxter was declared ineligible for last week's game because he joined his fellow student, the NFL-certified agent, for a ride on a golf cart.
Apparently USC football players go golfing when not partying with blonds, which raises the question, why would a really good football player want to go anywhere but USC?
Unfortunately, Baxter and his agent friend were stopped before teeing off. They had the music turned up really loud because USC is a party school, and made the mistake of riding past Haden's window in Heritage Hall.
He gets so cranky when his afternoon nap is disturbed.
"The music was so loud and awful," Haden says. "So I got up to look, and saw a cart go screaming by. If it's Taylor Swift singing, I probably don't get up and look."
But he does, and there's a name on the cart, "first-round draft pick or something like that," Haden says. "I didn't know it had anything to do with an agent at the time, but I told someone we need to talk to those guys."
And now you know why USC never had a chance last week at Oregon State. The Trojans didn't have Baxter.
Kiffin claims it's his fault, and there are still a lot of people around the country who think everything is his fault.
Earlier this week the guy who cracks wise during televised poker tournaments wrote a column for the Washington Post blasting Kiffin and Pete Carroll because Auburn's Cam Newton is in the news.
"How can one begrudge Newton's family the chance — maybe their only chance — to cash in on a system that brings in millions exploiting their son?" Norman Chad wrote. "Meanwhile, those in charge, like Carroll and Kiffin, drive off with carloads of cash supervising the perpetual sham."
The poker tournament commentator also wrote of Kiffin: "On his best days, he lies; on his worst days, he cheats. He's good at both." No idea if Chad has ever met Kiffin.
The best guess here is the poker tournament commentator got his insight between shuffles from Phil Hellmuth. But it's Kiffin who pays the price, as Haden says, "because the writer didn't do his homework … the perception of Lane is just not reality."
Kiffin's crime here to date has been directing an offense that scored only seven points against Oregon State.
"I would have turned last week's game off; it was embarrassing," Kiffin says. "I was completely outcoached. We should score seven points in the first quarter in the snow in Alaska."
As usual, Kiffin is much too tough on himself. Oregon State lost to UCLA and Washington State, so the trap was set and whoever appeared next on the Beavers' schedule didn't have a chance. I don't even consider it a loss for USC. (If you know a UCLA fan, do them a Thanksgiving favor and explain that it's a joke.)
"People ask how we're going to handle this," Kiffin says. "The answer is going to be the next two Saturdays."
The Trojans can still win nine games, with no bowl game incentive. The Bruins can still win six, and probably have the same chance as the Trojans of getting a bowl bid.
"I'm very pleased," says Haden, and I don't think he was referring to UCLA's chances.
"Surprised would be a fair word," he says in describing how his feelings for Kiffin have changed. "I read those things about him when he was at Tennessee. … I didn't know what to expect, but the more time I spend around him, the more I appreciate him as a coach and a person."
It's so nice for a change to end a college football story on an upbeat note. It just took a trip to USC.
BY THE way, the great thing about visiting the grandchildren in Arizona for Thanksgiving, the Bruins will be there too to play football Friday. That will give us the chance to be together again.