From reading the news coverage and fan comments, you’d think that Lincoln Riley, the former Oklahoma head coach who was tapped Sunday to be the new USC football honcho, was coming west to untangle the freeways, house all the homeless and unclog the supply chain in time for Christmas.
Jim Anderson, columnist for The Orange County Register, referring to the Trojan athletic leadership’s choice, wrote: “They got it right, massively.”
In the Los Angeles Times, columnist Bill Plaschke gushed thusly: “A home run. A half-court buzzer beater. A game-winning Hail Mary. A Hallelujah.”
Who is this fellow from a fly-over state who’s come to the Pacific Coast to – presumably – walk on the surf en route to rescuing EssCee from a miserable football fate?
Riley checks all the boxes. He’s young (38), articulate and already has a gleaming resume that puts most much older coaches’ to shame. His record is 55-10, and that includes four Big 12 titles, four bowl appearances and three trips to the College Football Playoff tournament.
“I am truly excited to come to USC and join the Trojan family,” he said. “We will work hard to develop a physical football team that is dominant on both lines of scrimmage, and has a dynamic balance offense and a stout aggressive defense.”
But let’s not expect him to immediately turn around a program that has been staggering for years. One important place he can start is to stem the leakage of talented Southern California athletes fleeing to Oregon, Washington and Arizona to play college ball. If he can succeed in just getting USC’s share of local stars that alone would go a long way toward putting some extra steam in the stride of Traveler on the sidelines of the Coliseum on Saturday afternoons in the autumn.
Mater Dei wins, but losing the big one
With a 27-7 victory over archrival Servite on Friday, the Mater Dei Monarchs won the CIF-SS Division 1 football title. It was a triumph that consolidated the team’s hold on the mythical national high school football championship, and one that came under the shadow of a scandal that made national news of a very different kind.
As you already know, there’s a lawsuit pending that alleges that the Santa Ana parochial high school – the biggest in the West – was also the place where football players practiced a hazing ritual in which they punched each other in the chest (and sometimes elsewhere) until one yielded.
It’s called “Bodies,” and – if the allegations prove true – it may deal a body blow to the moral prestige of a program that purports to value honor, and honor God.
The lawsuit claims the plaintiff suffered a broken nose and a concussion.
MD head coach Bruce Rollinson denied that such a thing could have taken place, but – according to the lawsuit – said to the injured player’s father, “If I had a hundred dollars for every time these kids played Bodies or Slappies, I’d be a millionaire.”
Hmm. Allegations are not evidence, but video has surfaced supporting the premise that the kid was telling the truth and Rollinson, well … something else.
This is the time for the Diocese of Orange – located in Garden Grove, by the way, at the Christ Cathedral – to step up and stand up for honor and the values of its faith.
Stall, or cover up, or make excuses and it will be a much, much bigger defeat in a much bigger way than any football loss could ever be.
Calendar for week ahead
- Los Angeles Rams host the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
- Los Angeles Chargers visit the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
- Los Angeles Lakers visit Sacramento Kings on Tuesday, and then take on the Clippers on Friday at Staples Center.
- Los Angeles Clippers will host the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday, the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday and meet the Lakers on Friday.
- Los Angeles Kings will host the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, and then the Calgary Flames on Thursday.
- Anaheim Ducks will visit the Kings on Tuesday, and then host the Las Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday.
- UCLA football has completed its regular season with an 8-4 mark. The next contest is a bowl game yet to be announced.
- USC football, now 4-7, will finish the 2021 season on Saturday visiting Cal in Berkeley.
Final out: The Rams, after falling 36-28 to the Packers in Green Bay, have lost three straight after a 7-1 start. “We have guys who are way too good for us to be losing games like this,” said cornerback Jaylen Ramsey. “We just have to get it right. We have to play better. Everything just has to be better. We have to correct it.” Not giving the ball to the other team would be a good start toward doing that.
“Sports Monday” is written by Pete Zarustica.