In fall, the buck stops on the gridiron

first_imgThe never-ending sports cycle that is USC athletics is back for another fall semester — a period of time that never seems to lack excitement.Football, of course, takes the cake. You may remember a year ago — not more than a week into the semester — when a horde of news trucks and cameras swarmed the practice field after head coach Steve Sarkisian went rogue at the annual Salute of Troy event.The scandal followed the team for much of the season, as Sarkisian took a leave of absence and was promptly fired after his problems with alcohol came to light. They lost to Stanford and Washington at home and to Notre Dame on the road (where then-Athletic Director Pat Haden collapsed on the sideline). And yet, a team mired in controversy and negative attention — seemingly bound for a lost season — won five of its final six games and ended up four quarters away from an improbable trip to the Rose Bowl.But the Trojans were literally run out of Levi’s Stadium by Christian McCaffrey and Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game and their season ended with a loss to Wisconsin in the Holiday Bowl, a game that was just as bitter as the cold winter night at Qualcomm Stadium.Assuming they make it past Salute to Troy on Aug. 19 without incident, the Trojans will already be in better shape than they were last year entering the season. But — unexpected controversy aside — criticism could still be quick to rain down on the No. 17 ranked team in the nation in the preseason coaches’ poll.There will be a new quarterback — either the redshirt junior Max Browne or unexpected challenger redshirt freshman Sam Darnold — and whomever is chosen will be thrown into the fire quickly. The man who picks him will be Clay Helton, entering his first full season at the helm, feted with a long-term contract and a plate full of expectations to restore USC football to national prominence.For a rookie head coach with an unproven quarterback, an easy schedule to begin the season would be beneficial — maybe games against Arkansas State or Fresno State. Um, how about facing Alabama, Stanford and Utah in three of their first four games, all away from the Coliseum?The task ahead is daunting, but it wouldn’t be Trojan football without it. The program is no stranger to adversity in recent years, from the crippling sanctions to the Lane Kiffin era to the Sarkisian fiasco.This year, it’s a story that could end in any number of ways, and it will be under a new Athletic Director in Lynn Swann. Much like Helton will seek to calm the waters on the sidelines, Swann will look to provide stability at the top after Haden’s up-and-down tenure.Fair or unfair, athletic directors at USC are ultimately judged by the accomplishments of the football team, but Swann could extend a positive first impression if other fall sports succeed as well.He has some good cards to play right away. Men’s water polo is a perennial lock to make the NCAA title match, and the legendary Jovan Vavic and new co-head coach Marko Pintaric will be hungry to avenge last season’s championship defeat to UCLA. Women’s volleyball is also a national powerhouse, going 33-3 last season and appearing in the NCAA Regional Championship match for the fifth time in six years. Women’s soccer is a program on the rise. Fresh off a deep postseason run, the Women of Troy will return most of their starters and are projected to finish second in the Pac-12 in the preseason coaches’ poll.But, like it or not, those three programs could each have unbeaten seasons and it wouldn’t mitigate the backlash that would come with a mediocre football campaign. The buck stops (and starts) with Helton and who he picks to be his quarterback. And when kickoff happens against defending national champion Alabama — as someone once wrote in a book — let the games begin, and may the odds be ever in their favor. Eric He is a sophomore majoring in print and digital journalism. He is also the sports editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Grinding Gears,” will run Fridays.last_img read more

Even more pressure on Russia to clean up its act

first_imgAndorra, Israel, Argentina, Bolivia and Ukraine are also in breach of those rules – and are now non-compliant.It means they’re not meeting the conditions authorities expect.Belgium, Brazil, France, Greece, Mexico and Spain have been put on a “watch list” – with a deadline of March to meet strict conditions – or potentially face the same fate.last_img