Helmets represent USC’s transition

first_imgThere was something different about the way the USC football team looked Saturday. The Trojans’ win last week was reminiscent of a very similar victory six weeks earlier, but with one key difference.On Oct. 18, the Trojans dominated a weak Colorado team in an afternoon game at the Coliseum, winning by a final score of 56-28. Saturday, the Trojans dominated a weak Notre Dame team in an afternoon game at the Coliseum, winning by a final score of 49-14. Visually, the latter was a much more beautiful performance to watch, but that had nothing to do with the final point difference or the historical legitimacy of the opponent.The Trojans wore their original helmets.The distinction is subtle. In fact, it wasn’t until this Monday when I was looking through photos of the game that I noticed the change. But the classic cardinal helmets that have been virtually unchanged for generations of Trojan football were back on the heads of the USC football players after a brief hibernation in the locker room. I hope that remains the case as long as I’m a student of this fine academic institution.Before the Colorado game, the Trojans adjusted their usual uniform and unveiled new chrome helmets. The team stuck with the new style against Utah, Cal and UCLA. The traditional cardinal home jersey, white away jersey and gold pants were still the same, but the outfit was coronated by a brighter, shinier headpiece.It looked atrocious.Now I’m not a huge fashion guy. I would honestly say that 67 percent of the shirts in my closet are St. Louis Cardinals T-shirts and I recently noticed myself walking around campus wearing athletic shorts, loafers and business socks.But I can distinguish a classy throwback from a regrettable redesign. I graduated from kindergarten, so I have a basic understanding of colors.And the colors just didn’t match with the chrome helmets.The helmet looked almost scarlet in the glare of the sunlight, much lighter than the cardinal jersey. It didn’t look as bad with the road white jersey on, when the contrast was a bit more natural. But at home, the helmet stuck out like Harry and Lloyd at the cocktail party in “Dumb & Dumber.” My mom, who knows a lot about Trojan tradition as a USC alumna, put it best while watching the Cal game during Trojan Family Weekend:“It looks like a Christmas ornament.”When the Fighting Irish came to town, USC ditched the futuristic failure for the old-school staple. It was a fitting tribute to the history of the rivalry, as Notre Dame is the only team on the schedule that really does rival  the Trojans’ tradition of excellence in football.Forgive me for going on a 450-word rant without actually analyzing any football. It’s been a rough week regarding term paper due dates, so I’ve used up just about all of my remaining critical thinking energy for the semester.But I think the helmet flip-flop is actually very indicative of the general state of USC football as well as where this season stands in the big picture.USC football is something really, really awesome. The fact that we get to walk past six Heisman trophies — insert NCAA sanctions joke — anytime we attend class by way of Heritage Hall or sit in the same stadium that was home to 11 national championship teams — insert same NCAA sanctions joke — on Saturdays is something that any self-described sports fan here should never forget. As fellow Daily Trojan columnist Jake Davidson wrote after the Trojans’ domination of Washington State, we are so lucky to be a part of a fan base with more happy times than, say, Washington State’s.But the current installment of USC football is not exactly on the same level that many Trojan fans expect. I came here to see USC football teams play in Rose Bowls and BCS championship bowls, not Sun Bowls or Holiday Bowls or other you can’t actually put that in a bowl Bowls.The higher expectations are the product of our generation. Today, attention spans disappear after about three seconds, kind of like Snapchats. Fans don’t have the patience for anything other than dominance every single year. If your team isn’t undefeated, it must be the coach’s fault.Athletic directors often cave to this pressure from fans and fire head coaches way sooner than they should be. This isn’t because of some cognitive error from ADs about the time it takes to build a program. It’s because boosters won’t put their names on new stadiums or student athlete centers if they aren’t happy. That financial support of boosters is crucial in the era of multi-million dollar commercialization.I’m beyond excited for the inaugural playoff that will replace the aforementioned BCS format. College football has never been more exciting  given the playoff and the level of national parity. But TV deals and conference realignments show that more teams are pledging the resources to be a top-level team, and fans want to win now.The existential crisis for USC going forward is whether to innovate or embrace tradition.On one hand, we see teams like Alabama who are steeped in history and have dominated recent years by playing good ol’ fashioned, hard-nosed football. On the other hand, we see teams like Oregon that had no tradition before this century but invented a new identity with fancy jerseys — think we’d ever pull that helmet stunt if the Ducks hadn’t started that trend? — and a revolutionized spread offense. (Boy, do I hope those two teams play for the national championship…)So what should USC do moving forward? Should it unveil a third jersey where everything is chrome and shiny? If the up-tempo offense seems to work so well, should the offense adopt an all-out spread attack? Can USC compete for a national championship with a Pete Carroll disciple as head coach?All of those questions are worth their own column, but I’ll conclude my regular season assessment with this: Carroll’s first year record at USC? 6-6. Ed Orgeron’s first year record as head coach of Ole Miss? 3-8. After being considered for the USC job, James Franklin and Chris Petersen’s respective first-year records at Penn State and Washington? Just 6-6 and 8-5.All of those records are worse than Steve Sarkisian’s 8-4 first regular season record at USC.I believe in Sarkisian going forward. I don’t doubt his play-calling that much, I don’t doubt his choice in defensive coordinator, and I definitely don’t doubt his ability to inspire players given his recruiting record. If Trojan fans can remain patient and keep supporting Sarkisian, this team will be competing in College Football Playoff games sooner than you think.I have no idea who the Trojans will play, but I also have a lot of confidence that the Trojans will have a dominating bowl win reminiscent of last year to cap off the season.But please, ditch the chrome helmets for the bowl game.Luke Holthouse is a sophomore majoring in broadcast and digital journalism and policy, planning and development. His column, “Holthouse Party,” ran Wednesdays.last_img

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