Rick Neuheisel - 2, Lane Kiffin - 0
It only four months ago that Rick Neuheisel led the Bruins into Neyland Stadium, coming away with 19-15 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers who were momentarily led by Kiffin. Now, Neuheisel has bested his new crosstown rival a second time as Bruins offensive coordinator Norm Chow announced his intentions to remain in Westwood to finish what he's started while rejecting overtures from USC.
Make no mistake, Chow's decision to remain a Bruin means much more than the most basic fact: that Chow will continue to call plays from the press box in the Rose Bowl. Because beyond that very significant realization, this was a very public defeat of a program that is used to getting whatever it wants, whenever it wants it.
Anyone who has been reading this site for the past 48 hours knows the details -- too numerous to recount here. But the bottom line is that USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett desperately wanted Chow to return and he made no secret of this fact as he marshaled the collective voices of the usual cast of Trojan shills in the media (see: Smith, Shelley; Wolf, Scott; and so on). The stories were persistent and to the uninitiated believable: USC was said to be willing to pay Chow up to 1.5 million dollars a year to work for Lane Kiffin. Even Neuheisel acknowledged on the Dan Patrick Show that he couldn't stand in the way of a coach who got a financial offer too good to refuse.
While this was all going on, Nestor and the rest of the BN front pagers (except me -- though Nestor tells me I was there in spirit) spent several days refuting the rumors and shooting down every distortion the media tossed out. In fact, Bruins Nation's margin of victory over ESPN and the Daily News might have been larger than Neuheisel's over Kiffin.
In the end, Neuheisel had no call to stand in Norm Chow's way. Chow decided to stay at UCLA and for all I know never even got the much reported offer from USC. What I do know is that it's now apparent that USC doesn't just get whatever it wants, even when they're willing to dip into the slush fund.
There is something else that has become apparent to me and I confess it's not something I ever knew before. Let me share that and the guesses right after the jump.
Everyone hates USC.
See, I live in Los Angeles and this is not so obvious here. In Southern California, there is no shortage of USC fans and in some areas of the Southland, USC fans are as ubiquitous as roaches on a trash heap. If just wasn't clear to me how disliked the Trojans really are. But I spent much of December and early January near the beach hotels where first the Oregon and Ohio State fans were staying and later the Texas and Alabama fans stayed and I had the chance to chat many of them up.(The weren't hard to spot -- it seems like there is some rule for fans attending BCS bowls that mandates they dress up in school colors from head to toe at all times.)
Here is basically how those conversations went:
Me: "Hi, you here for the game?"
Me: "You'll like the Rose Bowl, I'm a UCLA fan and we play all our games there."
Them: "I can't wait. It looks so cool on TV."
Me; "I guess we have another thing in common."
Them: "What's that?"
Me: "We both hate USC ..."
Them (with a smile): "Omigod, yes, I hate those guys ..."
And they'd just go off. By the end of the conversation, they'd be offering their condolences to me for having to live in the same city as USC, for having to live in such close proximity to so many Trojans.
Eventually, it dawned on me.
It's not just UCLA fans that hate USC.
Everyone hates USC.
They are hated, perceived as an arrogant, rogue program with no class and no manners. I had thought that maybe the other BCS regulars harbored some mutual respect for SC, but this is not the case. More accurately, USC is the mob boss who feigns legitimacy by joining the local chamber of commerce. The chamber might be forced to admit them, but they won't shake their hands or invite them into their homes for cocktail parties.
And everyone is waiting for the authorities to bust them so we won't have to see or hear from them any more.
Now, if the numerous posts from the MSM linked on this site in the past few days are any indication, the most hated program in college football has just hired the most hated coach in college football.
With that, here are your Pregame Guesses, Norm Chow edition:
- Describe the sanctions USC is about to receive from the NCAA in terms of years of probation and scholarships lost.
- How many secondary violations will Lane Kiffin and his staff commit between now and Letter of Intent Day.
- Will Lane Kiffin still be head coach at USC three years from now or will even the Trojans feel the need to get rid of him, sort of like Tony Soprano killing off his cousin Tony Blundetto?