Today USC ended their NCAA imposed "disassociation" period with former Heisman-winner Reggie Bush, welcoming him back to the Trojan family for the first time in 10 years. It's been 16 years since the program won a national title, and 8 years since they were truly competitive. When Bush finally steps back on campus, he's in for a rude awakening.
"Why is Freddie Kitchens in coach Carroll's office?" I imagine Bush asking new athletic director Mike Bohn.
"Oh, that's Clay Helton," Bohn would say, grimacing in shame.
Bohn, of course, inherited the Freddie Kitchens of college football, but has yet to put the kibosh on him. Helton's recruiting attempts have led to some of the worst hauls in recent USC history - capped off by the Trojans missing on each of the top five 2020 California recruits. More embarrassing, two of those top five recruits - Justin Flowe and Jalen McMillan - chose Oregon and Washington. Since when did USC get in line before two conference rivals for in-state recruits?
"I might just head out," Bush says, as he considers re-disassociating himself from his former college home.
Bush isn't alone. Trojan fans are on the verge, too. They'd rather rewatch '04 Bush and Leinart games than watch Helton fumble through the career of another 1st-rounder-to-be - Kedon Slovis - just like he did with Sam Darnold.
If only there was a coach out there - a multiple-time national champion coach - who's been paying as much attention to Slovis as Helton.
That's right: Urban Meyer's been paying attention. He ranked Slovis fourth on his list of top five college quarterbacks.
"To me, what dictates the best quarterback in the land is are you a winner, and can you win the championship," Meyer said on Fox College Football. "That remains to be seen at USC, however, statistically, you're probably looking at the guy that'll have the best stats."
Meyer, calculated as ever, made sure to point out USC, not Slovis, as the entity that may struggle to win big. I'll bet you he thinks under his tutelage, a quick turnaround is possible. Meyer won his first national championship just a year after taking the Florida job, and just three years after taking the Ohio State job.
Last year, Urban called USC an "elite, elite job," citing the "best players in America" within a two hour recruiting trip.
Will Mike Bohn be able to scrounge up the money to pay Helton his severance, and sign Meyer to a competitive deal? Pac-12 fans better hope so.
The last several months haven't been friendly to Larry Scott's conference. SEC Network host Peter Burns said the Pac-12 "is done" and predicted the Big-12 would poach the Pac-12's best teams within the next several years. Fox Sports analyst Joel Klatt said Pac-12 athletic directors don't trust the conference office, and understand that "Larry Scott doesn't have the political equity" to make a unilateral decision about coronavirus protocols. The TV deal Scott negotiated - which lags between $7 and $22 million behind the rest of the Power Five - has been brought up continually. That contract ends in 2024, and could desperately use an Urban Meyer bump, if the Pac-12 wants to land a big-boy deal with CBS, ESPN or Fox.
And, wouldn't Urban Meyer at USC just restore balance to college football? Right now the sport feels rigid, religious and regional, as the Southeast and Big-10 country continue to separate from the pack. Isn't college football better with at least one coastal, celebrity contender? There's a reason "The U" was the best 30 for 30 ever, and USC's Pete Carroll era still resonates.
Reggie Bush and Urban Meyer do work together, you know...