Owing to the inconvenient fact that time marches on, life for your average USC alum is not all tailbacks and touchdowns these days. Times are harder. USC football is no longer just a future network color man turning the corner with two human condos leading the way. Reality has taken a room in Troy.
Last year was the first in 27 that the Trojans didn't win a national championship in at least one sport. The men haven't won an NCAA title since 1980, and that one was in volleyball. What's more, USC license plate sales are down.
All of which brings us to the House Divided. You think it never gets below freezing in Southern California? You oughta drop by USC's athletic offices sometime. If the thermostat dips any lower, a summit may break out.
The New Cold War centers on the football team, which is a schizophrenic 4-1 after beating two Top 10 teams—Baylor and Washington—but then barely floundering by Oregon and getting thumped 34-14 at Washington State on Saturday. It was USC's first loss to the Cougars in 29 years. This is the same Washington State team that lost to San Jose State and Cal, the same one about which coach Jim Walden had said, "If I'd have known they were going to play this bad, I never would've recruited 'em." We assume he'll keep them now that they have given USC alumni more grumbling ammo for their cellular phones.
Camp 1: The Realists. These are people who know coach Ted Tollner (if you know him, you like him) or are enamored of his freewheeling offense, namely his introduction of the forward pass to USC. They were doing back flips until the Washington State disaster. Now they're just doing dignified somersaults.
Camp 2: The Fundamentalists. They still believe Student Body Right is the true path to national championships. They loosely side with Tollner's boss, athletic director Mike (sometimes known as Mad Mike) McGee, who they believe wants to get rid of Tollner. They're counting on McGee's reputation as the quickest trigger finger in the West.
Camp 3: The Terminators. They include some members of the San Diego Trojan Club who urged the Board of Trustees to throw them all out, including the president, just for good measure.
The heavy is McGee, who had a rather luckless football coaching career at Duke before taking over at USC two years ago. He arrived with a reputation for preferring his own troops under him. Since then, people have been walking down halls with their backs to the wall.
First to be pushed out was basketball coach Stan Morrison, whose team won the Pac-10 title in 1985, the first for the Trojans in 24 years, but finished last in '86. Morrison was given the dreaded associate athletic director's job. Six months later he bolted for UC Santa Barbara, where he's the AD.
Next out was baseball coach Rod Dedeaux, the dean of the species and USC's skip for 45 years. Dedeaux retired but admits the presence of McGee "made up my mind a little sooner."