In 2000, the sports media tackled all the various "greatest of the century" stories. ESPN announced that Michael Jordan was the greatest athlete of the 20th Century. Long Beach Poly High School was named "High School of the Century." The University of Southern California earned its share of accolades, as well. They garnered "Baseball Program of the Century," and coach Rod Dedeaux was named "Baseball Coach of the Century," in polling conducted by Baseball America. The NCAA said USC was the "Athletic Department of the Century."
However, it was still felt that the greatest historical football program of the century was still USC's biggest rival, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. In January of 2000, the Trojans were in a slump; a slump that had begun in 1983. For years they had held firmly to the number two position behind Notre Dame in a "battle of traditions" with the other great powers, the University of Alabama and Oklahoma University.
In December of 2000, USC hired Pete Carroll, considered a cast-off of the NFL after being fired by the Jets and the Patriots. His hiring was met by little enthusiasm, and athletic director Mike Garrett's job was rumored to be in jeopardy.
Carroll was not on USC's "short list." He was interviewed only after several "better" candidates turned down what once had been the premiere job in college football. He approached Garrett himself, eager to coach at a school in which his daughter was already on the volleyball team; his father-in-law was an alum; and he had rooted for John McKay's Trojans as a suburban California teenager.
In 2001, Carroll's team started 2-5, including a loss at Notre Dame, but they finished the regular season on a high note, shutting out UCLA, 20-0. Carroll's 6-6 rookie season as the Trojan head man was considered a slight improvement. At least they went to a bowl game. This was indicative of how far the Trojan Empire had fallen.
What has occurred over the next four years, however, is unprecedented. The University of Southern California has won two straight National Championships, had two quarterbacks win the Heisman Trophy, one has been selected number one in the NFL draft, they are riding a 22-game winning streak, and are 33-1 since October, 2002. They have been ranked number one for 16 weeks, going back to 2003, and enter the 2005 campaign still ranked number one, favored to win a third straight National Championship.
This year's team is considered a contender for the title "greatest college football team of all time." If they run the table, by season's end the Trojans could have a 35-game winning streak. No team in history has ever won three consecutive national titles. They are looking at their third Heisman winner (quarterback Matt Leinart or running back Reggie Bush), five Heisman finalists (Carson Palmer, Leinart and Bush twice), and two NFL number one picks (Palmer, plus Leinart or Bush), all in four years. They would enter the 2006 campaign one undefeated regular season away from Oklahoma's all-time record 47-game winning streak.
Considering that Carroll has presided over the best national recruiting class in the nation the past four years, and that both of their back-up quarterbacks (John David Booty and Mark Sanchez) were at one time considered the best high school signal-callers in the nation, the possibility exists that Coach Carroll could be winning National Championships and extending winning streaks at least until the senior year of current incoming freshman quarterback Sanchez in 2009. By the end of Sanchez's career, the Trojan decade could include seven national titles, six Heismans, five NFL number one picks, plus Outland Trophies (Jeff Byers, Jeff Schweiger) and Lombardi Trophies (Keith Rivers). Quite simply, Carroll is already in territory that few coaches have ever tread. By the time he is done, he will have eclipsed the accomplishments of Knute Rockne Frank Leahy, Paul "Bear" Bryant and John McKay.
In light of the fact that Carroll's Trojans are threatening to be the greatest dynasty in the history of college football, it is time to re-evaluate the historical record of struggling Notre Dame, and in so doing crown the title "Greatest College Football Program in History" on the deserving new champions from USC.
This book will take us back to the aftermath of World War I, when returning Doughboys, hardened by war and ready to live again, joined college football teams in the West, shifting the balance of power from elite powers Harvard, Yale and Army. New York Times columnist Grantland Rice observed that the new California athlete was "different, a hybrid," some kind of superman, indigenous to a land of sun and fruit trees, the off-spring of hardy settlers and handsome men and women who had been venturing to the state to pursue movie careers.
Great powers emerged in the West: California's Wonder Teams and Pop Warner's Stanford Indians dominated, but it was a railroad handshake that had the greatest impact on college football, East and West. Notre Dame's Knute Rockne was approached by USC student manager Gwyn Wilson about a yearly home-and-home arrangement. Rockne declined, stating that the administration was on him about too much travel anyway. But in a separate conversation, Rockne's wife told Wilson's wife that she loved shopping in Beverly Hills, and that a game in warm Los Angeles on a regular basis was a grand idea. Thus was born the greatest rivalry in the game, and with it, Notre Dame elevated USC to national prominence.
In the 1920s under Rockne, the Irish were the undisputed champions of the college game. When USC beat them in 1928 to earn their first National Championship (and the moniker "greatest team ever" up to that point), coach Howard Jones's Trojans put themselves on the map. They did more than that in the 1930s, when they were that decade's dominant program, earning national titles in 1930, 1931 and 1939.
In the 1940s under Frank Leahy, Notre Dame regained prominence, playing a series of titanic games against Red Blaike's juggernauts from West Point. The balance of power shifted to the Midwest in the late 1940s and '50s, when the great teams were Michigan, Bud Wilkinson's Oklahoma Sooners, and Woody Hayes's Ohio State Buckeyes. But social changes played a role in the balance of power shifting back to the West in the 1960s.
Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier in 1947, and integration came to the South via the Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1954. However, Southern football programs refused to integrate. USC coach John McKay took full advantage of this, providing opportunities for black players and winning two National Championships in that turbulent decade (1962, 1967). It was under McKay that the Trojans firmly re-established themselves as an elite power. Two of his black running backs, Mike Garrett (1965) and O.J. Simpson (1968) won the Heisman Trophy. But McKay's duck-hunting pal, Alabama legend Paul "Bear" Bryant, won three National Championships (1961, 1964-65) and narrowly missed the 1966 championship when the "Catholic vote" went to the Irish.
In 1970, the two legends met in Birmingham. College football would never be the same. Bryant's Crimson Tide was still all white. McKay's Trojans shocked the packed Legion Field crowd when their integrated squad lambasted the Tide, 42-21, behind the efforts of Sam "Bam" Cunningham.
The game had such an effect on the Deep South that the door to integration, which Bryant had barely opened by recruiting Wilbur Jackson, swung wide open. The result: Alabama won two National Championships in the following decade. The only team better? USC, with three (1972, 1974, 1978). From 1962-81, USC enjoyed the greatest 20-year run of all time. Aside from their National Championships, they won four Heismans (Charlie White in 1979 and Marcus Allen in 1981 joined the elite club). The 1972 Trojans are generally regarded to be the best collegiate team of all time. The transition from McKay to John Robinson (1976-82) was seamless.
In 1964, Notre Dame revived a moribund program with the hiring of coach Ara Parseghian. The "era of Ara" (1964-74) included dashed national title hopes in a stirring come-from-behind USC win over the Irish in '64, and two other memorable games in three years (1972, '74). In '72, sophomore running back Anthony "A.D." Davis scored six touchdowns in SC's 45-23 victory, but it was the 1974 game that left fans breathless. Trailing 24-0, USC scored 55 points in the most unbelievable 17 minutes in the game's long history. Davis ran two kickoffs back for touchdowns, scoring four in all, as Troy ended Ara's National Championship plans again, 55-24. It was good enough to swing the number one vote to the Trojans, although Davis was denied a rightful Heisman because the game was played after the votes had been cast.
USC began a down period when Robinson left USC to take over the Rams after the 1982 season. Perhaps of greater loss to the team was the departure of legendary assistant coach Marv Goux, who left with Robinson. Amid NCAA penalties, the Trojans maintained a position as a college football power, but were well below their previous standard, over the next 20 years. In 1988 under coach Larry Smith, they were 10-0 going into the Notre Dame game, but lost to the Irish and to Michigan in the Rose Bowl. They recruited the best prep quarterback in the nation, Todd Marinovich, but he was a problem child. By 1991 they were losing to Memphis State.
Robinson's return in 1993 did usher in a Rose Bowl win over Northwestern in 1995, but Trojan fans had to endure winless streaks vs. Note Dame from 1983 to 1995, and vs. UCLA from 1991 to 1998.
Carroll has reversed this trend entirely. USC now is riding a six-game winning streak against UCLA and a three-game streak against Notre Dame. Notre Dame has 12 National Championship, and USC now has 11 (favored to win again this year). Notre Dame has seven Heismans, but SC with six has not one but two Heisman favorites in their backfield this year (and Bush possibly coming back in 2006).
"Dynasty" will tell the personal stories of Trojan legends, ranging from John "Duke" Wayne to Howard Jones; Cotton Warburton to Frank Gifford; the men who made them "Tailback U."; Mike Garrett, O.J. Simpson, Anthony Davis, Ricky Bell, Charles White, Marcus Allen, and Reggie Bush; the great quarterbacks; Pat Haden, Paul McDonald, Rodney Peete, Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart; receivers Rod Sherman, Bob Chandler, Lynn Swann, and Mike Williams; linebackers Tim Rossovich and Junior Seau; linemen Marlin McKeever and Ron Yary; coaching legends Howard Jones, Jess Hill, John McKay, John Robinson and Pete Carroll; among many others.
Written from the unique perspective of college football historian Steven Travers, a USC graduate who worked in their sports information office and coached under Rod Dedeax, "Dynasty!" promises not just to fill its pages with anecdotal sports stories, but will analyze why the Trojans have earned the right to be called the best college football program of all time, as well as why Carroll's current team is the greatest "Dynasty!" the game has ever seen.
Lastly, a chapter will be devoted to USC's great record in non-football sports. This includes 12 National Championships in baseball, 26 in track and field and, even though they are not known as a basketball school, three Hall of Famers (Tex Winter, Bill Sharman, Alex Hannum) who starred on the same 1946 team, when the "triangle offense" was invented.
USC boasts more NFL first round draft picks, pro players and Hall of Famers than any school. They have more Major Leaguers than any school. If they were a country, they would have placed third in the medals count at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
"Dynasty" will be must reading for all Trojan fans and alumni, sports media and college football buffs. It could not be coming at a more opportune time, as USC is currently the hottest name in college sports.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism