Entering this century, USC trailed Notre Dame eleven to nine in national championships, and seven to four in Heisman Trophies. Now they are tied with eleven and seven, respectively. USC has for five straight years beaten Notre Dame, been in the top four, and gone to a BCS game (with four victories). They have played in two straight BCS title games and three Rose Bowls.
The historical “tie” with Notre Dame creates the desire to find criteria giving the advantage to one or another of the two traditions. Alabama has nine legitimate national championships, but like USC and Notre Dame, there are other seasons in which the Crimson Tide can claim some form of the title. They are followed by Oklahoma (six), Ohio State, Nebraska, Miami and Minnesota (five each), Michigan and California (four), Texas (three), then Army, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Penn State, Pittsburgh, and Stanford (two each since World War I).
There certainly is much more to study beyond national championships and Heisman Trophies. The “Heisman factor” is nebulous, so much a part of bias and media hype. Many would dismiss it as a major selling point when rating college programs. Far too many Heisman winners have flopped in the NFL or, for that matter, in bowl games played a month later, to truly state with certainty that the winner is the “best college football player” in the land.
That said, USC’s Heismans have done better! Mike Garrett (1965) played in two Super Bowls, helped Kansas City win one (1970), and was a fine pro running back. O. J. Simpson, if one can compartmentalize the events of June 14, 1994, was at one time considered on par with Jim Brown (whose single-season rushing record he broke wholesale) as the greatest NFL running back ever. Charles White (1979) led the league in rushing one year with the Rams. Marcus Allen (1981) was a Super Bowl MVP and Hall of Famer with the Raiders. Carson Palmer (2002) is a superstar in Cincinnati. Matt Leinart (2004) is following a similar path in Arizona. Reggie Bush (2005) immediately helped turn the New Orleans Saints into a contender.
Furthermore, there is little doubt that had the voters not voted early, USC’s Anthony Davis would have won the 1974 Heisman. The vote for UCLA’s Gary Beban over Simpson in 1967 is inexplicable. The only explanation is that they could not come to grips with giving it to a junior college transfer, which O. J. was. Rodney Peete seemed to have the 1988 Heisman sewn up as late as Thanksgiving weekend, but losing to Notre Dame combined with astronomical numbers by Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders swung the vote, correctly, to Sanders
Notre Dame’s Heisman winners? Angelo Bertelli (1943), John Lujack (1947), and John Lattner (1953), were, uh . . . without research one does not know what they did in the NFL, which answers the question about them. Paul Hornung (1956) was a superstar in Green Bay, a Hall of Famer and a legend. John Huarte (1964) signed a big bonus with the New York Titans/Jets, was quickly overshadowed by Joe Willie Namath, and today is mostly known for being the other Heisman winner from Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California. The other? Matt Leinart of USC. There are only two high schools in the nation with a couple of Heisman winners. Woodrow Wilson High in Dallas, Texas is the other, with Davey O’Brien (1938) and another Golden Domer, the great Tim Brown (1987), a surefire Hall of Famer with the Raiders.
Alabama has no Heisman Trophy winners. Their supporters argue that this is a good thing, emblematic of their team concept over the years. Ohio State’s seven had fair success beyond college. Archie Griffin (1974-1975) was a good running back in Cincinnati. Eddie George was a star in Tennessee. Troy Smith’s performance in the 2007 BCS title game was abysmal.
Oklahoma’s four winners include Steve Owens (1969), a creditable pro in Detroit, Billy Sims (1978) and Jason White (2003), a washout. Nebraska’s three include Johnny Rodgers (1972), who went to Canada, Mike Rozier (1983) and Eric Crouch (2001), who went no where.
Furthermore, if the Heisman Trophy were not so important to the prestige of a college football program, why do those programs move Heaven and Earth in order to promote their contenders? USC and Notre Dame are as good at it as anybody.
The national championship is what the fellows play for, and makes for the ultimate statistic in search of the greatest tradition, but there is more. Nebraska, for instance, has an impressive eight Outland Trophy winners. Oklahoma has five, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Texas three, USC just one. Oklahoma has twenty-three combined Vince Lombardi, Jim Thorpe, Dick Butkus, Walter Camp, Johnny Unitas, Doak Walker, Lou Groza, John Mackey, Chuck Bednarik, Bronco Nagurski, Davey O’Brien, Fred Biletnikoff, Ray Guy, Mosi Tatupu, Ronnie Lott, Pop Warner, Dave Rimington, and Maxwell award winners. Miami and Notre Dame have fifteen, USC and Nebraska thirteen.
Outland Trophy winners
1. Nebraska (8): *Larry Jacobson (1971), Rich Glover (1972), Dave Rimington (1981-
82), Dean Steinkuhler (1983), Will Shields (1992), Zach Wiegert (1994), Aaron
2. Oklahoma (5): Jim Weatherall (1951), J. D. Roberts (1953), *Lee Roy Selmon (1975),
Greg Roberts (1978), Jammal Brown (2004)
3. Ohio State (4): Jim Parker (1956), Jim Stillwagon (1970), John Hicks (1973), Orlando Pace
4. Notre Dame (3): *George Connor (1946), Bill Fischer (1948), Ross Browner
4. Texas (3): *Scott Appleton (1963), Tommy Nobis (1965), Brad Shearer (1977)
4. Minnesota (3): *Tom Brown (1960), Bobby Bell (1962), Greg Eslinger (2005)
4. Iowa (3): Calvin Jones (1955), Alex Karras (1957), Robert Gallery (2003)
8. Arkansas (2): Bill Brooks (1954), Lloyd Phillips (1966)
8. Auburn (2): Zeke Smith (1958), Tracy Rocker (1988)
8. Brigham Young (2): Jason Buck (1986), Mohammed Elewonibi (1989)
8. Miami (2): Russell Maryland (1990), *Bryant McKinnie (2001)
8. Tennessee (2): Steve DeLong (1964), John Henderson (2000)
8. UCLA (2): Jonathan Ogden (1995), Kris Farris (1998)
8. Maryland (2): *Dick Modzelewski (1952), Randy White (1974)
15. (Tied with 1 each)
Southern California: *Ron Yary (1967)
Washington State: Rien Long (2002)
Alabama: Chris Samuels (1999)
Arizona: Ron Waldrop (1993)
Washington: *Steve Emtman (1991)
Air Force: Chad Hennings (1987)
Boston College: Mike Ruth (1985)
Virginia Tech: Bruce Smith (1984)
Pittsburgh: Mark May, 1980
North Carolina: Jim Richter (1979)
Penn State: Mike Reid (1969)
Georgia: Bill Stanfill (1968)
Utah State: Merlin Olsen (1961)
Duke: Mike McGee (1959)
Kentucky: Bob Gain (1950)
Michigan State: Ed Bagdon, 1949
Army: Joe Steffy (1946)
*Team won the national championship
Notre Dame has ninety-six consensus All-Americans compared to seventy-eight for USC, then Michigan (seventy-three), Ohio State (seventy-one), Oklahoma (sixty-three), Nebraska (fifty-three), Texas (forty-one), Alabama (thirty-eight), Miami (thirty-seven), and Penn State (thirty-four). Among all other All-American selections, the Irish boast 176 (seventy-six second team) compared to 171 for Ohio State, 143 first teamers at USC, 141 at Oklahoma, 121 for Michigan, 118 for Texas, 106 at Nebraska.
The Irish had 159 straight AP poll rankings (1964-1975). Nebraska has the longest such streak (330, ending in 2002), while Florida State has 237, Michigan 194 . . .
Michigan loves to tout their impressive win-loss record. They have the most wins (860) and the best record (860-282-36) in history. However, they started playing football in 1879, which means they have upwards of a ten-fifteen year advantage over most of the competition. Their winning percentage is terrific and not to be scoffed at, but much of that was built in the thirty years in which they dominated football while the non-Ivy schools were establishing the sport, or playing rugby. USC got off to a particularly late start. While the first official game was played in 1888, it was decades before the game took on more than a “club sport” atmosphere while Michigan took it seriously and thought of themselves as “national champions.” USC played rugby between 1911 and 1915. While they did play Stanford in 1905, until the PCC was formed (1915) and USC slowly made their way towards membership in it (1922), their schedule normally included the likes of Los Angeles High School, the Arrowhead Athletic Club, or small colleges in the L.A. area. USC ranks eighth in overall record, tenth in total wins.
1. Michigan 860
2. Notre Dame 821
3. Texas 810
4. Nebraska 801
5. Ohio State 787
6. Alabama 780
6. Penn State 780
8. Oklahoma 768
9. Tennessee 759
10. Southern California 743
11. Georgia 702
12. Louisiana State 680
13. Auburn 667
14. Syracuse 664 (through 2004)
15. West Virginia 653
16. Colorado 650 (through 2005)
17. Washington 646
17. Georgia Tech 646
19. Pittsburgh 639
19. Miami (Ohio) 639 (through 2005)
21. Texas A&M 634 (through 2005)
22. Army 631
23. Minnesota 626
24. Arkansas 621 (through 2004)
25. Florida 619
26. California 602
27. Clemson 600 (through 2004)
28. Michigan State 599
29. Mississippi 583 (through 2004)
30. Maryland 573 (through 2004)
31. Stanford 543
32. Illinois 542 (through 2004)
33. Miami 532
34. UCLA 528
35. Texas Christian 515 (through 2004)
36. Brigham Young 456 (through 2004)
37. Florida State 442
Yale 830 (through 2005
Harvard 767 (through 2004)
Notre Dame billed itself as a tiny Catholic school, a 1913 version of David defeating Goliath in the form of Army (1913), but they were part of the strong Midwestern football craze going back to before the turn of the century. Their 821-269-42 record is the second best in terms of percentage and total victories. Interestingly, Texas has 810 wins against 313 losses and 33 ties since 1893. While the 9-0 Longhorns of 1914 contended with Army for the national championship, like most “rural” and Southern colleges they were not well regarded until after World War I.
Regular season records are great but do not tell the whole picture, just as is the situation in professional sports and NCAA play-offs. It comes down to the thing the teams play for: national championships. As a secondary aspect of this quest, examination of records always emphasizes whether or not a team won their bowl game. The question might be asked of, say, USC in 2006: would they rather have gone to the BCS title game and lost, or gone to the Rose Bowl and won? Answer: win the Rose Bowl! Any Trojan fan who compares their emotions after the 2006 Rose Bowl loss to Texas with the 2007 win over Michigan at the same venue knows this self-evident truth.
College football is an incomplete, often-uneven operation. Over the years, it tends to even itself out; whether some conferences are better than others, or certain teams play stronger schedules, while these affect seasons and even multiple years, over the decades the whole thing works itself out pretty well. In the course of a century, it is not generally felt that LSU (656-374-45, .631 through 2004), for example, has played a significantly harder schedule than Syracuse (664-435-49, .600 through 2004), to use one example.
The bowls have always fascinated the public because it gave them a chance to compare and contrast regions, conferences and teams. The South earned respect largely on the strength of Alabama’s stellar performance in a series of Rose Bowl encounters between 1926 and 1946. Bowls determine national championships, influence final rankings in a greater way than any other games, and cut away much of the overrated hype that is attached to a team’s regular season record.
USC is the dominant bowl team, by a relatively substantial margin (29-16) over Alabama (30-21-3), with Penn State sporting an impressive 25-12-2 mark, followed by Oklahoma (24-15-1). When it comes to bowls, Notre Dame, Michigan and Ohio State would all prefer that historians overlook them. Each is under .500. In the case of Ohio State and Michigan, they are under .500 because they have played USC so often.
The Trojans can attribute an enormous part of their success to the Rose Bowl and geography. When Stanford built their new stadium in 1921, they made a bid for the Rose Bowl to switch locations to northern California. Had they succeeded, it may well have changed the face of college football. Stanford, a major national power at the time, might have built on a big bowl game played in their stadium, thus turning themselves into a tradition on par with Notre Dame, Alabama and Ohio State.
When the Rose Bowl was built, it meant that Southern California would be the de facto “home team” more often than not. USC has captured nine national championships playing at “home.” Only Miami (Orange Bowl in 1983, 1987, 1991) and to a lesser extent LSU (Sugar Bowl in 1958, 2003) can lay claim to such an accomplishment. The Rose Bowl is the oldest, most prestigious, most-watched bowl game, for any number of reasons. It always was the “best game.” In recent years other bowls have equaled it for drama, match-ups and national title implications. It had down years, but whether the Tournament of Roses Committee admits it or not, the BCS has had the uneven effect of leading their comeback. It has been Southern Cal (22-9) that is the face of the Rose Bowl. No other school has this kind of association or success in any bowl game.
The record of “elite ten” teams in bowl games is as explanatory of why the historical rankings are what they are as any other factor. The simple fact is that if teams such as Michigan and Ohio State (18-20 each) had records approaching USC’s in bowl games, they would have many more national championships and might rank ahead of the Trojans overall. They do not, so therefore they don’t. Most shocking of all is Notre Dame. Somehow they have positioned themselves in the unenviable position of being a team looking at its bowl history and seeing no friendly ammunition when arguing that they are the greatest of all traditions. Their 13-15 mark is bad enough; the fact that the Irish hold the on-going NCAA record most consecutive losses (eleven between January 1995 and January 2007) is probably the single greatest factor determining why they have fallen behind USC in the pantheon. That is only the half of it. Notre Dame’s avoidance of competitive bowls for decades (while the Trojans and Crimson Tide took on all challengers) ices the case in USC’s favor.
The fact is that, while in the past two decades Notre Dame has played a consistently difficult schedule, for many years they played a notoriously soft one. USC never did that. USC subjected itself to annual struggles not just with the Irish but with cross-town rival UCLA, who hate them like Palestinians hate Israelis. USC has always dotted its schedule with challenges, often on the road in hostile atmospheres (at Texas, 1955 and 1966; at Alabama, 1970 and 1978; just to name a few).
Notre Dame’s “no-bowl” policy after the 1925 Rose Bowl win over Stanford, which was not rescinded until they lost to Texas in the 1970 Cotton Bowl, makes for some interesting scenarios. What if the 1929 Irish had played USC in a Rose Bowl re-match? What if the Sugar Bowl had been instituted by 1930 and in that year the Irish had played Alabama in the South? What if the 1943 Irish had played Navy, Michigan or unbeaten Purdue in a bowl? What if the Big 10 and PCC had not signed a contract to play each other in Pasadena, and Notre Dame had played Fritz Crisler’s Michigan Wolverines in the 1948 and 1949 Rose Bowls?
How would the 1949 Notre Dame national champions have fared against Bud Wilkinson’s 10-0 Oklahoma Sooners in the Orange Bowl? Most intriguing of all would have been the match-up between Notre Dame and Alabama in a Sugar Bowl showdown for the 1966 national title. Common sense indicates that at least a few of their champions would have lost some of those bowl games. At least in light of historical legitimacy (the AP polls would not have changed due to pre-bowl voting), the Irish would not be as prestigious. If one uses their actual history, that being the 13-15 record they have when they buckled it up and played the games for real, then the question simply answers itself.
However, there is a flip side to this argument. Notre Dame was not ranked number one entering the 1973 Sugar Bowl with Alabama or the 1978 Cotton Bowl with Texas. Their victories propelled them to the number one slot. Taking away the irritating concept of the AP pre-bowl votes, had they played a bowl game after the 1948 season they might have won and used that to vault over Michigan in the polls. The 1953 Irish may well have won the title had they gone to a bowl game.
What would have been more intriguing than a true “national championship game” between the 1920 Cal “Wonder Team” and Rockne’s unbeaten Irish in the Rose Bowl? The 1938 squad would have loved a second chance at Southern Cal, who ended their unbeaten season with a 13-0 shutout at the Coliseum, in a Rose Bowl re-match.
All of this is speculation. What we are left with are actual events. In this regard, Notre Dame has both hurt itself and helped itself by virtue of their 55-year policy of bowl avoidance.
The concept that winning bowl games usurps winning regular season games, and that national championships are more important than anything else, manifests itself also when comparing historical final Associated Press polls. Michigan has been ranked in the final Top 25 (Top 20 until a few years ago) fifty-four times, compared to Notre Dame’s forty-eight, Ohio State with forty-seven, Alabama’s forty-five and USC at forty-one. This is impressive, but serves to mock the Wolverines slightly. It ends up creating in their fans’ collective mind the disappointment felt when all those highly-rated (and often overrated) Michigan teams had their maize and blue helmets handed to them by better Pacific-8 and Pac-10 teams in the Rose Bowl.
USC is not at the top of this list. They have had down periods where they were not ranked. But their national championships have served to erase all that memory. Ask any Michigan or Ohio State fan if they would trade their higher AP rank totals with USC’s eleven national titles. The answer is not necessary herein. It simply offers itself as that with which is obvious.
Michigan is the “champion” of all AP Top 20/25 rankings, too (724), compared to Notre Dame (688) and Southern Cal (619). This statistic serves the same dubious purpose, again mocking Michigan as always good, always tough, always a winner, more often than not overrated.
A more telling statistic is Michigan’s thirty-two overall number one AP rankings. Notre Dame (eight-nine), Oklahoma (eighty-six), Ohio State (eighty-three), and USC (eight-one) are far ahead of them. Number one is what the boys play for, not number nine, or number eighteen, or number twenty-three.
USC was ranked number one for thirty-three straight weeks between 2003 and 2006, followed by Miami with twenty (2001-2002), Notre Dame at nineteen (1988-1989) and USC again with seventeen (1972-1973).
Winning streaks and unbeaten streaks are less instructive in search of history than other records. Oklahoma’s 47-game winning streak is a record that will be as difficult to break as Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak of 1941. In the modern era, USC and Miami are second (thirty-four each). California, Georgia Tech, and a series of other programs got hot over relatively short periods of time. Notre Dame has no winning streaks near the top, but their 39-game unbeaten skein meant those entering the school as freshman in the fall of 1946 and graduating in the spring of 1950 never saw them lose!
The Irish claim a distinct advantage when it comes to College Hall of Famers (forty-eight to USC’s thirty-five as of the 2007 induction). USC returns the favor when comparing Pro Football Hall of Famers. 2007 inductee Bruce Matthews gives them fourteen to Notre Dame’s nine. Both schools have produced NFL heroes. Notre Dame’s Joe Montana is generally considered the greatest quarterback who ever lived. O. J. Simpson was one of the greatest NFL running backs ever. Paul Hornung defined the Packer dynasty. Tim Brown will go to the Hall of Fame when he is eligible. Super Bowl MVPs? Sure, the Irish have Montana, but USC has Lynn Swann and Marcus Allen.
In 2006, Miami led all collegiate programs with fifty-two players on NFL rosters, according to Sports Illustrated. The Southeastern Conference had 266 players in the league.
These kinds of records can have anomalies. For instance, in baseball USC has nine Cy Young award winners and one Most Valuable Player. Arizona State has eight MVPs, courtesy of Barry Bonds’s seven (plus Reggie Jackson, 1973). Michigan similarly offers Tom Brady’s two and Desmond Howard’s one Super Bowl MVP awards.
USC leads with sixty-seven first round draft picks compared to Ohio State (sixty-four) and Notre Dame (fifty-eight). USC, Notre Dame and Alabama are tied for the most overall number one draft picks (five each). Miami’s six first round picks in 2004 are the highest number, followed by USC (1968) and Miami (2002) with five. Through the 2006 draft, 458 Trojans have been drafted, compared to 453 from Notre Dame, and Oklahoma trailing in the distance (327). The 1946 draft class at Notre Dame had the highest number of players picked (sixteen), followed by Southern Cal (fifteen in 1953, fourteen in both 1975 and 1977) and Notre Dame (fifteen in 1945).
Records are sketchy and incomplete, but USC and Notre Dame are basically “tied” for the most players to have played professionally, with roughly 400 each. Nobody else is close. USC has 198 Pro Bowlers compared to Notre Dame’s 135. Ohio State has 122. Nobody else is close in this statistic, either. USC also leads with ninety-two players having played in Super Bowls. Miami, the great newcomer of the modern era, has eighty. Forty-five Trojans have played on the winning Super Bowl team. Notre Dame has thirty-eight.
Finally, it is very important in ranking history to place more emphasis on modern greatness. This creates some problems, rankling a few, but to ignore the logic behind it is to apply uneven standards that defy logic. First and foremost, failing to apply the “modern weight” theory leaves one to conclude that Princeton, followed very likely by Harvard or Yale, is the greatest collegiate football tradition ever. One could go on for pages in an effort to prove why this is not so. Rather, the simple fact that they are not, which is knowledge universally possessed, is simply stated. Thus, and it is.
Judging sports is a tricky business, but the modern athlete is better . . . and better and better and better as time goes by. Sports like track or swimming offer measurable records in terms of times and distances. In using these measurements there is no comparison between the Olympic heroes of the 1920s and 1930s with those of the 1990s and 2000s. That said, one could easily imagine that, given modern training methods, Jesse Owens would have been able to compete equally with Carl Lewis.
Other sports offer obvious social discrepancies, which among other factors tells us to favor modernity. Basketball in the 1950s versus basketball in the 2000s? Is this even an argument?
Baseball is the most traditional sport, America’s National Pastime. It is the single sport that allows the historian to make comparisons that do not seem ridiculous. Ty Cobb or Pete Rose? Honus Wagner or Alex Rodriguez? Christy Mathewson or Tom Seaver? Baseball defined America prior to World War I. It offers a 154-game yearly schedule that was in place until 1961. The “dead ball era” ended in 1920. Comparisons between Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds and Henry Aaron; between Jimmie Fox and Mark McGwire; between Bob Feller and Nolan Ryan, are much easier to contrast with each other than Gus Dorais and Carson Palmer, the best quarterbacks of 1913 and 2002, respectively.
Later quarterback heroes like Davey O’Brien and Sammy Baugh have gained some favorable comparison with their modern counterparts, but whether fair or not the likes of Montana, Brady, and Johnny Unitas get most of the kudos. Few really are willing to say that Bronco Nagurski, Minnesota’s bruising fullback of the late 1920s, is as great as Barry Sanders, Oklahoma State’s Heisman winner of 1988.
For many reasons, ranking college football tradition requires one to separate the period between 1869-1918 from the period between 1919 and the present day. Up until the end of World War I, college football was far too undeveloped, uneven, regional, and possessed too many irregularities in terms of rules and play to compare it with the game in the years since. In judging a football team, its success prior to World War I is taken into consideration, but not given as much weight.
The ball was bigger and difficult to throw. The forward pass was virtually unheard of until 1913. There were no field goals, very little punting, and mostly quick kicks. There were no facemasks or helmets or pads to speak of. The rules were changed constantly. The “Yale wedge” was outlawed. Congress got involved. Between 1905 and 1918 many teams played rugby or reduced football to “club sport” status.
It is for these reasons that Michigan, perhaps the most obvious example, does not get as much credit for their pre-modern record as they might wish they did. Princeton, Yale, Harvard, and Penn are not considered to be among College Football’s All-Time Top 25 Traditions despite utter dominance of the first thirty to forty years of the game’s existence. Washington, Stanford, Army, Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh are among those teams that established their traditions on a national basis in those early days and are still recognized today as “major college football programs.”
Army was, until mid-century, a tremendous power on a level with Alabama, Notre Dame and Michigan. They have not maintained that level of excellence, but continue to play a relatively heavy schedule.
Over time, as one examines the decades, great runs over long periods of time, and dynasties, the “usual suspects” – Notre Dame, Southern Cal, Oklahoma, Alabama, and the like – continue to show themselves to be the class of collegiate football.
The emphasis on modern achievement shows itself in different ways. This emphasis has its greatest effect on the state of Florida. Florida State was a girl’s school until after World War II. A Florida high school star named Burt Reynolds was recruited to play football for the Seminoles. He favored Miami but was told that FSU was about “90 perfect female” except for the football team. That was all he needed to hear.
Florida State was mostly mediocre until Bobby Bowden’s hiring prior to the 1976 season. They possess none of the age-old tradition of Penn State or Texas, yet their record in the age of integration, network TV, national recruiting and modern techniques is so outstanding that their two national championships and two Heisman Trophies help rank them far above Army, winners of three national championships and three Heismans.
Their downstate rivals, Miami, were playing football long before Florida State, but were a minor operation. Out of no where, the Hurricanes put on a run beginning in 1983 that is equaled by very few programs, ever. So dominant has Miami been that their record surpasses traditions like LSU, Texas, even Michigan.
Florida State’s unique recruitment of Reynolds also points out some truths about sports, in general. Where the great athletes are, so one will find the girls, and vice versa. What comes first is up for debate. High schools that have the best teams more often than not have the prettiest cheerleaders. There are definitely exceptions to this rule, but in college, particularly in the Sun Belt – USC, UCLA, Arizona State, Texas, LSU, Alabama, Florida State, Miami – one of the most biggest inducements used in the recruitment of stellar ball players is the pleasant existence of beautiful tanned coeds.
USC has always used their natural advantages to take it one step further. John Wayne was a Trojan football player. Through him, Howard Jones was able to land jobs as extras, often as Roman Legionnaires, Napoleon’s Grand Armee or Biblical flocks in epics of the silent film era. Access to these jobs, which came with the perks of off-campus money and access to attractive actresses, was a recruiting tool that Howard Jones had in Los Angeles, but not in Iowa.
The fact that USC - as well as UCLA in basketball, or to a lesser extent Cal State Fullerton in baseball and Stanford in tennis and women’s sports - is the best football program and top athletic department in the country, owes itself to these among other advantages. They have great weather and are located in the middle of the second biggest city; the largest metropolitan area in the nation. High school sports in southern California are second to none. It is natural that high school players want to play near their family and friends in convenient fashion. USC is able to get more kids like that than any program, although it does not stop them from recruiting nationally.
They have benefited from the fact that there is strong media attention; from great professional sports played in the area, with opportunities over the years to see the Dodgers, Angels, Rams, Raiders, Lakers and other teams play. The Rose Bowl in their backyard creates a great edge for them. The professional teams in L.A. do not simply provide more chances for a local college player to be seen or hook on as a free agent, but create opportunity in the area of sports broadcasting. An inordinate number of USC and UCLA athletes have excelled in the sports media.
So it is, too, that the modern era favors the Trojans. What is more impressive, USC’s run between 2003 and 2005, or Minnesota’s run between 1934 and 1936? Miami’s dominance between 1987 and 1991, or Notre Dame’s between 1946 and 1949? Oklahoma’s teams between 1971 and 1975 or Bud Wilkinson’s Sooners of 1953-1957? Pittsburgh’s national champions of 1976 or the 1916 Panthers?
USC and Notre Dame have two things going for them: tradition and continuing tradition. They rise above all other programs on the basis of this premise. In looking at the two traditions side-by-side, often the differences are narrow. Nevertheless, there is enough to formulate definite opinions.
The game has demarcation points: 1919, when the Great War was over; 1946, when World War II was over; 1960, when equipment, coaching, TV eventually became colorized, schedules went national; 1970, when segregation finally came to an end; and 1998, when the BCS began. In each instance, the Trojans match, come close enough or surpass Notre Dame. In the latest modern periods, they overcome them. In the 2000s, they created distance.
Until 1962, Notre Dame had won seven national championships and had five Heisman winners. USC had won four national crowns and had zero Heismans. Since then, USC has won seven national titles and seven Heismans to four titles and two Heismans for the Irish. Notre Dame still has the edge in the win-loss record between the two schools, which is an important point, but USC has unquestionably enjoyed two periods of dominance in the rivalry: 1967-1982 and the 2000s. In the 2000s, in the most modern of eras, USC has roared back into the proverbial “tie” and, in the historical analysis, the lead over Notre Dame as the greatest tradition.
It is important to understand, however, that such a moniker, greatest college football tradition of all time, has the potential of being only a temporary one, or even a tradeoff. This is the level the Trojans have reached as of 2008, the time of this book’s publication. They did not hold this position at the turn of the 21st Century, or even as late as 2003. It is a position in the hierarchy to be continually fought over, defended, challenged with honor by Notre Dame, Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio State and the other great traditions of this fabulous game we call college football.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism