There was so much promise for the Trojans two years ago. Despite NCAA sanctions left over from the Carroll regime, the Matt Barkley led Trojans went 10-2 under Lane Kiffin’s supervision completing the best campaign since 2008. However, The Trojan postseason ban left USC without a significant trophy at the end of the year. USC’s scholarship ban was even more damaging than the post season ban, especially as other powers were rising in the PAC-12. For years the Trojans were the face of football out west. USC won the PAC-10 15 of the 32 years the conference existed. The prize for all these conference championships was a trip to The Rose Bowl, which is played on USC’s home turf. The face of Pacific football has been completely altered since then. The void created by the NCAA punishment allowed two powers to fill it, the traditional Stanford and the new flashy Oregon Ducks. USC has since fired Lane Kiffin after a disappointing 2012 campaign and a dismal start to the 2013 season. So who’s going to take over USC when this season ends?
The Front Runner
Ed Orgeron is currently serving as USC’s interim head coach. The Trojans are 5-1 under his tutelage and are still statistically alive in the PAC-12 south. The defensive genius has a history at USC having previously served under two regimes before his stint with Lane Kiffin. Coach O’s current success most certainly puts him as a favorite to remove interim from his title and become the full-time Head Coach. However, there are problems with the Trojan’s fearless leader. His last head coaching job didn’t go over very well. In fact Ole Miss only had 2 wins against teams with a winning record during Orgeron’s reign. Coach O may be a great coach but his track record as the grand puba hasn’t gone over so well.
Jack Del Rio played both football and baseball for the Trojans in his heyday. However since Del Rio left to pursue his NFL playing dreams, he has not stepped on a college campus for anything other than entertainment. His coaching career has involved working for great minds such as Mike Ditka, Brian Billick and John Fox as an assistant. After his first stint with John Fox at Carolina, Del Rio was granted the Head Coaching job for the Jacksonville Jaguars. During his time in Jacksonville, Del Rio had a win-loss record slightly below .500 and never advanced past a divisional playoff game. After a 3-8 start to the 2011 season, Del Rio was sacked. The following season he rejoined John Fox, now with the Denver Broncos, as an assistant. With Fox’s recent health problems, Del Rio has done well with his interim head coaching opportunity, helping the Broncos to a 2-0 record. It is no wonder that Del Rio has recently been interviewed by USC for the vacancy next year.
The Prodigal Son
Steve Sarkisian has a long history with USC. Right out of High School Sarkisian walked onto the Trojans baseball team. However, his foray into Division 1 didn’t go as planned. Sarkisian left USC and eventually became the BYU Cougar’s starting QB. After Steve’s professional dreams piddled out in Canada, he settled into a coaching career. Sarkisian joined USC in 2001 as an offensive assistant and quickly rose through the ranks. His talents for QB coaching was noticed at a professional level and in 2004, Sarkisian left USC to join the Oakland Raiders coaching staff. For some reason the professional spotlight hasn’t agreed with Sarkisian. Steve returned to USC the next year as Assistant Head Coach. In 2008, Sarkisian went north to take over a struggling Washington program. Sarkisian has since built the Huskies into a consistent mediocre program, a far cry from the bottom dwelling teams of the past. Even though Sarkisian was unable to be pulled away from his commitment at Washington the last time the USC job was vacant, his name should be on top of the search list.
The Dark Horse
There is a name that exists in the darkness of the Rocky Mountains that epitomizes program building. For years he has challenged the major conferences both on the football field and in the recruiting realm. Many of these battles he has come out on top. It is scary to think what this man would do with the money and facilities he would have at USC. The man of course is Boise State’s Chris Petersen. While there is no significant connection to USC, the Boise State Head Honcho understands recruiting in the area and has a knack for winning. In 8 years Peterson has 5 conference championships and is 2 for 2 in BCS games. Don’t be surprised if his name comes up in the offseason.
There is always a chance that there is a name that none of us have heard of that could come and grab the job. However, this is USC, one of the most proud programs in the country. The Trojans are going to want a big name to compete against the Oregons and Stanfords of the world. If Coach O wins out the job is probably his, but with all great jobs USC will definitely evaluate all of their options. Hopefully they make the right pick and get back into the PAC-12 mix. The conference is more exciting when USC is involved.
But who’s the right choice?
Chris Petersen’s record, both on and off the football field, should make the Boise State Head Coach the prize possession for the Trojans. It may be hard for the Trojans to lure him away from a program he’s built. To convince Petersen to leave his child, the Boise State man would have to feel comfortable that the Bronco’s were in the right hands. USC may have an easier time convincing Sarkisian to come back home. However, Washington’s disappointing season may turn many Trojan Boosters away from Pete Caroll’s former assistant. If Coach O wins out he will be a hard man to dethrone. Word on the street though is that if Jack Del Rio’s job if he wants but I don’t think he is the right choice. USC needs a winner and would do well to convince Petersen or Sarkisian to come to Pasadena.