Rejuvenation, and Oklahoma is not OK

While we wait to see what elite player transfers or commits to USC next, it might be a good opportunity to count our blessings. You do that by disregarding fear and taking the plunge into the void, meaning the recent past. I’m talking even before Clay Helton, back to the Sarkisian and Kiffin eras. These are two coaches that, at the time, should never have been head coaches, let alone USC head coaches. You can argue that had Kiffin knew then what he knows now, he still might still be the ringleader. Not so with Sark.

Both benefited from Nick Saban’s Institute for Wayward Football Coaches. Kiffin has found success in Mississippi, and has the Rebels poised to be a SEC nemesis for years to come. He does have that “grass is always greener” kind of mentality, so we’ll see how long he sticks around. Sark has yet to prove anything as a head coach. He can recruit though. He’ll be coaching against his ex-Trojan buddy in a few years. It would behoove him to rectify any and all problems in Austin before then. Chances are he’ll get steamrolled if he doesn’t. He may not make the move to the SEC if he doesn’t.

Pete Carroll’s larger than life legacy carried Trojan fans through those mostly lean years. Kiffin’s 2011 season was pretty good (10-2). Other than that, the Dynamic Duo never lost less than four games in any season from their combined six years. A 50-27 record between them isn’t terrible. But hardly what you’d call fighting on to domination in the manner familiar to USC fans.

The more I think about their tenure the more mediocre it becomes. What the entire nation will forever remember most about their accomplishments at Southern Cal were two embarrassing incidences unrelated to the gridiron. Both helped set the stage for Helton’s scorched football policy: the tarmac firing in Arizona and the drunken debacle at a doner event.

I won’t get into Helton’s dysfunctional efforts. I’ve covered that ground enough. Same goes for Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb, a.k.a. Lynn Swann and Pat Haden. These five characters were the stars of a vast Hollywood production one ESPN anchor coined, “Clown University.” Plenty of other misfits played supporting roles, primarily behind the camera sitting on university money, unwilling to open their pocketbooks to re-establish continuity from the Carroll days.

That prolonged suffering is happily in the rear-view mirror. The Lincoln Riley hire still seems surreal. He could be the best hire since Howard Jones. We’ll naturally have to wait until his work is finished in Southern California to assess the results. But after more than a decade of ineptitude, Trojanland is finally getting a leader worthy of its Cardinal and Gold heritage, even if the price tag was the GNP of Norway. You knew it wouldn’t take long for the right number of zeros to attract the right head coach. Trusting Carol Folt and Mike Bohn took a while, but they proved trustworthy. We can safely assume that future decisions from them will be made with the proper concern and without any hesitancy in shelling out the necessary funds for what’s best for the university. In other words, what’s best for the football program is what’s best for the university.

Now, if we can bolster the offensive and defensive lines, I see nothing but sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows everywhere.

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Apparently, it’s going to take a long time for Oklahoma fans to swallow the dismantling of their football team. Brent Venables has near impeccable credentials as a defensive coordinator, and he’ll need to reconfigure how this team is going to change its offensive culture, and win. The Sooners will always be dangerous on some level. Except that danger won’t come from their offense as it has so often in the past. Eventually the defense will be the best it’s been in a long time. Defensive recruits will flock to Norman in the same manner offensive recruits did under Riley. But no one can realistically determine how much the offense will suffer, and therefore, how much the team suffers because of it. We know it clearly won’t compare to Riley’s offense. Since football the past 25 years has gradually been structured to be an offensive show, Venables may have to win some ugly games in his first season to keep the emotionally frazzled Sooner nation from lighting torches and storming the village.

I’m always ready to help those in need whenever I can, so I’d like to give some advice to the state of Oklahoma to help alleviate their anguish concerning the recent mass exodus of coaches and players. You’re behaving like a baby, as if your father placed you in a basket and abandoned you on the late evening moonlit steps of a fire station. You can’t blame people who’ve struck gold in California from wanting to move there. If you want to maintain your sanity, here’s what you do. Don’t think of this tragedy as something that happened to you, think of it as something that simply happened. Leave yourself out of the equation. Life is an endlessly flowing river, forever shifting into new forms. Continual displays of hostility and stupidity over what has passed will only prevent the truth from setting you free. Okay, maybe not quite the depth of insight that would have made Ramanujacharya envious, but you get the idea.

I do have a thought suitable of the noteworthy Indian mystic. People, and Okie fans in particular, cannot face the impermanence of all relationships, so they invent sentiments and dramatic emotions providing a false continuity designed to make them feel better.

I understand your pain, Boomer Sooner. And I don’t care. It’s natural to feel loss, and it stings. Mental instability can make you behave in ways unfitting a healthy human being. You know what I’m talking about. We’ve all read the stories of your juvenile behavior.

Trojan Nation felt that same unbearable sting when Pete Carroll took off for Seattle. But we didn’t cry. We eased our hearts and minds by turning to other activities that made us happy. We went to the beach to swim, or the mountains in Big Bear to ski, or the J. Paul Getty Museum with lunch in Malibu afterwards, or cruised Sunset and Santa Monic Boulevard’s to see world class music, or went to a Laker, King, Ram, Charger, Angel, Duck, or Dodger game. We never considered attending a Bruin game. We drove a short distance to Palm Springs to chill in the desert, traveled north to the Central Coast up Highway 1 to wine taste. We did all these things while basking in the warm, rejuvenating, 24/7 sunshine, without a shred of choking humidity.

Bye the way, Sooner Nation, these are only a handful of reasons why someone could imagine leaving a place like Norman, Oklahoma, for Southern California. Perhaps Governor Stitt would want to know.

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