New Orleans Anniversary Project Visit & Monday Night Football

Trojan football legends close ranks around Ed Orgeron


USC athletic director Pat Haden is still working on finding a full-time head football coach for the Trojans, but some pretty big names in school lore have already made up their minds.

Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Allen and NFL Hall-of-Famers Ronnie Lott, Anthony Munoz and Ron Yary are all getting behind interim head coach Ed Orgeron.

The four players provided the following quotes to the Los Angeles Times over the weekend:

“From the depths of despair, from a program that was flat-lining, he has made a tremendous turnaround,” said Allen, the first former player to talk to the team after Lane Kiffin was fired Sept. 29. “Here’s a guy who cares about his players, treats them like his sons, and he wants the very best for them. So he’s going to put you in the right position to be successful. He wants these guys to realize their dream, but he knows the only way to do it is to be tough.”

“To me, Ed Orgeron is like Marv Goux,” Lott said, referring to the legendary Trojans player-turned-assistant who coached at the school for three decades and died in 2002. “Ed Orgeron showed me, and showed a lot of people, that . . . in terms of moving forward, he’s got to be considered. He’s not only got to be considered, but he should be very high on the list.”

“I’d hate to be in Pat’s shoes right now,” Munoz said. “I think Ed, at least from me being there a couple of times, I think he’s done a phenomenal job. The whole atmosphere is different. Not once has he mentioned the lack of scholarships [because of NCAA sanctions]. That impresses me.

“It’s not fair for me to think for Pat,” Yary said. “But if there’s a guy who’s stepping up to earn it, [Orgeron] has so far. He’s certainly turned the program around. . . . I’ve met Ed and hear a lot of good things about him from other people. I’m sure they’ll give him a fair opportunity to get the job. If he wins the rest of the games, I think he’s put himself up for a job offer.”

Impressive quotes to be sure. But to add some perspective, consider that former USC players haven’t always been known to be the best judges of coaching talent in the past. Another Trojan Heisman winner, former athletic director Mike Garrett, hit the jackpot when hiring Pete Carroll but missed badly with Paul Hackett and Lane Kiffin.  Former USC All-American wide receiver Mike Williams said the following when Garrett hired Kiffin: “God is shining on the Trojan faithful. I couldn’t imagine a better pick.”  And here is what Allen said about Kiffin in 2011:

“I think Lane is doing a good job. In talking to Lane, he wants to bring back that culture of toughness and being physical to play smart football. I know that he is challenged with the amount of scholarships and so forth. I think he is headed in the right direction. I think he understands the philosophy of football as we discussed. That is where he wants to take USC which is good.”

So take all these opinions with a grain of salt.  As Haden said last week:

“What Ed had done has been absolutely remarkable. He is clearly in our eyesight. We understand. It’s not just the fans. We’re sophisticated enough and know enough about this to understand the attributes that he has and he’s a known quantity.

“But my job is to find the best coach of USC, not just for this year, for five, six or eight games or next year, but hopefully for five, ten or 15 years. So we’re going to go through this process we have and at the end of the day, I think we’ll have a rational decision. And I completely understand that people are going to disagree with the decision I make, no matter who it is, right? So we’re going to get that. I’m fully prepared for that.”

Win over Grambling approved, Cal officially becomes bowl eligible

Jared Goff
Associated Press
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Earlier today we had the report that Cal, they of the normally bowl-eligible six wins on the season, were not actually bowl eligible. The hang up was due to some NCAA red tape on how many scholarships Grambling, a 73-14 victim to the Bears on opening Saturday, had actually awarded this year.

Why the number of scholarships awarded by an opponent of a 6-5 team could determine what glorified exhibition said 6-5 could or could not play is a matter for another time, but the fact is it mattered.

But according to a report from Kevin Gemmell of, the Bears received approval to count the win toward their total, meaning Sonny Dykes and company will go bowling for the first time since 2011.

“We have conferred with both Grambling and the NCAA,” Cal spokesman Wes Mallette told ESPN. “As anticipated, Grambling has confirmed their football program has met the 90 percent financial aid requirement over the rolling two-year average. Therefore, Cal football’s win over Grambling counts toward bowl eligibility. Cal football is bowl eligible.”

The Bears have a chance to become bowl eligible the old fashioned way with a win over Arizona State Saturday in Berkeley.


Tulane reportedly set to fire head coach Curtis Johnson

Curtis Johnson
Associated Press
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The end of the college football regular season brings with it bowl bids, conference championship entries and rivalry games. Along the way, though, come end-of-season firings. So many end of-season firings.

According to a report from Dan Wolken of USA Today Wednesday night, the first one is already on the books. Or at least close to it.

Wolken reports Tulane is set to part ways with head coach Curtis Johnson following the Green Wave’s Friday finale against Tulsa “barring a last-minute change of direction.”

Johnson is 15-33 in nearly four complete seasons at Tulane, reaching a high point of a 7-6 mark wtih a New Orleans Bowl appearance in 2013 but winning two, three and three games in his other three campaigns.

If and when the move becomes official, Tulane will become the 15th FBS school to change head coaches this season, matching the total number of changes during the 2014-15 cycle.

Wolken reports Tulane will hire a new athletics director within the next week, and once that hiring is complete the school will then embark on hiring Johnson’s replacement.

Reports: Michigan DC D.J. Durkin a “strong candidate” for Maryland vacancy

D.J. Durkin
Associated Press

Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has emerged a “strong candidate” for the Maryland job, according to reports from Yahoo‘s Pat Forde and Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman Wednesday.

“Durkin, 37, met recently with Maryland officials, sources said,” Forde wrote. “No job offer was made, but the interview went well, sources said.”

Added Feldman:

Durkin is in his first season as Michigan’s defensive coordinator, helping the 9-2 Wolverines jump from 14th to third nationally in yards per play allowed (4.77 to 4.15) and 27th to sixth in scoring defense (22.4 to 14.9).

Prior to working on Jim Harbaugh‘s staff, Durkin served as Will Muschamp‘s defensive coordinator at Florida for two years, and as his special teams coordinator for two years before that. He previously worked at Stanford, Bowling Green (his alma mater) and Notre Dame.

Should he be offered and accept the job, Durkin would immediately become Big Ten East rivals with his mentor Harbaugh.

“This week is so important to our guys, my 100% focus is on this game and our players — that’s what this profession is all about. You’ve got to make sure you’re taking care of the job you have week in and week out. It’s a tough task, especially with this team we have this week,” Durkin told the Detroit Free Press when asked about the reports.

“My goal is to get the best game plan possible together for Ohio State and have our guys go play well. To answer rumors or speculation right now and put something to it, my total focus is 100% on Ohio State and nothing else.”

Illini to decide on fate of interim head coach Bill Cubit by Sunday

Bill Cubit
Associated Press

Illinois will decide whether or not to retain interim head coach Bill Cubit for the full-time job by Sunday, interim AD Paul Kowalczyk told WSKJ-FM Wednesday.

“We need to make that call and figure out which way we’re going for everyone’s sake,” Kowalczyk said, via the Chicago Tribune. “For me, it’s posthaste.”

Illinois closes its regular season Saturday against No. 16 Northwestern in Champaign. The Illini are 5-6 on the year and, for what it’s worth, Cubit desperately wants the job.

Also worth noting: the athletics department is operating under a total state of dysfunction in the wake of AD Mike Thomas‘s firing.

From 670 The Score in Chicago on Wednesday:

Sources tell 670 The Score that as overwhelmed university officials are dithering and providing little guidance, the group of trustees, boosters and alums left to run things can’t yet agree on much.  Some want to hire a search firm with a spotty recent track record, others want to form their own search committee, while another faction thinks they need to act faster by using their own contacts to target specific AD and coaching candidates right now and just get moving.

Any support for retaining Bill Cubit is getting strong push-back from those who don’t believe he wasn’t aware of Tim Beckman’s aberrant behavior, and from some who feel strongly about making a more dynamic hire.

For those keeping score at home: Illinois is dealing with a power vacuum of trustees, boosters and alums battling for control while an interim chancellor and interim athletics director work to reach a resolution on an interim football coach.

And the coaching carousel starts spinning in full four days from now.