Just before USC announced that it’s head coach, Steve Sarkasian was asked to take an indefinite leave I had submitted this piece to the publisher of Gaming Today News to be published in my “Monday Morning Michelle” column.  Whether or not my piece is still relevant is likely in the eyes of the beholder — You are welcome to read on.  Note the comments about “denial” [ According to Gavin de Becker, the author of The Gift of Fear, denial is usually our strongest competitor. ]

Could the Trojans Reach a Breaking Point in Notre Dame?

[“Monday Morning Michelle” Column for Gaming Today by Michelle Sports X ]

In 1996, USC’s current head coach Steve Sarkisian was a senior at BYU enjoying a winning season that would end with a 28-25 win in the WAC Championship Game. Sarkisian passed for well over 4000 yards and had 33 touchdowns during the regular season. He would ultimately be named WAC Offensive Player of the Year and a second-team All-American. Sarkasian would eventually go on to play in the Canadian Football League for two years, and ultimately transition into a coaching career.

While Sarkasian was scoring touchdowns for BYU, Carter Products Division, a division of Carter-Wallace, with the help of its ad agency, Bates USA, Inc. developed the marketing campaign that would introduce the world to “Trojan Man.” The promotion featured a superhero type character that would arrive just in the knick of time and help ward off calamitous outcomes made by choices, which failed to incorporate the element of protection.   “Trojan Man” was meant to provide light humor into what was often considered a serious topic, thus resulting in increased sales of the company’s condoms. Soon “Trojan Man” was everywhere, often arriving on his horse, to add a blanket of protection and save the day.

Coincidently, one of the ads created for the Trojan Man campaign was called “Sailor,” that featured Trojan Man showing up in a boat, just in the knick of time, his standard message about the importance of protection. After delivering the message, Trojan Man and his horse make a splash and then ride away.

A few years after Trojan Man was created, Steve Sarkasian would begin his football-coaching career at El Camino College. Sarkasian had played both football and baseball, after a short stint as a non-scholarship baseball player at USC, and prior to his playing football at BYU. After several career moves that would include working with Norm Chow, at USC under then new head coach Pete Carroll, various roles within the Oakland Raiders organization, a move back to assist at USC, ups and downs as the head coach at the University of Washington, Sarkasian would become USC’s main Trojan Man, in December 2013. USC’s athletic director, Pat Haden, would say, that Steve Sarkasian “embodies many of the qualities for which we looked.” Haden also noted that he believed in his gut that Sarkasian was the “right coach for USC at this time.”

Although the Trojan Man ad campaign was meant to be comical Trojan fans fail to see the humor with Coach Sarkasian’s failed protection. Where was Trojan Man when Sakasian’s Trojans were expected to be ready and willing to take down the Huskies last Thursday evening? USC lost by a score of 17-12. Throughout the game, and immediately after, Trojan fans took to Twitter calling for the firing of Coach Steve Sarkasian. Siting shenanigans that occurred before the season, wherein Sarkasian fumbled miserably by showing up drunk to a donor event, which Sarkasian attributed to mixing alcohol and medication, fans seem to have had enough and were not holding back their feelings of displeasure.

According to Joe Lisi, host of “Go for the 2” on Yahoo! Sports Radio Network, and a frequent guest on Yahoo’s SportSXRadio, “There is definitely tension between the fan base at USC and Coach Sark. In terms of this loss, the Trojans failed to rise to the occasion and came out flat. They were unfocused without a sense of urgency.”

This week the Trojans head to Notre Dame to see if they can try their luck in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame just interrupted Navy’s undefeated season by defeating the Midshipmen 41-24. USC will have their work cut out for them because the Fighting Irish have been holding their own this season despite the loss of some key players on their roster.

Should Sarkasian have faired better against his former team? Would it be safer for Trojan fans to pull out in favor of a new leader? Some are suggesting Coach Chip Kelly might be the man who can “Make a Difference.” Soon after USC failed to win, Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel, reported on SI.com the loss to Washington “shows Sarkisian was [a] bad hire.”

While many are calling for Sakasian’s dismissal, others suggest it’s a bit too early to know. Players at USC have mentioned they are going to “go back to the drawing board” and Sarkasian insists they are “Okay.” So do many people in denial.

As for me, I can appreciate why Trojan fans are uncomfortable. Depending upon how things fair this week when USC faces Coach Brian Kelly, the jury’s still out on whether Sarkasian can be trusted to “Make A Difference.” Soon after USC was beaten, Joe Lisi called for USC to be the underdog against Notre Dame. Joe believes could be a good thing because as he said, “USC often fails to win when they are expected to dominate. “   Looks like the opening line is ND -2, so Joe was right.

With the unpredictability of USC, and the steadfast performance of Notre Dame thus far this season, I would lean toward the Irish to have the edge in this game, and possibly become an emerging “Dark Horse” this season. That being said, I’m not sure I would feel comfortable betting on the game.

Oh and by the way, the Trojan Man campaign, ended up being replaced by “Make A Difference.” Let’s hope when that happens, the Trojans have an “Unbreakable” season!

USC Trojans

USC Trojans