No tailgating on GameDay, a tradition unlike any other
By EVAN BUDROVICH
College Contributor Network
The University of Southern California has done the unthinkable. No tailgating will take place on campus leading up to the Trojans' primetime game against the California Golden Bears. In a decision to preserve the sanctity of the normal school day, since classes will be taking place all Thursday, USC has decided to shut down all on-campus tailgates before the 6 p.m. kickoff at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
We understand what the school is trying to accomplish, preserving the academic integrity and all, but what message is really being sent? The main advertiser and promoter for an institution, especially one as prominent as USC, is limiting the fans and boosters from taking part in an accepted celebration of football that has dominated the southern L.A. landscape for the last 100-plus years.
In a game that could define a USC program striving to surpass the "seven-win Sark" mantra, derailing any attention from the football festivities seems like a minor crime for everyone so heavily invested.
This same ruling came down last season, as the Trojans were getting set for an ever-important game against Arizona. On that highly-publicized night, coach Ed Orgeron was getting set for his first game as interim head coach, signaling the transition between an old era and one filled with enthusiasm, passion and strength. USC won the game 38-31, fueling an impressive 6-2 end to the regular season.
Alumni, boosters and students alike filed complaints, but nothing was done as the Trojans were playing their first non-Thanksgiving, Thursday night game at home. What they wanted was that sense of community that has so fired up the program week-in and week-out.
But as of right now, the university is sending mixed messages to everyone involved in the process. Officials want the university to be prideful of the academic standing that has placed them among the nation's top 25 universities. At the same time, they also want to keep the peace on campus, preserving an area that has been tossed aside on 99 percent of football games to keep a unified Trojan craze.
It's an interesting dilemma, yet I feel the university got it wrong, this time. Let the fans and boosters do what they've always done, even allow students to feature their greatest work on and around campus while everything normal transpires. These students are desperate for a winner, and the 6-3 USC Trojans have been a team filled with last-second what-ifs and what-could've-been moments on the schedule.
The Trojans face a 5-4 Golden Bears squad that has surpassed expectations, mostly due to the development of sophomore Jared Goff and the health of the roster. Cal almost beat UCLA, which certainly scares some boosters, but the Golden Bears will make for an intriguing matchup on ESPN in primetime. Both teams can score the football, mostly due to confident play of both quarterbacks.
This rivalry has been rather one-sided in years past, as USC has won each of the past 10 meetings. Interestingly enough, you ask any fan of both programs and they will say that the 3OT win for Cal back in 2003 was probably one of the best, or most heartfelt performances, they've ever encountered. It's not at the level of Cal-Stanford nor UCLA-USC in terms of a rivalry, but these teams have quite the history.
The Trojans understand things have changed and now set their sights on winning that seventh game before facing the Goliaths on their schedule, cross-town rival UCLA and emergent top 25 foe Notre Dame.
At the end of the day, however, the difference between winning and losing this game will come on the defensive end. The Trojans are depleted in numbers at the secondary position, especially at both safety spots. The Bears allow an excessive amount of deep-pass plays, and they are trying to slow down the 25-touchdown arm of Cody Kessler.
It will most likely be a high-scoring affair, which means fans better pack their bags for the Coliseum right on time. Not like horrific traffic would make that a logistical nightmare, not to mention the hoards of fans trying to find a place to tailgate on a Thursday.
While the life of the party may not transpire in the traditional hot spots in-and-around campus, the spotlight of a possible seventh win against a much-improved Cal squad makes for quite the mid-week affair. Both programs are in search a big win, but one school (USC) needs to shock the life back into a fan base wondering what's going to happen in the years to come under coach Steve Sarkisian.
Evan Budrovich is a senior at the University of Southern California. He has a passion for the 49ers, Dodgers baseball and all things USC athletics. Follow him on Twitter: @evanbud