USC’s Trojan War 30 for 30 documentary has a lot of elements found in recent college football centered 30 for 30s, players taking money, over confidence leading towards sanctions against the program, and successful coaches leaving the collegiate team to take on the NFL. So what sets Trojan War apart from those other documentaries? Not much, so why would ESPN continue to make these types of documentaries? It’s simple really, while the story lines are similar, these stories keep getting told because they keep happening and the circumstances keep getting more outlandish. So really Trojan War shouldn’t surprise you if you have followed college football for years, but still it’s a worthwhile documentary to watch because of the following takeaways.
First I think that what ultimately led to the demise of the dynasty USC Football was building was their locale. Sure LA is the best recruiting tool a school can have, especially if the university is right down the road from Hollywood the land of the stars. But that kind of locale is great for aspiring filmmakers and actresses, it’s not the best place for collegiate athletes who can get in trouble of accepting something as insignificant as a free doughnut. So having athletes close to successful wealthy people who have no regard for rules is seriously a recipe of disaster, which makes Pete Carroll’s decision to have open practices where stars like Snoop Dogg could come watch practice a head scratcher. On the one hand, I completely understand where Carroll was coming from because he came in during a time when USC didn’t have a great reputation in football. To open practice gave stars an opportunity to bring awareness to the program which again only helped their recruiting process overall. But on the other hand, open practices also gave sports agents with ulterior motives an opportunity to get to know players and pray on their naivety.
While we’re on the subject of Pete Carroll, I think we should address some of the player’s remarks when Pete Carroll left for the Seahawks as his “knowing something was up [with Reggie Bush and his allegations] and fleeing because of the fire was too hot” which is completely inaccurate. I’m not going to deny that maybe Carroll had a whiff of something with Bush, but he was sought after for the Seahawks job because of his success with USC. It’s no different than when someone working in a corporate job uses their success in their current position to get a better job, so really Carroll left because he had an opportunity not because he wanted to avoid the NCAA scrutiny.
Carroll can’t be blamed for what Reggie Bush did; the same goes for every college football coach who has players who take money from people. It’s the athletes like Bush that decide to take the money, granted in Bush’s case he took it to help his family who never really had money, still the fact remains that Bush decided to take the money. Sure, Carroll could’ve talked to his players ad nauseam about how people are going to offer them money and how they shouldn’t take it but that probably wouldn’t stop these kids from taking money. Put yourself in their shoes, if you had grown up not having much money and someone was offering to help you take care of your parents or even put some spending money in your pocket to have fun with your buddies would you say no? If you’re honest with yourself probably not, you would do anything to help your family. I bet that if you ask Reggie Bush if he would do it all over again, knowing the consequences, he might actually say no but that’s a grownup looking back on his actions as a teenager.
If you asked the USC Trojans if they would do it all over again with the same consequences they would all probably say yes, because they know that no matter what happened the Pete Carroll Era at USC will never be forgotten. They may have lost their bid for a third National Championship against Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns, but people are still talking about the Trojan War and USC’s once dominance in collegiate football.