USC’s upset win over Stanford did more than shake up the Pac-12 conference championship picture.
It sparked a revolution on the Southern Cal campus.
The primary mission: Get the “interim” tag removed from Ed Orgeron’s coaching status.
Doing so, though, would be trying to turn a summer fling with someone from far out of town into something more.
Fans and media alike seem to join the movement on a daily basis. It’s easy to see why.
Orgeron represented a new day when he took over for Lane Kiffin early this season. “New” doesn’t always mean “better.” In replacing the insufferable Kiffin, however, it absolutely meant better.
Since USC AD Pat Haden made the decision to fire Kiffin following a humiliating blowout loss at Arizona State, the Trojans have bounced back to win five of six. They even enter the final two weeks of the regular season with a chance to win the Pac-12 South – something thought to be impossible earlier.
USC returning to its customary winning ways alone hasn’t made Orgeron a hit with players, fans and media alike. The Cajun coach with a nearly incomprehensible accent connects with people on a fascinating level. He exudes a level of energy that players try to match. He speaks with such pride as the Trojans coach, which is a refreshing trait for a fan base that grew accustomed to Kiffin’s spoiled-brat antics.
There are other factors making Orgeron an easy person to cheer. Just this week, Orgeron hand-wrote letters to every member of the USC band, thanking them for what they do.
With rumors circling on who Haden covets on his candidate list and how much he’s willing to pay the right person, the groundswell to hand the full-time job to Orgeron rages forward.
So much support for Orgeron begs some sobering reminders, though.
First and foremost, Orgeron has a track record as a head coach. In three seasons at Ole Miss, he guided the Rebels to a 10-25 overall record. They managed just a 3-21 mark in league play.
Yes, Orgeron – a master recruiter – loaded the cupboards for Houston Nutt to take Ole Miss to consecutive Cotton Bowl appearances. However, the win-loss record shouldn’t be ignored completely.
The two most recent high-profile examples in Orgeron’s situation don’t help his cause either.
Larry Coker took over a Miami program that Butch Davis set up with unbelievable amounts of talent. He led the Hurricanes to a national championship in his first season and to within an overtime stop of back-to-back titles.
However, when Davis’ talent ran out, so too did Coker’s success. By Year 4, Miami had fallen to a Peach Bowl-level team. Two years later, the ’Canes barely qualified for the MPC Computers Bowl – and Coker was out of a job.
A similar situation unfolded at West Virginia at the end of the 2006 season when Bill Stewart took over. Stewart replaced Rich Rodriguez, who jilted the Mountaineers for Michigan.
The outrage against Rodriguez – a native son who turned his back on his alma mater – united the WVU fan base. When Stewart led the Mountaineers to an upset win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, fans and an administration split between two leading candidates agreed on Stewart being the logical choice to become the next head coach at West Virginia.
Stewart took a program that went 32-5 over the previous three seasons and turned in three consecutive 9-4 campaigns, failing to win the conference outright once.
This arrangement, like a summer fling, was never meant to be anything more than what it is – a short-term solution.
It’s not fair to say Orgeron would automatically fail long-term at USC because of those two examples.
However, all three situations are worth discussing when evaluating whether Orgeron should take over as the head coach at USC – one of the top jobs in America.
In an interview with USA Today, Orgeron said the biggest change between his stint as the Ole Miss coach and now is that he has infused his parenting style into his coaching.
Orgeron would absolutely be a great head-coaching hire for someone.
Just not for USC.
For the Trojans and Haden, Orgeron represents an unnecessary risk. USC doesn’t need to hire a speculative coach. It needs to hire a proven one.
Especially in light of Kiffin, the Trojans can’t afford to take Mr. Right Now. It needs to take Mr. Right.
If Haden is willing to pay his next coach $6 million per season, as has been reported, it should go get a superstar – whether that person is Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin or some other blue-chip commodity.
What Orgeron has done – aside from putting the Trojans back in the title hunt in 2013 – is put himself on the map as a tremendous candidate for a head-coaching job.
If athletic directors are looking around for someone to infuse energy and passion into their program, they should look to Southern Cal.
Teams like Illinois, Indiana, Virginia and West Virginia would be well-advised to consider Orgeron to quickly stockpile talent and change the energy level in their respective programs.
It has certainly worked at USC.
But like all summer flings, this one must come to an end.
No matter how much both sides might be enjoying the good times, this was never meant to be a long-term relationship.
That doesn’t make the memories any less enjoyable. It just means both sides should cherish all the best moments along the way.