Vols and Trojans on the college football horizon?
Whenever there’s a connection between an athletic department and USC, there’s always a strong possibility that the Trojans will meet that program in the future. Lane Kiffin went from an assistant on the Southern California sidelines, and through the Oakland Raiders, before landing as the new head coach in Tennessee. Judging by the patterns of history, this should place the Trojans and Volunteers on the college football horizon. But history also shows a game of dodge ball, with the programs passing one another in route to other nearby locations.
Tennessee has made several trips out west, including 6 visits to California in the past 20 years. The result has been a 3-3 split in the Golden State, including back-to-back defeats by Cal and UCLA in ’07 and ’08. But the lengthy trips always danced around the Pac 10 juggernaut and most storied program in state. In fact, the Volunteers and Trojans haven’t met since 1981, when Tennessee suffered a 43-7 drubbing in the Los Angeles Coliseum, netting the Vols a record of 0-4 all time in games against USC.
USC, likewise, made plenty of appearances in SEC territory, but have no recent contact with Tennessee. The Trojans’ last SEC road victory was the 50-14 destruction of Arkansas in 2005, which followed the 2003 shutout of Auburn in Jordan-Hare. The last Southeastern defeat was handed to the Trojans by LSU in 1984, in a game played in the Los Angeles Coliseum. That game followed the Trojans’ last SEC road loss*, suffered in Columbia South Carolina in 1983.
The Volunteers are a program that sank to historic lows in 2008, and the most recent scheduling of Tennessee-Martin (FCS) gives more evidence of the program’s decline. When Tennessee opens in 2010 against UTM, it will mark the first time in 27 years that they will take the field against a lower division opponent. But in that same season, they also host Oregon, displaying Pac 10 continuity.
In Tennessee, visits to the Pacific Time zone are nothing more than program marketing. They establish themselves to an otherwise outside audience, and fish the waters for future recruits. Past trips have reeled in 3 quarterbacks, gaining a pair of Clausens from Southern California, and Erik Ainge from Oregon. Pete Carroll does the same, also taking his program on the national football tour. And in doing so, he’s pulled players like Keith Rivers, Patrick Turner, and Joe McKnight from the south. And let’s not forget the transfer of Mitch Mustain and Damian Williams from Arkansas, after the Trojans appeared on the Razorbacks schedule in 2004 and 2005.
It’s the same ideology, with each reaping the same benefits, so why not get these two programs on the same field? Of course, let’s allow a slumping Tennessee program to get back on its feet. But after restructuring is complete, with a Carroll and Kiffin connection, I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t or can’t be done.
*USC was defeated by Alabama in the 1985 Aloha Bowl, and by Auburn in the 1987 Florida Citrus Bowl.