Author pens oral history of 40 years of USC football

first_imgTo write a book on the history of USC football is certainly ambitious, but Steve Delsohn’s Cardinal and Gold: The Oral History of USC Trojans Football offers a fast-paced, yet extensive look at the ups-and-downs of one the most traditional college football programs in the country. The 300-plus-page book begins by describing John Robinson replacing the departing John McKay as head coach in 1976 and ends with USC losing in the Holiday Bowl to Wisconsin last year. In between, Delsohn weaves the tale of 40 years of drama and storylines, from Larry Smith butting heads with Todd Marinovich to the complicated portrait of Pete Carroll’s legacy.Younger fans who have only lived through the aftermath of the heavy sanctions imposed on the school in 2010 may find a fresh, intriguing read on the history of many Rose Bowl appearances and old stories of just how USC became USC.“Here’s a program with a great history and yet the last seven years have been borderline chaos,” Delsohn said following a book signing at the USC bookstore earlier this month. “So, I thought from a storyline perspective, USC was a good choice.”Delsohn, who works for ESPN’s Outside the Lines and has also written books on the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Notre Dame football program, said he likes writing about iconic institutions. The book, which was released earlier this year, features 125 voices — players, coaches, athletic directors, etc. — who generally come across as candid in describing their time at USC.“When these guys are in college, they can’t really tell you too much about what’s going on behind the scenes,” Delsohn said. “When you talk to these guys years later, they can tell you what was actually going on.”Delsohn, who said he spent two years doing research and about another year writing the book, noted that Marinovich, Robinson, Keyshawn Johnson, LenDale White and Keith Van Horne were among the most intriguing interviews. An oral history, the book is presented mostly as one quote after another to piece together each era of the football program.“I like the form for certain subjects because it brings a sense of intimacy,” Delsohn said. “It’s almost like you’re sitting around having a beer or a cup of coffee with a player.”Delsohn believes his subjects’ quotes are more important than what he has to say. The style creates a page-turning feel with juicy statements piled one after another, especially when Delsohn describes controversy-filled events such as a brawl breaking out at halftime of a game between USC and Notre Dame in 1989 when Fighting Irish players blocked the Trojans’ entrance to the tunnel or the aftermath of Carroll’s stunning departure in the midst of the sanctions. The Carroll saga is one of the highlights of the book, according to Delsohn, who starts a chapter titled “NCAA versus USC” with the sentence, “How do you replace Elvis once he leaves the building?”“With controversies, I try to have different perspectives,” Delsohn said. “Like how much did Pete Carroll know about the NCAA sanctions when he left for Seattle? I try to have the whole spectrum of opinions and perspectives on that and let the reader decide.”It’s hard to point to definite commonalities considering the roller coaster ride the program has endured over 40 years, but Delsohn pointed to USC’s propensity to hire from within and promote the ideal of the “Trojan Family” as an omnipresent theme throughout its history.“They don’t seem like they like to hire outside the family too much,” Delsohn said. “The boosters have always been influential at USC. That hasn’t changed. It’s not going to change.”Clay Helton, the man currently at the helm of the program, is another case of USC hiring its own. But Delsohn, who has dedicated countless hours over the last few years to piecing together the complex puzzle that is USC football, thinks the Trojans are on the upswing again.“I think USC’s on the right track,” Delsohn said prior to USC’s win over Oregon on Nov. 5. “I really do. I think they did a nice job of not panicking when they were 1-3. They did a nice job of keeping it together.”The hardcover version of the book is available on Amazon for $22.18.last_img read more