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Cardinal and Gold: The Oral History of USC Trojans Football

Cardinal and Gold: The Oral History of USC Trojans Football by Steve Delsohn

The history of USC football is ripe with glory, fanaticism, defeat.  ESPN Outside the Lines reporter Steve Delsohn carries forth the gauntlet of Trojan oral history in his new book, Cardinal and Gold: The Oral History of USC Trojans Football.  What remains unique about Delsohn’s diving into USC history is that he did hundreds of interviews from players and coaches as far back as 1972-1973 to now.  These interviews show up in the book like clerics would show up at a roundtable meeting, each pointing out their various perspective and vying for their voice to be heard most vociferously. 

One of the best parts of the book was Delsohn’s focus on the 1978 season, in which USC traveled to Alabama to take on Bear Bryant’s Crimson Tide.  Just a season prior, the Tide rolled into the Coliseum and took down the #1 Trojans.  1978 was a new year and coach John Robinson had his boys fired up for a fight down in Alabama.  Coach Robinson spoke about this game saying, “Alabama was ranked number one and they were ten-point favorites, and we really dominated them.  We won 24-14, but it was an ass kicking.  I remember meeting Bear Bryant at the middle of the field after the game.  He was about 6-4, a big man, and he was like a god.  Bear Bryant just drawled, Y’all just beat the living shit out of us,” I said, “Thank you, sir!  Thank you, thank you!” (26)

The change of coaches and the player’s response to the changes was a big focus of Delsohn in the book.  After John Robinson was fired, USC brought in Paul Hackett, not quite the player’s coach like Robinson.  Part of the radical departure from Robinson was due to Hackett’s version of the West Coast style offense he had honed in the NFL.  Yet, new styles were emerging in the college game that needed focus on also.  Chris Huston voices his opinion, “That bowl game (1998) really showed that Hackett was out of his depth in the college game.  He was very much focused on implementing the West Coast offense with an incredibly thick playbook and play calling that required a paragraph to call something in the huddle.  At the same time he wasn’t prepared to take on the new styles that were emerging in the college game.  The Sun Bowl revealed that.” (170) 
aking the reader all the way up to 2015, Delsohn carefully weaves the story of USC football for both the die-hard fan and those who just want to know the real story.

Thanks to Blogging for Books for the copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.


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