Saturday, December 31, 2005

Trojans Ring in New Year Together

Much like last year in Miami, the USC Trojan football team will welcome the new year together in the team hotel, which this year is the Park Hyatt in Century City.

The gathering will be limited to team members only, but each has been allowed to invite one guest.

The festivities begin at 9 pm and go until 1 am, which is also the team curfew.

Alcohol will not be served at the party.

Fun in the Mud

On Saturday afternoon the USC Trojans got a chance to practice in the kind of wet, muddy conditions they might see if the rain some have forecasted for January 4th comes to pass.

Rather than fret about the very un-Southern California playing conditions, the Trojans reveled in what turned into an afternoon of playing in the mud.

The rain kept many family, friends and fans at home, thinning out what was becoming quite a crowd at practice each day. Still, several braved the elements, including relatives of offensive linemen Sam Baker, Fred Matua and Ryan Kalil. After practice the players met with them before boarding charter buses to head back to the team hotel in Century City.

Trojan Pep Rally

"It was electrifying."

That's how one Trojan fan described the pep rally held for the USC football team Friday night at the Grove in front of a stage assembled especially for the event. The festivities began at 6:30 in the middle of the open-air shopping mall located at the corner of Third and Fairfax Streets just a few blocks south of Hollywood.

The Spirit of Troy, USC's marching band, opened the festivities with several of their signature songs, starting out with "Tusk," the Fleetwood Mac song they were featured in back in 1979.

One of the speakers, City Councilman Tom LaBonge, said after his speech that though he thought the Trojans would win, he wasn't going to guess the final score. "I don't predict scores, I only pick winners." The fourth district representative did note that he thought that "the Trojans are the best coached team in America."

The pep rally virtually shut down movement within the Grove, making many shoppers who were uninterested in USC football more than a little upset.

Those trying to make their way through the packed sidewalks were visibly frustrated, pushing and shoving to try to get past the glut of fans. One family with two small boys was forced to make a hand-holding train in order to navigate the sea of people, and at one point the father sternly told another woman, "Stop pushing," after he noticed her shoving his sons.

But while shoppers were trying to navigate through all the Trojan fans, the football team was nowhere to be found. Instead, they were bowling at the Lucky Strike Lanes in Hollywood, an official event that is part of the lead-up to the Rose Bowl.

An Update

We took some time off for the holidays, but we're back and looking forward to posting lots of information about the USC Trojans as they prepare for the Rose Bowl.

Thanks for your patience. We look forward to continuing to bring you coverage of the team you can't find anywhere else.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Volume 103, Issue 25

"Skulking Around Longhorn Country"

From Tuesday's Austin American-Statesman:
Is she a spy? A double-agent? A burgeoning Trojan fan site, Inside USC, is co-authored by - get this - an Austinite. Alexis Jones, a communications grad student at USC, is a 2001 Westlake High graduate with a father, a mother and two grandparents who graduated from UT. But she's also buddies with USC quarterback Matt Leinert [sic] and was among the small group partying with him after the Heisman festivities 10 days ago. Home for the holidays, she's been skulking around Longhorn Country, feeding the Web site. Look out.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Nominations Are In

We've been nominated for a Sports Blog Award as one of the best college football blogs of 2005. Here are a list of the nominees:
We encourage you to check out all these blogs and go vote for the one you think is the best.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Reporting from Austin: Getting the Longhorns to LA

Before second-ranked Texas can take on USC in the Rose Bowl on January 4th, they have to get everyone to Pasadena.

On December 28th, the team will fly from Austin to Los Angeles. "We'll take a party of about 400 people, including players, coaches, support staff and family and members of the Longhorn Foundation," said Ed Goble, the university's associate athletic director for business affairs who is supervising the trip.

Another 430 band members will also be flown out for the Rose Bowl festivities, putting the University in charge of making travel arrangements for nearly 900 people.

Communication is the key to making it all happen. "It's hard when you have that many people you are in charge of," said Goble, who added that he's got a lot of support and, "doesn't have to get caught up in all the details."

This year, the UT players will be staying in the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. The band members will be hosted at a separate, less expensive facility.

"The travel budget for UT this year comes to approximately $2.5 million," said Goble. The majority of that money comes from a travel allowance and the remaining from ticket sales.

But Goble doesn't just have to get the people associated with the football program out to LA. "We move our whole operation out there on an 18-wheeler," he said. The truck carries football and office equipment. "We basically set up football practices and an entire operations office in Pasadena."

Goble said the fact that this is the Longhorns' second consecutive trip to the Rose Bowl makes things easier. "It's virtually an identical process to last year, only we don't have to go through the same learning curve," he said. "It's easier because of the familiarity for both the coaches and the players."

But last year's Rose Bowl didn't double as the National Championship game, and Goble said he expects a different attitude from everyone this time around. "I think they will be more business-like because they know what they stand to lose with a championship game."

Because the game is on January 4th, the team will be able to ring in the New Year -- with limits. "The players do have some liberty at night," said Goble, "but there are two types of control the coaches are using. They have curfews and early morning practices on New Year's Day." Goble said he didn't expect any problems. "The kids are pretty business-like," he reiterated.

Still, Goble said the Longhorns will be enjoying their time in Southern California.

"Austin doesn't have the same star power of Los Angeles, so this is a big deal for us."

Monday, December 19, 2005

College Football Fans Doing Good

Late last week, we received an email from former USC All-American tennis player Eric Amend pointing us to the following story on
Twelve-year-old Nikolette Harris' favorite sport is soccer. Her favorite college is Oregon State. But as the little girl lays in a Portland, Ore., intensive care unit, fighting leukemia for a third time, her likes and dislikes are quickly starting to change.

That's because of the swell of support she's receiving from college football fans across the country.

Nikolette suffers from acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common cancer found in children. According to the National Cancer Institute, 80 percent of children afflicted with ALL will recover from the disease. But Nikolette has already done this. Twice.

Problem is, Nikolette's body has grown resistant to chemotherapy treatments and she needs a life-saving bone marrow transplant. But the cost to her family -- after insurance -- is expected to top $125,000.

"That's where the fundraising comes into play," said Marc Harris, Nikolette's father. "We have to find some way to pay for this."

Her family has started a Web site. Her middle school has hosted crafts sales, bake sales. And at her former elementary school, the Nickels for Nikolette campaign has brought in more than $2,000.

But that's nothing compared to what's happening on college football message boards across the country. In a place where most fans gather to complain about play calls, gripe about coaches, gossip about recruiting and trash upcoming opponents, fans have gathered to try and help save a little girl's life.

It all started on the Oregon message board,, where Susan Flad, a longtime Ducks fan, posted a message explaining Nikolette's story and asking for donations. Flad's mother, Betty Holden, was an instructional assistant at Nikolette's elementary school, watching up close as the child battled leukemia as a first- and third-grader.

"I still remember my Mom talking to me [about her] trying to keep from crying as this third-grader explained what chemo was, why she was bald and everything else," Flad said. "So I wanted to help. When I originally tried to gather donations in my office I got a total of five dollars. So I thought I'd give this a whirl."

The idea took off, with Oregon fans donating more than $4,000 in less than a week. Another fan saw the posting and, with the Ducks scheduled to face Oklahoma in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl on Dec. 29, challenged Oklahoma fans to beat Oregon's donations. After 14,000 page views and 225 posts on, Flad said Sooner fans have raised close to $12,000 for Nikolette.
"Their site gets a little more traffic than we do," she explained.

Subsequent requests have been posted on message boards for Auburn, Alabama, Mississippi State, Nebraska and Texas. The word has even spread to Holiday Bowl officials, who have granted the family a 20-second spot during the game to thank the fans of both schools for their donations.

"It's just amazing," Marc Harris said. "Simply amazing. I can't believe all these complete strangers who are helping us out of the kindness of their heart. I can't begin to express my appreciation enough. I never thought something like this could happen."

At a time where most of the conversation surrounding the Holiday Bowl is how 10-1 Oregon got cheated out of a spot in the BCS, few outside of the message board world have any idea how much a core group of Oregon fans are actually grateful that they're going to the Holiday Bowl and playing the Sooners.

"One Sooner fan told me that they remember how generous people were during the Oklahoma City bombing and that this is their turn to give back," Flad said. "It's just heartwarming this time of the year. The family appreciates it."

And a sick little girl in intensive care is starting to gain an appreciation for college football. Especially for Oregon, Oklahoma, Auburn, Mississippi State and the rest of the fan bases that have stepped forward to support her. Each day that Nikolette is up for it, her father prints out the various entries from the guestbook on her Web site, and blows his daughter away with the nationwide support.

Can't wait to see you cheering for the Ducks on the sidelines in a few years. Although, we would gladly take you too. Boomer Sooner

Hi Nikolette!!! We are praying for you and know that God is going to take care of you. War Eagle and Merry Christmas from the Auburn Tigers!!!

Hello Nikolette, I am a Bulldog from Mississippi State and I want you to know that my wife and I are praying for you and your recovery. Please keep the faith!

"She's a ways from college yet," Harris said. "But she's been saying to me now, 'What about Mississippi State? And Alabama? Oklahoma? Oregon?' This has opened her eyes to a whole new world."

Hopefully, it's only the beginning.

Wayne Drehs is a staff writer for He can be reached at

Donations for Cure Nikolette can be made at

Friday, December 16, 2005

EXCLUSIVE: Two Longhorns Under Investigation

Earlier today, the Austin (TX) Police Department issued the following statement:
The Austin Police Department is currently investigating two alleged criminal misconducts; an aggravated assault and a robbery by assault that occurred within the Downtown Area Command. These incidents occurred on September 4th and December 10th. Information obtained indicates that the individuals being investigated in these incidents are involved in the UT athletics program. Due to the fact that these cases are still being investigated, APD cannot provide additional information. has learned from sources familiar with the investigation that the unnamed individuals are Cedric Griffin and Ramonce Taylor, both members of the University of Texas football team.

Cedric Griffin

Griffin, a senior cornerback projected by's Gil Brandt as a first-day pick in next April's NFL Draft, can also play safety. He tallied 73 tackles, two forced fumbles and 14 passes broken up this season and was selected as a first team All-Big 12 performer. Against Texas A&M he returned a punt for a touchdown.

Ramonce Taylor

Taylor, a sophomore running back who earlier nicknamed himself Reggie Bush Jr., shares time in the backfield with Jamaal Charles, Selvin Young and Henry Melton. His 7.0 yards per carry average and 12 touchdowns this season earned him All-Big 12 honorable mention honors.

According to Austin Police Department incident reports, at 3:06 a.m. on September 4th, officers were dispatched to investigate an assault involving an automatic handgun. Texas defeated Louisiana-Lafayette in Austin earlier that evening.

On December 10th, police responded to a call at 2:59 a.m. regarding an attempted robbery by assault in which a suspect used his hands, fist or feet to assault a victim. The incident occurred at 500 E. Seventh Street, near Austin's popular Sixth Street district.

A News 8 Austin report that doesn't identify the players being investigated describes the incidents in more detail:
Sources tell us that the victims are telling police they were downtown when they were beaten up and robbed of their money.

There have been no arrests and no indictments in the investigations, but the cases have been turned over to the district attorney's office for further review.
UPDATE: Former Travis County district attorney Ken Oden confirmed to ESPN's Joe Schad on Friday night that cornerback Cedric Griffin is one of the players being investigated, as we had reported earlier in the day.
"I have agreed to advise Cedric Griffin although no criminal charges have been filed against him. He is the subject of an investigation -- and I stress it is an investigation," Oden told Schad. "I believe no charges will be filed against him. They're saying this is assault and robbery, and it sounds hideous, but this is a trash-talking incident on the street involving Cedric and that's it. I know this is a big game and they're focused on it. But in fairness to Cedric, this was nothing more than a verbal incident in as much as it involves Cedric."
Schad's story was filed several hours after our initial report naming Griffin and Taylor.

Saturday's edition of the San Antonio Express-News contains an article listing Taylor as the second player being investigated.

MORE: Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds issued the following statement late Friday night:
"We were surprised by the APD release of allegations concerning one or more of our student-athletes. We have followed up on the rumors that we are hearing and spoken with the two student-athletes who are alleged to be under investigation. Within the limited time we had this evening, we have gathered as much information as possible. Based upon what we know at this time we have no reason to believe that the University or the athletic department need to take any action. We will continue to monitor the matter, and we will cooperate fully with those who are conducting the investigation."
UPDATE: From Sunday's Dallas Morning News:
Austin attorney Ken Oden [who is advising the two Texas players] said he believes Griffin and Taylor have been questioned by the Austin Police Department in connection with the alleged Sept. 4 incident simply to elicit information about a separate possible suspect.

"To my knowledge, the suspect in the Sept. 4 matter is not a football player," Oden said. "The people being asked questions with regard to that alleged incident are football players and non-football players who might have information with regard to that incident."

Oden said he is concerned about what has been reported after a statement released Friday by the Austin Police Department.

The release said individuals "in the UT athletics program" were being investigated in connection with an aggravated assault involving an automatic handgun on Sept. 4 and in connection with an assault and robbery in the Sixth Street area on Dec. 10.

No charges have been filed and no arrests have been made. Police are declining further comment until an investigation is complete. UT officials have said they plan to take no action against any student-athlete based on the information they have.

Oden said Griffin and Taylor are in no way connected to the Sept. 4 matter but were both on Sixth Street in the early hours of Dec. 10, after the Texas football banquet. At about 3 a.m. on Dec. 10, according to police, a person was punched, kicked and robbed.

Oden said the alleged incident was nothing more than a "testosterone-charged moment of trash talk." Police are investigating whether Griffin was asking people on the street for $5 for pizza and whether a group of men who came across Griffin took offense to it.
MORE: From the Austin-American Statesman:
Lawyer Ken Oden, who is representing tailback Ramonce Taylor and cornerback Cedric Griffin, said Austin police told him that they have ended their investigation and are planning no arrests.

The case may now be reviewed by the Travis County district attorney's office, Oden said in a statement.
UPDATE: Not so fast, according to the LA Daily News:
Police spokeswoman Toni Chovonetz said Monday the investigation remains open and declined further comment.

Deep in the Heart of Texas

From Friday's Austin American-Statesman:
It's been widely reported how quarterback Vince Young all but guaranteed a win over USC as he was being interviewed by a reporter from the New York Post. His "gangsta" comments have made the rounds as well.

Meanwhile, defensive tackle Rod Wright's quotes also have made the USC fan site bulletin boards. Wright wasn't bragging when he made the statement that Texas was preparing for the Rose Bowl with the idea of dominating. He said the Longhorns mentally prepare for every game this way, whether it's Rice or Southern Cal.

USC Coach Pete Carroll addressed the Texas quotes this week during the Trojans awards banquet.

According to bloggers for who attended the banquet, Carroll said: "They talk like they ain't been here before."

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Former Trojans Killed in Crash

Darrell Russell

1976 - 2005

Mike Bastianelli

1976 - 2005

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Rumored Leinart Incident Never Happened

Matt Leinart and Billy Hart, a former USC quarterback and third baseman drafted by the Houston Astros earlier this year, mug for the camera at Marquee on Saturday night. (Submitted photo)

Earlier today, many sports websites -- including Sports Illustrated, Deadspin, Ben Maller and several team-specific blogs -- received the same email. It contained two photos of Matt Leinart and a young woman and the following second-hand story:
So [Sunday] morning, my friend calls me and says “Do you know some guy named Matt Line Hart?” I laugh and say yeah and don’t bother to correct her. She says, well he was at Marquee last night, and hit on one of the girls from texas all night, danced with her, and then was so drunk he groped her … she turned around and slapped him, and left.
But that alleged incident never happened.

"She didn't slap me," said Leinart in an exclusive interview. "And I didn't grope her."

We find ourselves in the unique position of being able to corroborate Leinart's statement, as we were with him and his friends all night. So was Sports Illustrated writer Arash Markazi.

"I saw her," said Markazi. "He didn't do anything wrong. And there was no slapping."

Markazi said it would have been impossible for the incident described to occur without everyone knowing something happened. "If Matt Leinart got slapped, there would have been a scene. There would have been a big commotion."

Markazi said that it was actually Leinart who was under assault all night. "Once everyone found out he was there, they all swarmed."

But Leinart was there to enjoy the evening with his friends, not looking to meet girls. "One tried coming on to him," said Markazi, "and he just kind of turned his back on her."

Still, Leinart made an effort to be courteous to those who approached him. "He was just trying to mind his own business and be nice to people," said Markazi. "He was very cordial, shook their hand and took a picture if they asked for one. He didn't 'big time' anyone."

Leinart said that's what happened with the woman in the photos, who wanted a picture with him. "I was just trying to be nice."

Those photos, which were attached to the email sent out to those websites by the third party, hardly confirm the groping claims.

"I just laugh at this," said Leinart, no stranger to the perils of celebrity. "I mean, come on, I have a girlfriend I love."

As for all the commotion that the photos caused? Leinart's not fazed. "If someone's trying to get five minutes of attention, it's just funny to me."

"I have more important things to think about," he said, referencing his preparation for the Rose Bowl.

Behind the Scenes: 2005 Awards Banquet

Photo courtesy of Gridskipper

"The last couple weeks I've been to about 12 banquets," said Reggie Bush, "and this is by far the best one."

The Heisman Trophy winner was talking about the annual USC football awards banquet, held at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills on Tuesday night.

Marcus Allen, the last USC running back to win the Heisman prior to Bush, served as master of ceremonies for the event.

Allen told the audience that he called to leave a congratulatory voice mail on Bush's cell phone during his Heisman acceptance speech, but when Bush started to break down, Allen had to stop talking for a moment because he started to do the same. "I didn't want one Heisman winner to hear another Heisman winner [cry]," he said.

After Allen's introduction, coach Pete Carroll strode up to the podium. "Why would we not want to have a great time tonight?" he asked the crowd.

"It has been a most dramatic season. Our team has really been put to the test," said Carroll. "There has to be some magic somewhere to [go undefeated]." He mentioned the last play of the Notre Dame game, where Bush pushed Leinart into the end zone. "Great ad lib, Reg," he said. "Way to go. Beautiful thing."

Carroll also spent much of the evening needling Matt Leinart, complaining that he was throwing the ball "all over the world" against UCLA, and that his star quarterback was "hard to take care of. Very needy. Very needy." Then the coach grinned. "You know I love you, Matt."

Carroll, who has been on the road recruiting nearly non-stop since the UCLA game, laughed at the idea that he and his staff deserved a break. ""Hell no, we ain't gonna take a break. There's too many good football players out there that need our attention so we can recruit 'em."

Later in the evening, Carroll's attention turned to the upcoming Rose Bowl matchup with Texas. "We've got a little bit more business left," he said. As for the Longhorns recent comments in the media about the Trojans? "They talk like they ain't been here before," he said.

Allen was confident enough in his alma mater to predict a USC win. "I have no doubt that when the sun sets on the Rose Bowl on January 4th, the Trojans will be victorious."

At the end of the night, Leinart presented Bush with the team's most valuable player award, as voted on by the players. "I think you're the MVP," he told Bush. "I voted for you. I think you're the greatest player I've ever played with."

Bush thanked Leinart and revealed something everyone in attendance already knew.

"It's been an amazing last week."

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

2005 USC Football Banquet Awards

Bob Chandler Award
awarded to an underclassman who exhibits great athletic ability, academic scholarship and character on and off the field
Ryan Kalil

Trojan Football Alumni Award
awarded to the player with the highest cumulative GPA on the team
Brandon Hancock

Harry & Marion Keiper USC Lifter of the Year Award
Deuce Lutui, Reggie Bush, Sam Baker

Chris Carlisle Courage Award
Scott Ware

Marv Goux Award
awarded to to the outstanding player in the USC - UCLA game
Reggie Bush

Theodore Gabrielson Award
awarded to to the outstanding player in the USC - Notre Dame game
Reggie Bush

John Dye Memorial Award
awarded to to the defensive and offensive linemen of the year
Lawrence Jackson, Deuce Lutui

Service Team Player of the Year Award
awarded to to the defensive and offensive service (scout) team players of the year
Mark Sanchez, Kaluka Maiava

Special Teams Player of the Year Award
Mario Danelo, Kaluka Maiava

Jack Oakie "Rise and Shine" Award
awarded to the player with the biggest hit or longest run
Reggie Bush

John McKay Scholarship Award
Rey Maualuga

Davis-Teschke Award
awarded to the most inspirational players
Frostee Rucker, Deuce Lutui

Mike McKeever Memorial Award
awarded to the most valuable player
Reggie Bush

Top Ten Perks of Winning the Heisman

From last night's Late Show with David Letterman, delivered by Reggie Bush:
10. "Trophy can be used as ID at airports"

9. "Now when coach gives me pointers, I can say, 'And how many Heismans have you won?'"

8. "Lifetime supply of pigskin"

7. "Microchip in the trophy gets me through E-Z Pass"

6. "The trophy holds 10,000 songs"

5. "Now maybe someone on the team'll get a date besides pretty boy Matt Leinhart"

4. "Steinbrenner's trying to get me to sign with the Yankees"

3. "I now have the world's most valuable paperweight"

2. "Secret code for 'Madden NFL 2006' video game that lets me see John Madden naked"

1. "You're the only Bush with an approval rating over 40%"

Monday, December 12, 2005

Young a Sore Loser?

There was only one person in the country who seemed surprised by Reggie Bush's Heisman win on Saturday: runner-up Vince Young.

"I'm just disappointed for my fans, especially for my teammates and my family for not representing them in the right way," he told reporters after the ceremony. "I feel like I let my guys down, let my family down, let the whole cities of Austin and Houston down."

When another reporter asked about whether his Heisman finish would impact his decision to stay in school or go pro, he refused to answer. "I don't know, man. I'm still upset."

Young's reaction to the results surprised many.

"I just can't see where he's coming from," third place finisher Matt Leinart said. "With all due respect, I think the votes spoke for themselves."

In fact, it appears that Young's comments have let down more people than did his second place finish, and one said that it was in what Young said -- and not his loss to Bush -- that he didn't represent his fans, teammates and family in the right way.

"I just wish [coach] Mack Brown had prepared him better for losing," said one Austin resident, a graduate of UT. "[Young] could have been a lot more graceful after Reggie won."

ALSO: Young guaranteed a Longhorns victory in the Rose Bowl over the weekend. At the Duke - Texas basketball game, a New York Post reporter asked him if he would be making a statement similar to Joe Namath's before Super Bowl III.

"Right now, yeah, I'm very confident about it," he said. "They [the Trojans] come in the game off a high winning streak, and everybody's blowing them up, you know, and they think we're the underdogs and we're not going to come to play. I know that we are. We're going to come to show them the Texas football team."

USC's Seventh Heisman Winner

Tonight Heisman winner Reggie Bush will appear on Late Night with David Letterman to present the Top Ten list.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Behind the Scenes: Heisman After Party

Last night the hottest ticket in New York was for the VIP room at Marquee -- in fact, it might have been one of the most difficult nights to get into the club since it opened two years ago.

The line of people waiting to get in was consistently fifty deep. One woman turned away at the door called a friend and complained, "I guess I don't look good enough to get in."

The reason everyone was trying to get in? There were two Heisman Trophy winners partying inside.

At two reserved tables in the VIP section upstairs, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush celebrated Bush's win with a small group of friends. Bush was joined by teammate LenDale White and Leinart partied with professional surfer Bron Heussenstamm, who was celebrating a birthday.

Bush, who won this year's Heisman by the largest margin in history, couldn't stop smiling. Throughout the night he and was bombarded with well-wishers, and made a point to thank each for their congratulations.

Even ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit stopped by to say hello to Bush and Leinart and compliment them on their seasons.

The party was still going strong when we left at 4:30 am, nearly eight hours after Bush was announced as the winner.

MORE: Rumored Leinart incident never happened

After the Heisman

So Reggie Bush won the Heisman. Big surprise.

More important: where did Reggie go to celebrate his big win?

Only Marquee -- New York's hottest club -- located on 10th Avenue and 26th Street in the Chelsea district of Manhattan.

Also at the club helping Bush celebrate was 2004 Heisman winner Matt Leinart.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Quite Frankly: Heisman Edition

We were in the studio audience for today's "Quite Frankly" with Stephen A. Smith on ESPN. The topic of discussion? The Heisman Trophy, of course.

That's why former winners Desmond Howard (University of Michigan '91) and Eric Crouch (University of Nebraska '01) were on hand to handicap this year's race (Smith called it a "runaway") and discuss how Heisman winners have faired in the NFL.

Howard said it's no surprise that not every Heisman Trophy winner makes it in the National Football League. Some, like Jason White, suffered injuries in college and were "damaged goods" by the time they went pro. Others peaked too soon and still others just weren't good enough.

"The NFL is the crème de la crème," said Howard, who also was selected as the MVP of Super Bowl XXXI in 1997.

Howard backstage after the show

As for the votes he and Crouch have as former winners? Both said they cast their ballots for Bush.

"If he doesn't win," promised Howard, "I'll give him mine."

At Sports Illustrated

Earlier this afternoon, we stopped by the Time & Life Building on Sixth Avenue to tour the offices of Sports Illustrated.

While there, we had a nice chat about the Heisman Trophy ceremony with Gene Menez,'s resident Heisman pundit. Though he grew up in Texas, Menez, who is a Heisman voter, cast his ballot for USC's Reggie Bush. Additionally, he told us that he was a fan of our item on Luke Walton's ejection from the Coliseum last weekend.

We also met with SI writer Arash Markazi, a USC grad who was a bit jet-lagged, having just flown in from Phoenix after an interview with Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky.

Markazi showed us around the offices and introduced us to his friend and colleague Maggie Haskins, a former contestant on ESPN's Dream Job who now writes for SI.

Markazi and Haskins invited us to join them for lunch, and on the way to Rockefeller Center we bumped into 1991 Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard and former USC star Ricky Ervins. Howard was headed downtown to appear on Stephen A. Smith's "Quite Frankly" show on ESPN later that afternoon, and he invited us to stop by for the taping.

After lunch, Markazi and Haskins went back to the office, Markazi to write up his Gretzky story, while we headed downtown to check out Howard on "Quite Frankly."

Markazi shows off a basketball signed by Julius Erving he keeps at his desk

MORE: Whose Heisman is it? (

A Lovely Day in NYC

Thursday, December 08, 2005

On the Ground: New York

It's cold.

It's really cold.

But it's New York, so the excitement of the city trumps the windchill factor -- and that's a good thing, considering how sensitive some Southern Californians are temperatures below 65 degrees.

In addition to this weekend's college football festivities, today is the 25th anniversary of the assasination of John Lennon. We're staying just a few blocks south of the Dakota, the apartment building where he was gunned down in 1980, and fans have been making the trek to that now-hallowed ground to honor his legacy throughout the day.

As for the reason we're in town, most agree that Reggie Bush will be taking home this year's Heisman Trophy. The only question, says Kari Chisholm of handicapping website,"is whether he will be the biggest winner of all time."

Glad to know there's still some drama left to salvage.

We've got a big day planned for tomorrow (and Saturday, obviously, as well), so keep checking back as we'll be posting photos and updates throughout the weekend.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

USC's Heisman Finalists

Congratulations to Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart, both named finalists for this year's Heisman Trophy.

NOTE: Tomorrow we'll be in New York to begin our Heisman coverage. Keep checking back for updates through the weekend.

UPDATE: We're in New York.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Luke Walton Thrown Out of UCLA Game

There were plenty of famous faces on the sidelines for Saturday's USC - UCLA game, so it's not surprising that the story of what happened to Los Angeles Laker Luke Walton has yet to be reported.

Unlike the other notables in attendance, the son of UCLA legend Bill Walton did not have a pass to be on the sidelines, yet somehow he managed to watch much of the first half from the field.

Walton might have got away with it, too, if not for a group of USC students led by senior Margaret Ballesteros, who recognized the curly-haired forward from her days growing up in Tuscon, Arizona.

"We had first row tickets at the end zone," said Ballesteros, "and we were calling him but he kept ignoring us. Finally he waved and I guess a security guard noticed him and saw that he didn't have a pass."

The security guard approached Walton and asked to see his field pass. Walton, of course, didn't have one.

"He and the security guard were talking for about five minutes," said Ballesteros, "and Luke kept looking at his phone. I guess he was going to call someone to clear it up."

At that point, Ballesteros and her friends tried to do their part to help Walton's cause.

"We started chanting 'Let Luke stay!' and 'Come on, he's a Laker!'" she said, but it didn't do any good.

"Security called the cops, and the cops escorted him out up the stairs [of the peristyle end of the Coliseum.]"

Ballesteros said people were yelling "Go Clippers!" as Walton left the stadium.

"The police had him by both arms," she reported, "a bit dramatic for not having a pass."

UPDATE: Ross Siler of the LA Daily News emails to tell us that the man in the black sweater talking with security is Alex McKechnie, the Lakers' athletic performance coordinator, who also worked with Matt Leinart this summer after his surgery.

MORE: This story was featured on Wednesday's ESPN Hollywood (ESPN2 at 6 EST, 3 PST)

TRACKBACK: Deadspin, LA Observed, SLAM Online

Luke Walton Thrown Out of UCLA Game (Photos)

Photos of the incident (courtesy of Ryan Lovelace)

Walton waves at Ballesteros and her friends

Security approaches Walton, drawing the attention of surrounding fans

Alex McKechnie tries to intervene on Walton's behalf

Walton is told to leave the Coliseum

Two LAPD officers escort Walton from the field

Walton continues to plead his case as he is led out

We've Got a New Address

Now when you want to tell your friends about From the Sidelines, you don't have to pass along a hard-to-remember address like Instead, just tell them to go to

Time For New Heisman Trophy?

From the Sidelines reader Tom Hall wonders if it's time to redesign the Heisman Trophy. Here's his submission for a new version.

Our Big Announcement

First an update: we started From the Sidelines six weeks ago because we wanted to take college football fans behind-the-scenes of America's hottest program.

Unlike most sports blogs, ours is not a place where we give our opinion or prognosticate. Instead, we focus on original reporting, taking fans beyond what they can find out about USC from their local paper or on television.

Through our player profiles and behind-the-scenes accounts, we give readers a chance to get to know the players as people, and our coverage of ESPN College GameDay's visit to the Coliseum and the Trojans' win over UCLA helped capture the excitement that surrounds USC football.

We continue to look for opportunities to expand our coverage and take fans places they've never been before. That's why we're excited to announce that this weekend we'll be in New York to cover the Heisman Trophy ceremony and all the pageantry that surrounds it.

Though we won't technically be the first bloggers to cover the Heisman, we're the first to bring our distinctive behind-the-scenes coverage to what many consider the most prestigious individual award in all of sports.

So check back throughout the weekend for information and updates on all the Heisman festivities. We promise to provide coverage you can't get anywhere else except...

From the Sidelines.

What They're Saying

From LA Observed:
Here's a pointer to a more ambitious site [than Elisha Cuthbert's LA Kings blog], by Annenberg grad student Alexis Jones and recent USC grad Nathan Gotsch: From the Sidelines. They were literally on the sideline filing reports during Saturday's game. They favor original reporting on the Trojans over blognostication, they get access, they profile players and they do video reports.

This week, the blog will be on hand in New York to cover the Heisman Trophy ceremonies: "We're paying our own way (found cheap tickets online) and staying with friends."

Monday, December 05, 2005

More Photos from the Game

Matt Leinart and Ryan Kalil

Josh Pinkard follows Joe Cowan in motion

Frostee Rucker, playing his final game in the Coliseum

Sedrick Ellis sacks Drew Olsen

Lawrence Jackson sacks Drew Olsen, forcing a fumble recovered by Brian Cushing

A wide-open LenDale White turns upfield after catching a pass

Matt Leinart receives a congratulatory hug from his backup, John David Booty, upon coming out of the game

USC fans unnecessarily lobby Heisman voters

(Photos by Nathan Gotsch / From the Sidelines)