Editor's note: RecruitingNation is taking a look at the state of each team's brand.
LOS ANGELES -- When UCLA head football coach Jim Mora recently made an ill-advised comment directed toward the USC community, Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin took the high road and chose to respond by focusing on the positives of the university he represents.
“Our staff does not negatively recruit,” Kiffin said. “There are so many good things to talk about here as far as the school and the history of the program. It’s the greatest place in the world, so there’s no need to talk about other places.”
It’s a theme that Kiffin uses often -- the power of USC. He uses it when talking about the spotlight on his program or when he is recruiting the next elite prospect. And when you take a snapshot of the current state of the USC brand name, it’s hard to argue with what he’s saying.
At the recently completed London Olympic Games, USC-related athletes won 25 medals overall, more than any other college in the country. That total included 12 gold medals, which would have placed USC sixth overall among all countries. Among those included in that medal count were memorable figures such as swimmer Rebecca Soni, sprinter Allyson Felix and the USA flag-bearer for the closing ceremonies, sprinter Bryshon Nellum.
On campus, the university is preparing for the dedication of the new John McKay Center, a state-of-the-art athletics building which will house the football offices, training facilities and student-athlete academic services. Built at a cost of $70 million, the McKay Center has risen during a time when the USC program was supposed to be down due to NCAA sanctions. Instead, USC will now boast one of the finest facilities in the country to train and educate their athletes.
When the NCAA sanctions were first announced for the Reggie Bush case, many people across the country considered it a crippling blow, one that would certainly hurt the Trojans for many years. As the 2012 season prepares to open, however, USC sits atop the ESPN preseason poll with a quarterback that many consider the favorite for the Heisman Trophy.
Speaking of No. 1 rankings, USC is also in the top spot of the ESPN recruiting rankings despite being limited in the number of recruits they can take in the class of 2013 due to scholarship reductions. Rather than causing top recruits to look away, many of the prospects looked at getting one of the limited USC spots as a badge of honor.
How many schools could take such a body-blow from the NCAA and still be sitting in this position? Not many. Alabama is one of the schools that can be considered on the same elite brand name level as USC, yet it took several years for the Crimson Tide to recover from lesser sanctions a decade ago.
One of the clearest examples of the USC brand name came last month with the recruitment of Penn State running back Silas Redd. When the sanctions against Penn State were first announced, there was an understandable movement by the Nittany Lions players to keep the team intact. Redd was clearly the best player on the team but his focus was lasered in on one school -- USC.
While his former teammates were attempting to show solidarity, Redd was hosting the Trojans coaches and then quickly taking a cross-country visit to see the USC campus. After transferring to USC, Redd had the opportunity to participate in his first scrimmage last week in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Trojans’ home field and the only stadium in the country which has hosted two Olympics.
Redd said he got chills while walking down the famed tunnel toward the Coliseum floor. It’s statements like that which help prove Kiffin’s point, that there’s no need for the USC coach to negatively recruit or talk about other programs. Not when he has a brand name like USC to sell, one which is certainly resonating loud within the college football world these days.