For most of the early-mid 2000’s, USC was on top of the football world.
The Trojans, led by Pete Carroll, tore through the then Pac-10, winning national titles and Rose Bowls seemingly every year, churning out NFL talent, grabbing Heisman Trophies and embracing the local connection with Hollywood.
The inarguable swagger of the those teams and their success contributed to a sport wide animosity towards SC.
But a new report in The Athletic makes the claim that the current Trojans have rapidly regained the status being one of the “most hated teams” in college football.
The initial focus is on Oklahoma’s newfound hatred of USC for hiring away head coach Lincoln Riley for an enormous, undisclosed amount of money.
One local columnist claimed that OU fans would rather cheer for historic rival Texas than root for the Trojans
“I would think if Texas played USC, that most OU fans would hold their nose and cheer for Texas. They wouldn’t want to, but I think they would. They really want to see Lincoln Riley fail.”
But the article goes further, saying SC is now the “most hated team in college football:”
“In the months since, USC has transformed into the most hated team in college football — one that will need to be entirely comfortable assuming the sport’s villain role this fall.”
The focus is mainly on Riley’s raiding of the transfer portal to restock the SC roster, taking former OU players, famously prying Jordan Addison away from Pittsburgh, and grabbing star running back Travis Dye.
Then, after a fascinating recruiting period, the Trojans announced they were bolting the Pac-12 for greener financial pastures in the Big 10, generating further animosity.
All of these issues are legitimate – USC has, maybe more than anyone, used the transfer portal after Lincoln Riley took over.
They’ve faced questions over NIL and the potential money involved in grabbing the most highly valued players.
But at the same time, USC needs to actually win something in order to return to the top of the “most hated” heap.
Winning the offseason, while potentially upsetting to some groups, doesn’t seem to be create that level of animosity. What people really hate is when the same team wins over and over and over again.
USC hasn’t done that since Carroll.
It’s certainly possible that Riley turns the Trojans into an immediate juggernaut, but until that happens, it seems extremely premature to suggest that most college football fans hate SC as much as say, Alabama.
But for those within the program, they seem to revel in the possibility of being hated again – it means they’re doing something right.