USC Trojans football

The USC Trojans football program represent University of Southern California in the sport of American football. The Trojans compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the South Division of the Pac-12 Conference (Pac-12).

USC Trojans football
2019 USC Trojans football team
First season1888 (1888)
Athletic directorMike Bohn
Head coachClay Helton
3rd season, 35–19 (.648)
StadiumLos Angeles Memorial Coliseum
(Capacity: 77,500)
Field surfaceGrass
LocationLos Angeles, California
NCAA divisionDivision I FBS
ConferencePac-12 (since 1959)
Past conferencesIndependent (1888–1921)
PCC (1922–1958)
All-time record85535054 (.701)
Bowl record3418 (.654)
Claimed nat'l titles11 (1928, 1931, 1932, 1939, 1962, 1967, 1972, 1974, 1978, 2003, 2004)
Unclaimed nat'l titles6
Conference titles39
Division titles2
RivalriesNotre Dame (rivalry)
UCLA (rivalry)
Stanford (rivalry)
Heisman winners6 (1 additional vacated)
Consensus All-Americans80
Current uniform
ColorsCardinal and Gold[1]
Fight song"Fight On"
Marching bandSpirit of Troy

Formed in 1888, the program has over 830 wins and claims 11 consensus Division I Football National Championships.[2] USC has had 13 undefeated seasons including 8 perfect seasons, and 39 conference championships. USC has produced 7 Heisman Trophy winners, 81 first-team Consensus All-Americans, including 27 Unanimous selections, and 500 NFL draft picks, most all-time by any university,[3] the Trojans also have had more players drafted in the first round than any other university, with 80 as of the 2017 draft.[4] USC has had 34 members inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, including former players Matt Leinart, O.J. Simpson, and Ronnie Lott and former coaches John McKay and Howard Jones. The Trojans boast 12 inductees in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the second-most of any school, including Junior Seau, Bruce Matthews, Marcus Allen, and Ron Yary.[5]

The Trojans have 52 bowl appearances, 39 of which are among the New Year's Six Bowls. With a record of 34–18, USC has the highest all-time post-season winning percentage of schools with 25 or more bowl appearances.[6]

The Trojans play their home games in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, located across the Exposition Park Rose Garden from USC's University Park, Los Angeles campus.



USC first fielded a football team in 1888. Playing its first game on November 14 of that year against the Alliance Athletic Club, USC achieved a 16–0 victory. Frank Suffel and Henry H. Goddard were playing coaches for the first team which was put together by quarterback Arthur Carroll, who in turn volunteered to make the pants for the team and later became a tailor.[7] USC faced its first collegiate opponent the following year in fall 1889, playing St. Vincent's College to a 40–0 victory.[7]

In 1893, USC joined the Intercollegiate Football Association of Southern California (the forerunner of the SCIAC), which was composed of USC, Occidental College, Throop Polytechnic Institute (Cal Tech), and Chaffey College. Pomona College was invited to enter, but declined to do so. An invitation was also extended to Los Angeles High School.[8]

Before they were named Trojans in 1912, USC athletic teams were called the Methodists (occasionally the "Fighting Methodists"), as well as the Wesleyans. During the early years, limitations in travel and the scarcity of major football-playing colleges on the West Coast limited its rivalries to local Southern Californian colleges and universities. During this period USC played regular series against Occidental, Caltech, Whittier, Pomona and Loyola. The first USC team to play outside of Southern California went to Stanford University on November 4, 1905, where they were trampled 16–0 by the traditional West Coast powerhouse. While the teams would not meet again until 1918 (Stanford dropped football for rugby union during the intervening years), this was also USC's first game against a future Pac-12 conference opponent and the beginning of its oldest rivalry. During this period USC also played its first games against other future Pac-12 rivals, including Oregon State (1914), California (1915), Oregon (1915), Arizona (1916) and Utah (1915-1917, 1919).

Between 1911–1913, USC followed the example of California and Stanford and dropped football in favor of rugby union. The results were disastrous, as USC was soundly defeated by more experienced programs while the school itself experienced financial reverses; it was during this period that Owen R. Bird, a sportswriter for the Los Angeles Times, coined the nickname "Trojans", which he wrote was "owing to the terrific handicaps under which the athletes, coaches and managers of the university were laboring and against the overwhelming odds of larger and better equipped rivals, the name 'Trojan' suitably fitted the players."[7]


After several decades of competition, USC first achieved national prominence under head coach "Gloomy" Gus Henderson in the early 1920s. Another milestone came under Henderson in 1922, when USC joined the Pacific Coast Conference (PCC), the forerunner of the modern Pac-12. Success continued under coach Howard Jones from 1925 to 1940, when the Trojans were just one of a few nationally dominant teams. It was during this era that the team achieved renown as the "Thundering Herd", earning its first four national titles.


USC achieved intermittent success in the years following Jones' tenure. Jeff Cravath, who coached from 1942–1950, won the Rose Bowl in 1943 and 1945. Jess Hill, who coached from 1951 to 1956, won the Rose Bowl in 1953. From 1957 to 1959, the Trojans were coached by Don Clark. Future Hall of Famer Ron Mix was an All American for the Trojans in 1959.


The program entered a new golden age upon the arrival of head coach John McKay (1960–1975). During this period the Trojans produced two Heisman Trophy winners (Mike Garrett and O.J. Simpson) and won four national championships (1962, 1967, 1972 and 1974). McKay's influence continued even after he departed for the NFL when an assistant coach, John Robinson (1976–1982), took over as head coach. Under Robinson, USC won another national championship in 1978 (shared with Alabama; ironically, USC defeated Alabama, 24–14, that same season) and USC produced two more running back Heisman Trophy winners in Charles White and Marcus Allen

On September 12, 1970, USC opened the season visiting the University of Alabama under legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant and became the first fully integrated team to play in the state of Alabama.[9] The game, scheduled by Bryant, resulted in a dominating 42–21 win by the Trojans. More importantly, all six touchdowns scored by USC team were by black players, two by USC running back Sam "Bam" Cunningham, against an all-white Crimson Tide team.[10] After the game, Bryant was able to persuade the university to allow black players to play, hastening the racial integration of football at Alabama and in the Deep South.[9][11]


In the 1980s, USC football did not realize a national championship, though it continued to experience relative success, with top-20 AP rankings and Pac-10 Conference championships under head coaches Ted Tollner (1983–1986) and Larry Smith (1987–1992) Each coach led the team to a win in the Rose Bowl and USC was recognized among the nation's top-ten teams three times. Despite the moderate success of team during these years, some alumni had grown accustomed to the program's stature as a perennial national championship contender. In 1993, Robinson was named head coach a second time, leading the Trojans to a victory in the 1996 Rose Bowl over Northwestern.

It was during this time that the Trojans were unable to defeat their rivals. They suffered winless streaks of 13 years (1983–1995, including the 1994 17–17 tie) to rival Notre Dame and 8 years (1991–1998) to crosstown rival UCLA which were unacceptable to many USC supporters. Under Robinson the Trojans were 2–2–1 against Notre Dame, but unable to beat UCLA. After posting a 6–6 record in 1996, and a 6–5 record in 1997, Robinson was fired. In 1998, head coach Paul Hackett took over the team, but posted an even more disappointing 19–18 record in three seasons than any of his recent predecessors. By 2000, some observers surmised that USC football's days of national dominance were fading; the football team's record of 37–35 from 1996 to 2001 was their second-worst over any five-year span in history (only the mark of 29–29–2 from 1956–1961 was worse), and the period marked the first and only time USC had been out of the final top 20 teams for four straight years.



In 2001, athletic director Mike Garrett released Hackett and hired Pete Carroll, a former NFL head coach. Carroll went 6–6 in his first year, losing to Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl, 10–6. After that, his teams became highly successful, ranking among the top ten teams in the country, with the exception of 2009 in which the team lost four regular season games.


USC opened 3–2 in 2002, suffering losses to Kansas State and Washington State. However, the Trojans went on to win the rest of their games, completing the regular season 11–2 on the strength of senior quarterback Carson Palmer's breakout performance. After struggling for most of his collegiate career, Palmer excelled in the Pro Style offense installed by new offensive coordinator Norm Chow. In fact, Palmer's performance, particularly in the season-ending rivalry games against Notre Dame and UCLA, impressed so many pundits that he went on to win the Heisman Trophy, carrying every region of voting and becoming the first USC quarterback to be so honored. Despite tying for the Pac-10 title (with Washington State), having the highest BCS "strength of schedule" rating, and fielding the nation's top defense led by safety Troy Polamalu, USC finished the season ranked No. 5 in the BCS rankings. Facing off against BCS No. 3 Iowa in the Orange Bowl, USC defeated the Hawkeyes 38–17.


In 2003, highly touted but unproven redshirt sophomore Matt Leinart took over the quarterback position from Palmer. Although his first pass went for a touchdown in a win over Auburn, the Trojans suffered an early season triple-overtime loss to their conference rival the California Golden Bears in Berkeley. After the Loss to California, USC went on a 10-game winning streak and finished the season with a record of 11–1. Before the postseason, both the coaches' poll and the AP Poll ranked USC number 1, but the BCS—which also gave consideration to computer rankings—ranked Oklahoma first, another one-loss team but one that had lost its own Big 12 Conference title game 35–7, with USC ranked third.

In the 2003 BCS National Championship Game, the Sugar Bowl, BCS No. 2 LSU defeated BCS No. 1 Oklahoma 21–14. Meanwhile, BCS No. 3 USC defeated BCS No. 4 Michigan 28–14 in the Rose Bowl. USC finished the season ranked No. 1 in the AP poll and was awarded the AP National Championship; LSU, however, won the BCS National Championship title for that year, prompting a split national title between LSU and USC. In the wake of the controversy, corporate sponsors emerged who were willing to organize an LSU-USC game to settle the matter; nevertheless, the NCAA refused to permit the matchup.


In 2004, USC was picked preseason #1 by the Associated Press, thanks to the return of Leinart as well as sophomore running backs LenDale White and Reggie Bush. The defense—led by All-American defensive tackles Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson, as well as All-American linebackers Lofa Tatupu and Matt Grootegoed—was considered to be among the finest in the nation. Key questions included the offensive line, with few returning starters, and the receiving corps, which had lost previous year's senior Keary Colbert and the breakout star of 2003, Mike Williams. Williams had tried to enter the NFL draft a year early during the Maurice Clarett trial when it was ruled that the NFL could not deny them entering the draft. The decision was appealed and overturned leaving Williams unable to enter the draft. When he applied to the NCAA for reinstatement of his eligibility, it was denied.

Despite close calls against Stanford and California, the Trojans finished the regular season undefeated and headed for the 2004 BCS Championship Game at the Orange Bowl. USC was the second team in NCAA football history to have gone wire-to-wire (ranked first place from preseason to postseason since the AP began releasing preseason rankings); the first was Florida State in 1999 (two other schools went wire-to-wire before the existence of preseason polls - Notre Dame in 1943 and Army in 1945). Quarterback Leinart won the Heisman Trophy, with running back Bush placing fifth in the vote tally. The Trojans' opponent in the Orange Bowl, Oklahoma, were themselves undefeated and captained by sixth-year quarterback Jason White, who had won the Heisman in 2003; the game marked the first time in NCAA history that two players who had already won the Heisman played against each other. Most analysts expected the game to be close—as USC matched its speed and defense against the Oklahoma running game and skilled offensive line—but the reality proved to be far different. USC scored 38 points in the first half, and won the BCS National Championship Game by the score of 55–19, making them the BCS Champions and earning the team the AP National Championship as well.

In June 2010, after a four-year investigation, the NCAA imposed sanctions against the Trojan football program for a "lack of institutional control," including a public reprimand and censure, a two-year postseason ban, a loss of 30 scholarships over three years, and vacating all games in which Reggie Bush participated as an ineligible player (14 wins, 1 loss), including the 2005 Orange Bowl, in which the Trojans won the BCS National Championship.[12] These sanctions have been criticized by some NCAA football writers,[13][14][15][16][17] including ESPN's Ted Miller, who wrote, "It's become an accepted fact among informed college football observers that the NCAA sanctions against USC were a travesty of justice, and the NCAA's refusal to revisit that travesty are a massive act of cowardice on the part of the organization."[18]

Following the NCAA sanctions, BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock stated that a committee would decide whether to vacate USC's 2004 BCS Championship, but the final decision would be delayed until after the NCAA had heard USC's appeals against some of the sanctions.[19] On July 20, 2010, incoming USC president Max Nikias stated that the school would remove jerseys and murals displayed in Bush's honor from its facilities, and would return the school's copy of Bush's Heisman Trophy.[20] On September 14, Bush announced that he would forfeit the Heisman and return his copy of the trophy.[21]

On May 26, 2011, the NCAA upheld all findings and penalties against USC. The team did not participate in the Pac-12 Football Championship Game or a bowl game during the 2011–12 season.[22] The BCS announced June 6, 2011, that it had stripped USC of the 2004 title,[23] but the Associated Press still recognizes USC as the 2004 AP National Champion.[24]


The 2005 regular season witnessed a resuscitation of the rivalry with Notre Dame, after a last second play in which senior quarterback Matt Leinart scored the winning touchdown with help from a controversial push from behind by running back Reggie Bush, nicknamed the "Bush Push". The year climaxed with a 66–19 USC defeat of cross-town rival UCLA. Running back Reggie Bush finished his stellar year by winning the Heisman Trophy (later returned by USC and reclaimed by the Heisman Trophy Trust considering Bush accepted improper benefits while at USC and was ineligible during the 2005 season),[21][25] while Leinart finished third in the Heisman voting. Several other players also earned accolades, being named All-Americans (AP, Football Coaches, Football Writers, Walter Camp,,, CBS,, These include QB Matt Leinart, RB Reggie Bush, RB LenDale White, S Darnell Bing, OT Taitusi Lutui, OT Sam Baker, WR Dwayne Jarrett, C Ryan Kalil, OG Fred Matua, and DE Lawrence Jackson. Additionally, OL Winston Justice did well enough to forgo his senior year and enter the NFL draft. The regular season ended with two clear cut contenders facing off in the Rose Bowl to decide the national championship. Both USC and Texas were 12–0 entering the game, although USC was the slight favorite,[26] USC lost to Texas 41–38.[27]

As with the 2004 season, later NCAA investigations into alleged improper benefits given to Reggie Bush altered the official record of the 2005 Trojan season. All twelve wins from the 2005 season were officially vacated.


For the 2006 football season, USC tried to rebuild its strength following the loss of offensive stalwarts Leinart, Bush, and White, defensive leader Bing, and offensive linemen Matua, Justice, and Lutui. The Trojans developed their offense using unproven QB John David Booty and returning star receivers Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith along with second-year wide-out Patrick Turner. Mark Sanchez, the highly touted QB of the recruiting class of 2005 (Mission Viejo High School) was widely viewed as a dark horse to win the starting job from Booty, although Booty was named the starter at the end of fall training camp. The starting tailback position was initially a battle between returning players Chauncey Washington and Desmond Reed (both recovering from injuries) and heralded recruits Stafon Johnson (Dorsey High School in Los Angeles), C.J. Gable, Allen Bradford and Emmanuel Moody.

USC had many experienced players as well, including linebacker Dallas Sartz and wide receiver Chris McFoy, who had already graduated with their bachelor's degrees and were pursuing master's degrees. Fullback Brandon Hancock would have been part of that group as well until an injury ended his collegiate career. Additionally, fifth year (redshirt) senior linebacker Oscar Lua, running back Ryan Powdrell and offensive lineman Kyle Williams were expected to either start or play frequently in 2006.

The 2006 Trojans came out strong, easily defending their top 10 status throughout the year. As the season progressed, USC began to display marked inconsistencies, as their margins of victory began to slip. The first setback proved to be a 31–33 loss to unranked Oregon State, in which the Beavers were able to repeatedly capitalize on several Trojan turnovers.[28] Even though USC dropped initially in the polls, they worked their way back up. After defeating both Cal and Notre Dame, they held the number 2 spot heading into the final week of the season. The Trojans were considered to be a virtual lock for the National Championship Game against Ohio State and just needed to beat UCLA. USC was shocked in the final game of the season, losing to crosstown rival UCLA 13–9. This eliminated the Trojans from championship contention and opened the door for Florida to become Ohio State's opponent. The Trojans did earn a Rose Bowl bid and defeated Michigan 32–18. It was the Trojans fifth straight BCS Bowl appearance.

On January 6, 2007, six days after the Rose Bowl Game, USC kicker Mario Danelo was found dead at the bottom of the White Point Cliff near Point Fermin Lighthouse in San Pedro, California.[29]


In July 2007, named USC its #1 team of the decade for the period between 1996 and 2006, citing the Trojans' renaissance and dominance under Carroll.[30][31]

The 2007 Trojans were the presumptive #1 pick before the season.[32][33] However, they lost two games, including a major upset to 41-point underdog Stanford, and they did not get into the National Championship game. However, the Trojans did win their sixth conference championship and defeated Illinois in the 2008 Rose Bowl Game.

Under Carroll, USC was known to attract numerous celebrities to its practices, including USC alumni Will Ferrell, George Lucas, LeVar Burton, and Sophia Bush as well as Snoop Dogg, Henry Winkler, Kirsten Dunst, Nick Lachey, Dr. Dre, Spike Lee, Alyssa Milano, Flea, Wilmer Valderrama, Jake Gyllenhaal and Andre 3000.[34] The Trojans benefited from Los Angeles's lack of NFL teams (with the LA Rams and Raiders having left in the early 1990s), combined with the Trojans' 21st century success, leading them to sometimes be called LA's "de facto NFL team."[35]

During Pete Carroll's first eight years as head coach, USC lost only one game by more than seven points, a 27–16 loss at Notre Dame in his first season, until the second half of the 2009 season. The early part of the 2000s also saw the rise of USC football's popularity in the Los Angeles market: without any stadium expansions, USC broke its average home attendance record four times in a row: reaching 77,804 in 2003, 85,229 in 2004, 90,812 in 2005 and over 91,416 with one game to go in 2006 (the capacity of the Coliseum is 92,000). As of 2011, USC is one of only three of the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) teams to have never played a Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) team since the split of Division I football in 1978.[36]


After beating Penn State in the Rose Bowl, USC finished the season 12–1, and ranked #2 in the Coaches' Poll and #3 in the AP Poll. The 2008 season culminated in USC's seventh straight Pac-10 Championship, seventh straight BCS bowl appearance and seventh straight finish in the top 4 of the AP Poll. This also marked seven consecutive seasons where USC has not lost a game by more than 7 points. Their only loss was on the road against Oregon State, which was mentioned in the preseason as a possible upset.[37][38]


After beating Boston College in the Emerald Bowl, USC finished the season 9–4, and ranked #20 in the Coaches' Poll and #22 in the AP Poll. USC ended its seven-year streak of Pac-10 Championship, BCS bowl appearance and top 4 finish of the AP Poll. The Trojans started the season strong beating #8 Ohio State at The Horseshoe. But they would lose to four Pac-10 teams (Washington, Oregon, Stanford, and Arizona). Blowout losses to Oregon 47–20 and Stanford 55–21 marked a turning point in USC's season and sparked debate in the media about the future dominance of USC football. After the season concluded, head coach Pete Carroll resigned to accept a head coaching position with the Seattle Seahawks.

In 2009, USC was named "Team of the Decade" by both and, as well as the "Program of the Decade" by, plus was No. 1 in's "5-Year Program Rankings" and was ranked No. 2 in's "Prestige Rankings" among all schools since 1936 (behind Oklahoma).[39] Additionally, in 2009, ranked USC the second-best program in college football history.


On January 12, 2010, Lane Kiffin was hired as the head coach. This came following Pete Carroll's departure from USC to become the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks.[40]

In June 2010, after a prolonged four-year investigation into whether former USC running back Reggie Bush and his family had accepted financial benefits and housing from two sports agents in San Diego while he was a student athlete at USC, the NCAA imposed sanctions against the Trojan football program for a "lack of institutional control," including a two-year postseason ban, the loss of 30 scholarships over three years, and the vacation of all wins in which Bush participated as an "ineligible" player, including the 2005 Orange Bowl, in which the Trojans won the BCS National Championship.[12] These sanctions have been criticized by some NCAA football writers,[13][14][15][16][17] including ESPN's Ted Miller, who wrote, "It's become an accepted fact among informed college football observers that the NCAA sanctions against USC were a travesty of justice, and the NCAA's refusal to revisit that travesty are a massive act of cowardice on the part of the organization."[18]

The 2010 team finished 8–5 (5–4 in the Pac-10) and was ineligible for post-season play.


On February 9, 2010, Commissioner Larry Scott announced that the Pac-10 would be considering expanding to twelve schools.[41] The Pac-10 Conference officially became the Pac-12 Conference following the addition of Colorado and Utah on July 1, 2011.

In 2011, although USC finished in first place in its conference division with a 7–2 record, due to their ineligibility to participate in a bowl game, the UCLA Bruins became champions of the inaugural Pac-12 South Division.[42] In the final regular season game, USC's 50–0 win over UCLA was the largest margin of victory in the rivalry since 1930.

The release of the December 4, 2011 final regular season Associated Press college football poll marked USC's return to national prominence with the #5 ranking.[43] The Trojans were not eligible for post season play and did not participate in any Bowl game. When the final AP Football Poll was released, USC dropped one spot to the #6 ranking.


USC was ranked number one in The Associated Press' preseason college football poll for the seventh time in school history and the first time in five seasons, edging out No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 LSU.[44] However, the early season expectations would backfire as the Trojans would eventually finish 7–5 (5–4 versus Pac-12 opponents), including losses to all three of their major rivals (Notre Dame, UCLA, and Stanford) all in the same year for the first time since 1992. The team finished second in the Pac-12 South standings and unranked in any poll.


The 2013 USC Trojans football team finished the season 10–4, 6–3 in Pac-12 play to finish in a tie for second place in the South Division. They were invited to the Las Vegas Bowl where they defeated Fresno State. Head coach Lane Kiffin, who was in his fourth year, was fired on September 29 after a 3–2 start to the season. He was replaced by interim head coach Ed Orgeron. At the end of the regular season, Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian was hired as the new head coach beginning in 2014. This prompted Orgeron to resign before the bowl game. Clay Helton led the Trojans in the Las Vegas Bowl.


The 2015 season was a tumultuous one for the Trojans with a season record of 8–4 overall and 6–3 in Pac-12 play to finish as Pac-12 Southern Conference champions. Mid-season, coach Steve Sarkisian was fired to deal with personal issues and Clay Helton was again named the interim head coach. The Trojans had lost to Stanford and Washington under Sarkisian. Under Helton, USC lost to Notre Dame, but then rallied to win the next four games. A loss to Oregon left the South Division conference championship to be decided by the USC-UCLA game; USC won 40–21. USC played in its first ever Pac-12 Conference championship game, losing to Stanford (41–22) after the Cardinal (8-1 in Pac-12, 9-2 overall) locked up the North Division title, its third in four years, with its victory over California. USC went on to lose the 2015 Holiday Bowl 23–21 to the Wisconsin Badgers. On December 7, Sarkisian filed a $30 million termination lawsuit against USC.[25]


The 2016 USC Trojans football season marked Clay Helton's first full season as USC head coach. The team finished the season 10–3, (7–2 Pac-12) finishing as the runner-up of the South Division title and as Rose Bowl champions. After a 1–3 start during the month of September that featured losses to teams such as No. 1 Alabama, No. 7 Stanford, and No. 24 Utah, the Trojans began a nine-game winning streak to end their season. Some notable wins include victories over No. 21 Colorado, No. 4 Washington, and No. 5 Penn State in the Rose Bowl. Sam Darnold, a redshirt freshman quarterback, became the starter over Max Browne (1–2 record as starting QB) a few days before the Utah game. Since then, the Trojans have received much-needed stability after years of turmoil and coaching changes. The season was capped off with a dramatic 52–49 win in the Rose Bowl over Penn State, their first Rose Bowl victory in 8 years. USC finished No. 3 in the final AP polls for the season.

Conference affiliations


National championships

USC has won 17 national championships from NCAA-designated major selectors.[45]:112–115 USC claims 11 national titles,[46] including 7 from the wire service AP Poll and/or Coaches' Poll. Two of USC's championships, 1928 and 1939, are based on the Dickinson System, a formula devised by a University of Illinois professor that awarded national championships between 1926 and 1940. The Dickinson System is cited in the Official 2010 NCAA FBS Record Book as a legitimate national title selector.[47] USC's claim is consistent with other FBS programs that won the Dickinson title. In 2004, USC recognized the 1939 squad as one of their national championship teams.[48][49][50] The 2004 team was forced to vacate the final two games of its season, including the 2005 Orange Bowl due to NCAA sanctions incurred as a result of loss of institutional control, and namely, in connection with Reggie Bush. USC appealed the sanctions, delaying consideration of vacating USC's 2004 championship by the BCS. Ultimately, USC lost the appeals and forfeited the 2004 BCS championship.[51] The AP did not vacate its 2004 championship, hence the Trojans retain a share of the national title.[51]

Year Coach Selectors Record Bowl
1928^Howard JonesDickinson System, Sagarin9–0–1
1929Howard JonesBerryman, Houlgate, Sagarin10–2Won Rose Bowl
1931^Howard JonesBerryman, Billingsley, Boand, Dickinson, Dunkel, Helms, Houlgate, Football Research, NCF, Poling, Sagarin, Sagarin (ELOChess), Williamson10–1Won Rose
1932^Howard JonesBerryman, Billingsley, Boand, Dunkel, Football Research, Helms, Houlgate, NCF, Parke Davis, Poling, Sagarin, Williamson10–0Won Rose
1933Howard JonesWilliamson10–1–1
1939^Howard JonesDickinson8–0–2Won Rose
1962^John McKayAP, Berryman, DeVold, Dunkel, FB News, Football Research, FWAA, Helms, NCF, NFF, Poling, UPI (coaches), Williamson11–0Won Rose
1967^John McKayAP, Berryman, Billingsley, DeVold, FB News, Football Research, FW, Helms, Matthews, NCF, NFF, Sagarin, Sagarin (ELO-Chess), UPI (coaches)10–1Won Rose
1972^John McKayAP, Berryman, Billingsley, DeVold, Dunkel, FACT, FB News, Football Research, FW, Helms, Litkenhous, Matthews, NCF, NFF, Poling, Sagarin, Sagarin (ELO-Chess), UPI (coaches)12–0Won Rose
1974^John McKayFW, Helms, NCF, NFF, UPI (coaches)10–1–1Won Rose
1976John RobinsonBerryman, Billingsley MOV, DeVold, Dunkel, Football Research, Matthews11–1Won Rose Bowl
1978^John RobinsonBerryman, Billingsley, FACT, FB News, Helms, NCF, Sagarin (ELO-Chess), Sporting News, UPI (coaches)12–1Won Rose
1979John RobinsonFootball Research11–0–1Won Rose
2002Pete CarrollDunkel, Matthews, Sagarin11–2Won Orange Bowl
2003^Pete CarrollAP, CCR,[52] Eck, FW, Matthews, NY Times, Sporting News12–1Won Rose
2004^Pete CarrollAnderson & Hester, AP, Berryman, Billingsley, CCR, Colley Matrix, DeVold, Dunkel, Eck, Massey, Matthews, NFF, NY Times, Rothman, Sporting News, Sagarin, Williamson
Vacated †: BCS,[51] FWAA,[53] USA Today/ESPN (coaches)
13–0Won Orange Bowl/BCS (vacated)
2007Pete CarrollDunkel ‡11–2Won Rose Bowl

^Claimed national championships - USC claims the 1928, 1931, 1932, 1939, 1962, 1967, 1972, 1974, 1978, 2003, and 2004 championships.[46]

† The FWAA stripped USC of its 2004 Grantland Rice Trophy and vacated the selection of its national champion for 2004. The BCS also vacated USC's participation in the 2005 Orange Bowl and USC's 2004 BCS National Championship, and the AFCA Coaches' Poll Trophy was returned.[54][55]

‡ The NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records book lists Dunkel as having selected LSU, while Dunkel's official website gives USC as its 2007 selection.[56]

Conference championships

USC has won 39 conference championships, all within the Pac-12 Conference or its predecessors. The 2004 and 2005 championships were vacated.[57]

  • 1927†, 1928, 1929, 1931, 1932, 1938†, 1939, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1947, 1952, 1959†, 1962, 1964†, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1984, 1987†, 1988, 1989, 1993†, 1995†, 2002†, 2003, 2004^, 2005^, 2006†, 2007†, 2008, 2017

† Co-championship

^ Vacated due to NCAA penalty

Division championships

USC has won 3 division championships, all in the South division of the Pac-12.[57]

Season Division Coach Opponent CG result
2011Pac-12 SouthLane KiffinInelligible
2015Pac-12 SouthSteve Sarkisian / Clay HeltonStanfordL 22–41
2017Pac-12 SouthClay HeltonStanfordW 31–28

‡ Ineligible for postseason
† Co-championship

Bowl games

USC has a bowl game record of 35–19 through the 2018 season.[58] The Trojans appeared in 34 Rose Bowls, winning 25, both records for the bowl. These are also the most times a team has appeared in or won any bowl game. This includes the 2017 Rose Bowl Game. USC was banned from entering a bowl during either the 2010 or 2011 seasons as part of the extremely extensive sanctions resulting from the University of Southern California athletics scandal. Below is the list of USC's ten most recent bowl appearances.

USC's last 10 bowl games
Bowl Score Date Season Opponent Stadium Location Attendance Head coach
Rose Bowl W 32–18 January 1, 2007 2006 Michigan Rose Bowl Pasadena, CA 93,852 Pete Carroll
Rose Bowl W 49–17 January 1, 2008 2007 Illinois Rose Bowl Pasadena, CA 93,923 Pete Carroll
Rose Bowl W 38–24 January 1, 2009 2008 Penn State Rose Bowl Pasadena, CA 93,293 Pete Carroll
Emerald Bowl W 24–13 December 26, 2009 2009 Boston College AT&T Park San Francisco, CA 40,121 Pete Carroll
Sun Bowl L 7–21 December 31, 2012 2012 Georgia Tech Sun Bowl Stadium El Paso, TX 47,922 Lane Kiffin
Las Vegas Bowl W 45–20 December 21, 2013 2013 Fresno State Sam Boyd Stadium Las Vegas, NV 42,178 Clay Helton
Holiday Bowl W 45–42 December 27, 2014 2014 Nebraska Qualcomm Stadium San Diego, CA 55,789 Steve Sarkisian
Holiday Bowl L 21–23 December 30, 2015 2015 Wisconsin Qualcomm Stadium San Diego, CA 48,329 Clay Helton
Rose Bowl W 52–49 January 2, 2017 2016 Penn State Rose Bowl Pasadena, CA 95,128 Clay Helton
Cotton Bowl Classic L 7–24 December 29, 2017 2017 Ohio State AT&T Stadium Arlington, TX 67,510 Clay Helton

Head coaches

USC head coaches from 1888 to present.[59]

No. Coach Years Record
1, 2Henry H. Goddard & Frank H. Suffel18882–0
No coach1889, 1891–18967–7–1
3Lewis R. Freeman18975–1
No coach1898–19008–5–3
4Clair S. Tappaan19010–1
5John Walker19034–2
6Harvey Holmes1904–190719–5–3
7William I. Traeger19083–1–1
8, 10Dean Cromwell1909–1910, 1916–191821–8–6
9Ralph Glaze1914–19157–7
11Gus Henderson1919–192445–7
12Howard Jones1925–1940121–36–13
13Sam Barry19412–6–1
14Jeff Cravath1942–195054–28–8
15Jess Hill1951–195645–17–1
16Don Clark1957–195913–16–1
17John McKay1960–1975127–40–8
18, 21John Robinson1976–1982, 1993–1997104–35–4
19Ted Tollner1983–198626–20–1
20Larry Smith1987–199244–25–3
22Paul Hackett1998–200019–18
23Pete Carroll2001–200983–18 †
24Lane Kiffin2010–201328–15
25Ed Orgeron20136–2
26, 28Clay Helton2013 (bowl), 2015–Present40–21
27Steve Sarkisian2014–201512–6

† Does not include 14 wins and 1 loss vacated due to NCAA penalty[59]
In 2013, Kiffin was fired after first 5 games, Orgeron served as interim head coach for next 8 games before resigning and Helton was interim head coach for bowl game; In 2015, Sarkisian was fired after first 5 games and Helton was interim head coach for next 7 games before becoming permanent head coach.


Tailback U

USC is sometimes called "Tailback U" (Tailback University) because a number of running backs who played for the Trojans won the Heisman Trophy.[60] These running backs include Mike Garrett (1965), O. J. Simpson (1968), Charles White (1979), Marcus Allen (1981), and Reggie Bush (2005).

Fight On!

Fight On is the fight song of the USC Trojans. The term "Fight On" is also used as a battle cry, often with the two finger "V" salute for Victory given in accompaniment.[61] The V gesture has its origins with the ancient Trojans, who would cut off the index and middle finger of soldiers they conquered so the conquered could no longer wield a sword in battle.[62]

Jersey No. 55

"Tradition surrounds certain numbers at USC, most notably 55," wrote Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times.[63] "Junior Seau, Willie McGinest, Chris Claiborne and Keith Rivers," he added, "are among the linebackers who have worn a number that Trojans coaches have been careful to distribute." Wrote Andy Kamenetzky of in an article titled "Tradition of elite linebackers alive in 55," "Membership, along with the hallowed No. 55 jersey, has been offered to a select few over the past few decades. Names such as Junior Seau. Keith Rivers. Willie McGinest. Chris Claiborne. Names forever etched in USC lore."[64]


In the first 30 years of USC football, the school maintained rivalries with local Southern California schools like Occidental and Pomona, but these ended by the 1920s when USC joined the PCC and grew into a national caliber team.[65]

"Perfect Day"

A "Perfect Day" (a phrase created by the school's football announcer Pete Arbogast) to any USC fan is a USC win coupled with losses by UCLA and Notre Dame.[66] There have been 62 "Perfect Days" since the first one occurred in 1921. Perfect days have been possible since 1919, when UCLA began playing football.

An "Imperfect Day" is when either UCLA or Notre Dame have won.

Notre Dame

USC plays Notre Dame each year, with the winner keeping the Jeweled Shillelagh. The inter-sectional game has featured more national championship teams, Heisman trophy winners, All-Americans, and future NFL hall-of-famers than any other collegiate match-up. The two schools have played the game annually since 1926 (except for years 1943–45 when World War II travel restrictions kept the game from being played). Unlike most rivalry games, the game enjoys neither the possibility of acquiring regional "bragging rights" nor the import of intra-league play. The game has been referred to as the greatest inter-sectional rivalry in college football.[67][68][69][70][71] Notre Dame leads the series 47–36–5 through the 2019 season.[72]


USC's rivalry with UCLA is unusual in that they are one of a few pairs of Division I FBS programs that share a major city, as well as conference. Both are located within the Los Angeles city limits, approximately 10 miles (16 km) apart. Until 1982, the two schools also shared the same stadium: the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

The crosstown rivals play each year for city bragging rights and the Victory Bell; and often for the right to go to the Rose Bowl as representative for the Pac-12. The UCLA rivalry tends to draw the focus of student supporters since many USC students have friends or family members attending "that other school" (of course, many UCLA students refer to their USC friends in the same manner) and many Southern California families are divided between Trojan Cardinal and Bruin Blue. The annual matchup always has both teams wearing their traditional home uniforms, featuring a Cardinal vs Blue matchup. USC leads the all-time series 47–32–7 through the 2018 season.[73]


Stanford is USC's oldest rival,[74] in a series that dates to 1905. In the early years of football on the West Coast, the power sat in the Bay Area with the Stanford-Cal rivalry and USC rose to challenge the two established programs. During the early and mid-20th century Stanford football occasionally enjoyed periods of great regional success on the gridiron. USC and Stanford, being the two private universities with major football teams on the west coast, naturally drew the ire of one another. During the early 2000s, however, Stanford had not maintained their earlier success and the rivalry had faded to many USC fans.[74]

The rivalry was renewed with the arrival of Jim Harbaugh at Stanford in 2007. Harbaugh defeated Carroll 2–1 in their three matchups with both victories occurring in the Coliseum. In the 2009 meeting, USC sustained their worst loss in 43 years and surrendered the most points to an opponent, a record that would stand for three seasons. The game led the Los Angeles Times to declare that Stanford was "at the top of the USC 'Must Kill' list."[75][76] Harbaugh added another win in 2010 against Carroll's successor Lane Kiffin before leaving after that season to become head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

USC leads the series 62–33–3 through the 2019 season.[77]


Early facilities

Prior to the construction of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1923, the Trojans played football in a number of facilities.[78] Before 1893, the Trojans played football in a vacant lot on Jefferson Boulevard before the lot was developed as residences. In the 1890s, USC's primary home field was Athletic Park. Several games in the 1890s and all games in 1916 were played in Fiesta Park in downtown Los Angeles. The 1900 homestand was played at Chutes Park, a facility located within a Los Angeles pleasure park shared with the Los Angeles Angels baseball team, while the 1903 season was played at nearby Prager Park. Three games in the 1910s were played at Washington Park, the successor to Chutes Park. From 1904 to 1910, 1914–15, and 1917-22, most of USC's home games were played at the on-campus Bovard Field. USC also played home games in Pasadena, at Sportsman's Park, Tournament Park, and the Rose Bowl.

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is one of the largest stadiums in the United States. USC has played football in the Coliseum ever since the grand stadium was built in 1923. In fact, the Trojans played in the first varsity football game ever held there (beating Pomona College 23–7 on October 6, 1923). The Coliseum hosted the opening and closing ceremonies and track events of the 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympics, and is slated to be a venue for the 2028 Summer Olympics. Over the years, the Coliseum has been home to many sports teams besides the Trojans, including UCLA football, the NFL's Los Angeles Rams and Raiders, the Los Angeles Chargers in 1960 of the AFL, and Los Angeles Dodgers baseball, including the 1959 World Series. The Coliseum has hosted various other events, from concerts and speeches to track meets and motorcycle races. The Coliseum has a present full-capacity of 92,000 seats (almost all are chair-back seats). The Coliseum is located on 17 acres (69,000 m2) in Exposition Park, which also houses museums, gardens and Banc of California Stadium.[79] It has also earned the nickname, "The Grand Old Lady". The Coliseum is both managed and operated by USC under a master lease agreement with the LA Memorial Coliseum Commission, as was the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena for a number of years prior to its 2016 demolition.[80]

The John McKay Center at USC

Opened in 2012, the $70 Million, 110,000-square-foot athletic and academic center named after legendary football coach John McKay is home to the USC Trojan Football Department. The building houses meeting rooms, coaches' offices and a locker room for the football program, as well as the Stevens Academic Center (including space for tutoring, counseling, study and computer rooms for student-athletes), a weight room, an athletic training room and a state-of-the-art digital media production facility for all of USC's 21 sports.[81]

The centerpiece of the McKay Center is the two-story video board in the Parker Hughes atrium, which can display six big-screen televisions at once as well as promotional videos and graphics. The building's a 60,000-square-foot basement includes a weight room, athletic training room, locker rooms and a players lounge, a 25,000-square-foot ground floor with Student-Athlete Academic Services center, a reception area and outdoor courtyard, and a 25,000-square-foot second floor with football coaches' offices, football team meeting rooms, outdoor patio and a state-of-the-art video production facility. The John McKay Center is adjacent to Heritage Hall, the Galen Dining Center, Brittingham Field and the Howard Jones Field/Brian Kennedy Field practice facility.[81]

Howard Jones Field/Brian Kennedy Field

The USC football team practices on campus at Howard Jones Field/Brian Kennedy Field. The facility originally known as Howard Jones Field was expanded in the fall of 1998 to include Brian Kennedy Field. In early 1999, Goux's Gate, named for the player and popular long-time assistant coach Marv Goux, was erected at the entrance to the practice field.[82]

Individual award winners

Individual players have won numerous accolades with seven officially recognized Heisman Trophy winners, 38 College Football Hall of Fame inductees, and 157 All-Americans. USC's first consensus All-American was offensive guard Brice Taylor in 1925, who notably excelled despite missing his left hand, and who was one of USC's first black players.

Heisman Trophy winners

Seven USC players have been awarded the Heisman Trophy. All of them (with the exception of Reggie Bush) have also their numbers retired by the Trojans.[83][84] Bush's Heisman was forfeited in 2010 after an NCAA investigation ruled him ineligible to participate as a student-athlete during his Trophy season.

USC Heisman Trophy winners and retired numbers
No. Player Pos. Career No. retired
3Carson PalmerQB1999-20022002
5Reggie BushHB2003-05(2005 - 2015)
11Matt LeinartQB2001-052004
12Charles WhiteRB1977-791979
20Mike GarrettRB1963-19651965
32O.J. SimpsonRB1967-681968
33Marcus AllenRB1978-811981
  •      Although the number is not officially retired, the Trojans have not reissued it, as of 2015.[85]

Heisman Trophy voting

Name Pos. Year Place
Jim Sears HB/S 1952 7th
Jon Arnett HB 1956 10th
O.J. Simpson TB 1967 2nd
Anthony Davis TB 1974 2nd
Ricky Bell TB 1975 3rd
Ricky Bell TB 1976 2nd
Charles White TB 1978 4th
Paul McDonald QB 1979 6th
Rodney Peete QB 1988 2nd
Keyshawn Johnson WR 1995 7th
Matt Leinart QB 2003 6th
Mike Williams WR 2003 8th
Matt Leinart QB 2005 3rd
Matt Barkley QB 2011 6th
Marqise Lee WR 2012 4th

All-time USC football team

Chosen by Athlon Sports in 2001[86]

National player awards

National coaching awards

John McKay, Head Coach (1962), (1972)
Pete Carroll, Head Coach (2003)
Norm Chow, Offensive Coordinator (2002)
  • FWAA Co-First Year Coach of the Year
Clay Helton, Head Coach (2017)

Hall of Fame

College Football Hall of Fame inductees

USC inductees through 2017.[87]

Name Position Years Inducted Ref.
Howard JonesCoach1908–19401951[88]
Morley DruryQB1925–19271954[89]
Harry SmithG1937–19391955[90]
Erny PinckertHB1929–19311957[91]
Aaron RosenbergG1931–19331966[92]
Ernie SmithT1930–19321970[93]
Dan McMillanT1917, 1919–19211971[94]
Mort KaerHB1924–19261972[95]
John FerraroT1943–1944, 1946–19471974[96]
Frank GiffordHB1949–19511975[97]
Cotton WarburtonQB1932–19341975[98]
Tay BrownT1930–19321980[99]
Johnny BakerG1929–19311983[100]
O.J. SimpsonHB1967–19681983[101]
Mike GarrettHB1963–19651985[102]
Mike McKeeverG1958–19601987[103]
Ron YaryT1965–19671987[104]
John McKayCoach1960–19751988[105]
Paul ClearyEnd1946–19471989[106]
Lynn SwannWR1971–19731993[107]
Marvin PowellT1974–19761994[108]
Charles WhiteHB1976–19791996[109]
Brad BuddeG1976–19791998[110]
Marcus AllenHB1978–19812000[111]
Jon ArnettHB1954–19562001[112]
Ronnie LottS1977–19802002[113]
Ricky BellRB1973–19762003[114]
Charle YoungTE1970–19722004[115]
Anthony DavisRB1972–19742005[116]
Richard WoodLB1972–19742007[117]
John RobinsonCoach1976–20042009[118]
Sam CunninghamFB1970–19722010[119]
Tony BoselliOT1991–19942014[120]
Matt LeinartQB2003–20052017[121]

Pro Football Hall of Fame

Canadian Football League

Trojans in the entertainment industry

Beginning in the silent movie era, wrote Garry Wills, "USC football players mingled with the movie stars who came to their games and offered them bit parts in their movies."[122] One such player was John Wayne, who played tackle on the 1925 and 1926 team; another was Ward Bond, who played on the 1926–1928 teams.[123] (As a publicity stunt, the Atlanta Falcons drafted the 64-year-old John Wayne the 1972 NFL draft.[124])

Other Trojan football players who went on to have movie careers include O.J. Simpson (actor),[125] Allan Graft (director and stunt coordinator),[126] Aaron Rosenberg (producer),[127] Mazio Royster (actor),[128] Patrick O'Hara (actor),[129] Russell Saunders (director),[130] Nate Barragar (director),[131] Jesse Hibbs (actor),[132] Tim Rossovich (actor).,[133] and Cotton Warburton (film editor).[134]


  • Radio flagship: KSPN 710-AM in Los Angeles; KLAA 830-AM in Orange, California, is the overflow station when there is a conflict with another game airing on KSPN.
  • Spanish-language radio flagship: KTNQ 1020-AM in Glendale, California
  • Broadcasters: Pete Arbogast (play-by-play), Paul McDonald (analyst) and John Jackson (sideline reporter)
  • Spanish-language broadcasters: Pepe Mantilla (play-by-play), Daniel Arreola (analyst/play-by-play) and Erika Garza (analyst)
  • Past broadcasters: Tom Kelly, Lee Hacksaw Hamilton, Tim Ryan, Larry Kahn, Mike Walden, Chick Hearn, Petros Papadakis, Fred Gallagher, and Mike Lamb, among the most recent USC radio broadcasters. Until 1995, radio station KNX AM-1070 in Los Angeles was the school's football flagship station. From 2001 to 2006, KMPC AM-1540 was the Trojans' flagship station. Pete Arbogast, who has called Trojans football for 14 of the last 20 seasons, announced his sixth Rose Bowl game on January 1, 2009. Arbogast also called the Rose Bowl game for USC for the university's campus radio station, KSCR, in 1978 and 1979
  • Public address announcer: Eric Smith

Future non-conference opponents

Announced schedules as of July 12, 2019.[135]

2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025 2026
vs Alabama (in Arlington, TX) UC Davis Rice Nevada San Jose State Fresno State Notre Dame
New Mexico at Notre Dame Fresno State at Notre Dame Notre Dame at Notre Dame
Notre Dame BYU Notre Dame BYU

See also

  • Giles Pellerin, who attended 797 consecutive USC football games from 1925 until his death during the USC - UCLA game in 1998


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