Saying goodbye to the Coliseum and my time at USC

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Ahead of my final game at the LA Coliseum as a USC student, I reflect on my time there and my USC experience.

LOS ANGELES — When I first stepped foot inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as an 18 year-old USC freshman on August 31, 2019, I had no idea what to expect.

Growing up on the East coast, I had very little exposure to USC Football. My only real memories associated with the program were seeing Matt Barkley on the cover of Sports Illustrated Kids when I was eleven (I still have the issue, by the way) and watching the 2017 Rose Bowl in the Dallas airport during a layover.

I have been a huge sports fan my entire life, especially with regard to football. As a kid in the Boston area, I was incredibly lucky to watch Tom Brady lead the New England Patriots to six Super Bowl titles within the first eighteen years of my life. But I had never gotten super into college football, and I certainly never had a reason to pay attention to a program 3,000 miles away from my home.

Hence, there were many things that I did not know when I stepped inside the Coliseum on that fateful day more than four years ago. I did not know that you were supposed to kick the flag pole on the walk over to the Coliseum. I did not know to yell out, “Beat . . . the insert opponent here” when the Trojan Marching Band played Conquest. I did not know the names of very many players, and one of the few that I did know—JT Daniels, the starting quarterback at the time—suffered a season-ending injury before halftime, to be replaced by a true freshman by the name of Kedon Slovis.

I very quickly learned all of that, though, and a whole lot more. I learned that Michael Pittman Jr. was quite good, and that Clay Helton was definitely not. I learned that the band always warmed up at Heritage Hall and performed on Trousdale Parkway on their way over to the Coliseum. I learned about Tommy, Traveler, Tirebiter, and, most importantly, Tusk.

It was during the COVID-19 Pandemic, however, that I really took my knowledge of USC Football to another level. During that time, I spent countless hours learning the history of a program that in the span of less than a year had gone from having zero meaning to me to becoming an integral part of my life.

I read hundreds of articles, both current ones and stories dating back decades. I watched dozens of old USC games on YouTube. I listened to podcasts, many of which were hosted by reporters I would later become colleagues with. (Shoutout to The Peristyle, Reign of Troy, WeAreSC, The Athletic, Keely Eure, and numerous others.) I studied stats, records, and former players, from Troy Polamalu to Tyler Petite. I even created a USC dynasty on an old copy of NCAA Football 13 that I was able to get my hands on and customized the roster to match the actual 2012 USC Football team.

Ironically enough, it was during a time where there were no games being played that I truly fell in love with USC Football. When the games finally did return and I came back to USC in the fall of 2021, I was more ready than ever for a season to remember.

Instead, I got to witness firsthand the worst USC Football team in six decades.

To say that I’ve seen a lot of ups and downs throughout my time in the student section of the Coliseum would be a massive understatement. I was there for the 56-24 embarrassment at the hands of Oregon in 2019. I was there for the entire 2021 fiasco, when each week seemed to bring a new low. I was there for the resurgence under Lincoln Riley last year, highlighted by a memorable night vs. Notre Dame when Caleb Williams essentially locked up USC’s eighth (yes, eighth) Heisman Trophy. And I’ve been there through the frustrations of this season, including the most recent debacles against Utah and Washington when the defense seemingly could not get a stop to save its life.

But through all of the ups and downs that I’ve witnessed inside the Coliseum, some things have remained constant. The drum major has stabbed the field before every home game. The Olympic torch has always been lit at the start of the fourth quarter. Traveler has run a lap around the Coliseum after each USC touchdown. And the Trojan Marching Band has continued to play Tribute to Troy over and over (and over and over and over and over and . . .).

One other thing has remained constant throughout that time, though, and it is the thing that I remain the most proud of. Over the course of four seasons and 26 home games, not once have I showed up the Coliseum late or left early. Even when UCLA put up 62 points on the Trojans two years ago in what felt like a rock bottom moment, I stayed past the final snap.

But all great things must eventually come to an end. After five years, four in-person seasons, three defensive coordinators, and two head coaches, Saturday will mark my final home game as a USC student.

To say that it is going to be a bittersweet moment would be a massive understatement. While I’m excited to sit in the student section one final time amidst a sold out Coliseum for a rivalry matchup, the notion that things will never be quite the same again has hit me hard.

I’m obviously not going away entirely. Regardless of what my plans hold and where my future takes me, USC Football will always be an incredibly important part of my life. But I will never again be able to experience it as a student, being around the team and the program every day, and quite literally living the USC experience.

This season certainly has not gone as planned. But I would not trade my time in the Coliseum for the world. Saturday, I hope to see the place rocking one final time as the Trojans battle the crosstown rival Bruins for the Victory Bell.

So to USC Football and The Greatest Stadium in the World: thank you for everything, and for allowing me to be an incredibly small part of your storied history.

Fight On Forever!!