There are moments in your life that stick out more than others and USC will forever account for more than a handful of those memories in my mind.
I remember when I got my acceptance letter in the mail and prayed for good news as I carefully opened the envelope in front of my mom and dad. I’ve never screamed so loud after reading a single sentence.
I’ll never forget waking up before sunrise on graduation day and drinking a little more than I probably should have with my friends at the “9-0” bar before accepting my diploma.
And I vividly recall how nervous I was before teaching my first class at USC, almost a decade after I graduated. As someone who dreaded public speaking when I was in school, I’m still not sure how I teach a weekly three-hour class at my alma mater.
These are the moments that shape my view of USC as an alumnus and adjunct professor. I’m proud to have earned a degree from USC and I’m proud to be helping current students earn their degrees there.
Tuesday's bribery scandal shed a light on a dark side of the college entrance process and the power wielded by the rich and privileged, but it's hard for me to allow the actions of a handful of corrupt individuals to change the way I look at USC and its students.
I’m not naïve enough to think the scandal and everything the school has been through over the last decade hasn’t permanently stained the university and everyone associated with the school. USC will recover but these are deep scars that can never completely be erased.
It’s impossible, however, to paint the multicultural tapestry that makes up USC with one broad brush stroke. The country club atmosphere that has infested the athletic department isn’t indicative of the faculty and student body I interact with regularly outside of Heritage Hall. Of course, that wasn’t going to stop the texts and tweets from lighting up my phone Tuesday.
“Who did your parents have to bribe to get you into USC?”
“Were you a water polo recruit at USC too?”
“Was it hard photo shopping your picture on an athlete to get into USC?”
The jokes come with the territory of being connected to a university embroiled in another controversy where wealth and status take precedent over integrity and qualifications.
But when I think about USC, I don’t think of Lori Loughlin’s daughter, Olivia Jade Giannulli, a YouTube celebrity who became a USC student after Loughlin reportedly paid $500,000 to get her two daughters into the school.
I think of my student Jake Olson, a football player who lost his sight when he was 12 and shows up to class every week with his guide dog Quebec. He has never made an excuse about his disability and next week will bench press at USC’s Pro Day to raise money for the treatment of retinoblastoma, the cancer that took his eyesight.
He earned his way into his dream school, onto the football team as a long snapper and in May will earn his degree.
At the end of my first class every semester, I tell my students they can ask me anything they want and I promise I will answer them honestly. I usually get the same questions every year. Who’s the best and worst athlete you’ve ever covered? What’s Kobe Bryant like? Are the Lakers ever going to make the playoffs again? But I got a new one from Nathan Desai, a senior majoring in journalism, this semester. He wondered why I continued teaching at USC with a work schedule that often takes me around the country.
I had to take a moment to think about it. It certainly wasn’t for the money. My salary as an adjunct professor is barely enough to cover the cost of USC football season tickets. It doesn’t include the cost of parking on campus or even a discount on the cup of coffee I buy in the lobby before class starts.
“I do it because I love this university,” I told him. “This is a special place. I cherish the memories I had here as a student and I hope to pass that on to you.”
The Lakers record on March 14, 2018, was 31-36. The Lakers record one year later with LeBron James is 31-36.
The only thing harder for Lakers fans than watching this roster, assembled by Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, limp toward a sixth consecutive lottery season has to be watching the Clippers moving up the Western Conference standings. Lakers legend and current Clippers consultant Jerry West wanted to finish his career with the Lakers but they wanted a fresh start with Johnson and Pelinka, neither of whom had run a basketball team. That allowed the Clippers and owner Steve Ballmer to swoop in and hire West, who has not only helped assemble an unlikely playoff team this season but can build a championship contender by recruiting two max free agents this summer.
From Tuesday through Saturday, Las Vegas will host 40 men’s and women’s basketball tournament games and award seven conference tournament championships and NCAA tournament automatic bids. Throw in the watch parties on the Strip next week during the NCAA tournament and it’s not hard to see why Las Vegas is the unofficial home of March Madness.
The best bet in Las Vegas this week might be USC’s 25-1 odds to win the Pac-12 Conference men’s tournament. It's not that USC is that good, it's that the Pac-12 is that bad.