USC Football Championship: Who Is the Best USC Football Player?

Jeremy Caroll

The USC Trojans football team competes in American football on behalf of the University of Southern California. National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and the Pac-12 Conference’s South Division (Pac-12).

Since its inception in 1888, the program has amassed more than 830 victories and 11 consensus NCAA Division I Football Championships.

13 perfect seasons, including eight perfect seasons, and 39 conference championships have been achieved by USC. More than any other university, USC has produced seven Heisman Trophy winners, 81 consensus first-team All-Americans, including 27 unanimous choices, and an astounding 510 NFL draught picks.  Former players Matt Leinart, O. J. Simpson, and Ronnie Lott, as well as coaches John McKay and Howard Jones, have all been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. As many as any other college or university, UCLA has a record of 14 honorees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

39 of the 53 bowl appearances made by the Trojans have been in the New Year’s Six Bowls. USC has the best all-time winning percentage among schools with 50 or more bowl appearances with a record of 34–19.

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Home games for the Trojans are held in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in University Park, Los Angeles, which is just across the Exposition Park Rose Garden from USC’s main campus.


A football squad was fielded at USC for the first time in 1888. USC thrashed the Alliance Athletic Club 16–0 in its inaugural game on November 14 of that year. When Arthur Carroll put together the inaugural squad, Frank Suffel and Henry H. Goddard served as playing coaches, and Goddard also offered to sew the team’s uniforms.  The next year, in the fall of 1889, USC played its first collegiate opponent, St. Vincent’s College, and won 40–0.

University of Southern California (USC), Occidental College (OC), Throop Polytechnic Institute (Cal Tech), and Chaffey College all joined the Intercollegiate Football Association of Southern California (the precursor of the SCIAC) in 1893. Pomona College turned down the invitation to participate. Los Angeles High School was also contacted and invited to attend.

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USC’s sporting teams were known as the Methodists (or “Fighting Methodists”) and the Wesleyans before being dubbed the Trojans in 1912. The lack of big football-playing institutions on the West Coast and travel restrictions in the early years confined its rivalry to Southern Californian campuses. Occidental, Caltech, Whittier, Pomona, and Loyola were also regular opponents for USC during this era. On November 4, 1905, the first time a USC squad traveled outside of Southern California, they were thrashed 16–0 by Stanford University. This was USC’s first game against a future Pac-12 conference opponent and the start of its longest rivalry, even though the teams would not face again until 1918 (Stanford switched from football to rugby union in the meantime). First games versus future Pac-12 rivals such as Oregon State (1914), California (1915), Oregon (1915), Arizona (1916), and Utah were also played during this time period (1915-1917, 1919).

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Rugby union replaced football at USC between 1911 and 1913, following in the footsteps of California and Stanford. A sportswriter for the Los Angeles Times coined “Trojans” as a nickname for USC’s athletes, coaches, and managers because of the “terrific handicaps under which the university’s athletes, coaches, and managers were laboring and against the overwhelming odds of larger and better-equipped rivals,” which he wrote was due to “the name’Trojans’ was coined.”


The NCAA-designated major selectors have awarded USC 17 national titles. 112–115 USC has won 11 national championships[66], including 7 in the AP Poll and/or Coaches’ Poll conducted by the wire services. The Dickinson System, a formula devised by a University of Illinois professor, was used to award national championships between 1926 and 1940 for two USC championships, 1928 and 1939. According to the 2010 NCAA FBS Record Book, the Dickinson System is recognized as a credible national championship selection tool.

A number of other FBS teams also claim to have received the Dickinson award, as does USC. The 1939 team was acknowledged as a USC national championship team in 2004.  Due to NCAA sanctions imposed as a consequence of a loss of institutional control and specifically in connection with Reggie Bush, the 2004 squad was forced to forfeit its final two games of the season, including the 2005 Orange Bowl. Because of the appeal, the BCS has been slow to remove USC’s 2004 title as a result. Finally, USC lost its appeal and surrendered the BCS championship in 2004.   Because the Associated Press refused to relinquish its 2004 championship, the Trojans are still considered co-champions of the country.


Some people refer to USC as “Tailback U” (Tailback University) because of its history of Heisman Trophy-winning running backs. Running backs like O.J. Simpson, Charles White, and Marcus Allen are included in this group.

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Keep the Fires Burning!
The Trojans’ anthem is “Fight On.” Also, the two-finger “V” salute signifying victory is commonly employed as a war cry to accompany the slogan “Fight On.”  Historically, the V gesture has its roots in the ancient Trojan practice of amputating the index and middle fingers of conquered soldiers in order to prevent the conquered from using a sword.


The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was built in 1923, but the Trojans had previously played football in a variety of venues.  There were no Trojans football teams prior to 1893 when the Jefferson Boulevard property was turned into homes. Athletic Park served as USC’s principal home field in the 1890s. Fiesta Park in downtown Los Angeles hosted a number of games in the 1890s and all of the games in 1916. For the 1900 and 1903 seasons, the Angels played their home games at Chutes Park, a venue of a Los Angeles amusement park shared with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

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Washington Park, which took the place of Chutes Park after that decade, hosted three games. Most of USC’s home games were played at Bovard Field on campus from 1904 to 1910, 1914–15, and 1917–22. Bovard Field closed in 1917. Pasadena was the site of USC’s other home games, which were played at Sportsman’s Park, Tournament Park, and the Rose Bowl, among other venues.

The Entertainment Sector Is Full Of Trojans

Football players from the University of Southern California socialized with the Hollywood stars who came to their games and offered them minor roles in their films, according to Garry Wills.  In addition to John Wayne and Ward Bond, both of whom played tackle on the 1925 and 1926 teams, there were a number of other notable players. John Wayne, 64, was picked by the Atlanta Falcons in the 1972 NFL draught as a publicity stunt

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In addition to O. J. Simpson (actor), Allan Graf (director and stunt coordinator), Aaron Rosenberg (producer), Mazio Royster (actor), Patrick O’Hara (an actor), Russell Saunders (director), Nate Barragar (director), Jesse Hibbs (an actor), Tim Rossovich (an actor), Cotton Warburton (a film editor), and Mike Henry (an actor), other former Trojan football players have gone on to have successful film careers.

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