Gauntlet Update: Epic Showdowns

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USC and UCLA will square off three times this week with more on the line than just city pride.  The Trojans and Bruins will battle in women's water polo, men's tennis and women's tennis, and all six teams are ranked in the Top 12.

Crosstown Gauntlet standings: UCLA 47.5, USC 37.5

Here is the schedule of showdowns this week:

No. 2 UCLA at No. 3 USC women's water polo - Uytengsu Aquatics Center today at 5 p.m.
  • The match will be carried LIVE on Pac-12 Networks.
  • The Women of Troy defeated UCLA 7-6 in overtime to win the UCI Invitational on February 23 in the only meeting so far this season.
  • USC is looking for its fifth straight win over UCLA.

No. 5 UCLA at No. 3 USC men's tennis - Marks Stadium Friday at 10:30 a.m.

  • The dual match will be carried LIVE on Pac-12 Networks starting with singles play at Noon.
  • USC and UCLA are both undefeated in Pac-12 play, so Friday's winner will be declared the outright conference regular season champion.
  • The Trojans and Bruins have split the season series to date. USC won 4-3 at the ITA National Team Indoors, while UCLA controlled the match in Westwood (5-2).

No. 12 USC women's tennis at No. 2 UCLA - Westwood Friday at 12:30 p.m.

  • The dual match will be carried LIVE on Pac-12 Networks starting with singles play at 2 p.m.
  • The Bruins have taken both meetings this season sweeping the Trojans at the ITA National Indoors and winning 5-2 at Marks Stadium in March.
  • This is the regular season finale for the Women of Troy.


NCAA Amends Meal Plan

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The NCAA Legislative Council approved several changes Tuesday most notably amending the rule on feeding student-athletes to allow for unlimited meals and snacks for scholarship and non-scholarship participants.  Previously, walk-ons were not allowed to be provided food by the athletic department and scholarship athletes were limited to three meals a day or a food stipend.

Click here for more.

USC athletic director Pat Haden has been passionate about this issue since taking the job and talking to student-athletes who complained about being left hungry.  He also tweeted out his excitement about walk-ons being included in team meals as they play an invaluable role on any college team.

Trojan Wedding

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Former USC women's basketball star Briana Gilbreath and wide receiver Brice Butler made the Trojan Family official last weekend at a wedding ceremony in Texas.

Gilbreath currently plays in the WNBA for the Phoenix Mercury, while Butler, who transferred from USC to San Diego State, is on the Oakland Raiders. They met going into their freshman year at Troy as part of the "bridge program" and then started dating in 2009.

Click here for their story.

Briana's sister Stefanie, who also played for the Women of Troy, tweeted out the first photo of the Butler's.

2014 Spring Practice #13: Notes

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USC head coach Steve Sarkisian ended practice by breaking the biggest news of spring.
  • "If we were starting a game Saturday, Cody would be our starting quarterback," announced Sarkisian. "I think he's deserved it. I think he's earned it. I think he's performed well."
  • _MCG0117_CodyKessler_041514.jpgSarkisian said that Kessler's "experience" and "quick decision-making" tilted the decision in his favor. "I think we can win a lot of football games with Cody Kessler as our quarterback," said Sarkisian. "I'm proud of him."
  • While Kessler is officially the starting quarterback, Sarkisian stressed that the competition will "wage on", and he sees Max Browne as a future "star" and Jalen Greene "is going to be a great player."
  • Kessler took the news in stride showing the confidence of a QB with 10 wins already under his belt, and the drive to achieve much more than winning the job.  "Obviously, I was very excited. It's another big opportunity for me," he described his reaction to the news. "At the same time, I can't thank Max [Browne] and Jalen [Greene] enough for pushing me. It's not over. This is 'SC. It's always a competition every day."
  • Sarkisian met with all three quarterbacks before practice to break the news and point toward the season. "He is excited about the future and what I am doing. Obviously, the message was negative, but his attitude was positive," said redshirt freshman Max Browne. 
  • In regards to Browne, Sarkisian drew the parallel to the great quarterbacks of the recent past who had to wait their turn like Matt Leinart behind Carson Palmer and Mark Sanchez behind John David Booty.  "That was the thing I took away from the meeting the most. At the end of the day, they were all successful here," said Browne. "You never know when your shot is going to be. When you get it, make the most of it."
  • Kessler has the luxury of entering the summer as the undisputed leader of the offense. "I'm going to take that leadership role upon myself, and at the same time, continue to make myself better," he said. 
  • Individually, Kessler is focused on "being a general of this offense" and "every little detail" from play recognition to throwing accuracy.  He had his best practice of the spring today, according to Sarkisian.
  • Browne's goal is "staying consistent and bringing it all together" after showing flashes of brilliance this spring.  He has no intention to transfer saying, "I'm staying put. I'm here for good."
  • While the news is exciting for Kessler, he is not getting ahead of himself. "The season is a long way away. I'm worrying about Thursday," he said.
  • Here is Sarkisian's post-practice press conference almost entirely explaining his quarterback decision:

Mic'd Up: Tim Drevno

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Offensive line coach Tim Drevno was a major hire for Steve Sarkisian's first USC coaching staff considering his years under Jim Harbaugh molding powerful units up front for Stanford and the 49ers. 

Now, Drevno is building an offensive line with the athleticism to keep pace with the Trojans new uptempo system and the physicality to lead a run-first attack. 

Here is Drevno mic'd up for Spring Football:

Trojans in Business: Larsen Jensen

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

20131030_LarsenJensen_030.jpgName: Larsen Jensen

Resume: Navy SEAL and two-time Olympic medalist

Sport at USC: Swimming

Caroline Deisley: Despite obvious reasons, how did swimming or more importantly, collegiate athletics prepare you for joining the Navy?

Larsen Jensen: I think it prepared me for obvious reasons in the sense of you needed familiarity with the water and comfort in your ability with that. I would say that my experience on a sports team in particular at 'SC gave me a taste of what relying on your buddies is all about and what camaraderie is all about. I think that was something that I really wanted on the next level and that's what motivated me to join the military in the first place - just to sort of have an essence or an enhanced version of that camaraderie and teamwork that we experienced at 'SC.

CD: Who would you say was your biggest role model or the biggest supporter in making that decision to join the military?

LJ: That's a really tough question because I don't believe there was any one person who was more so than others. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my family. They were and always have been tremendously in support of my decisions, and obviously, they did a good job of molding me into a person who can make his own decisions. Also, my coaches at 'SC and all my friends and teammates that were out there really supported me and got behind me. Pretty much every task that I've tried to tackle in life, I've had a tremendous support base and I've been very, very lucky in particular to have the support base from 'SC.

Specifically, Dean Ellis of the business school was a tremendous influence on me and he's just an incredible guy. Coach Dave Salo who's currently the men's head swim coach over at 'SC was also a tremendous influence on me so those are two of the Trojan great names that I guess you could say have helped to mold me into the person I am today.

CD: What sticks with you about your time as a student-athlete at USC? You mentioned Dean Ellis, how was that working with teachers and administrators?

LJ: It was awesome and as is with most things in life, the best advice I can give is to enjoy it because it's always over too soon. Make sure you soak it in because too often we get wrapped up in how busy our schedule is and in my particular case, when the next meet is or what kind of times you want to produce or do as a team, the grades, the midterms, what's going on Saturday night...all that kind of stuff. It's so easy to get wrapped up in all of that. Every once in awhile I think it's important to take a step back and realize that you're at a really important spot not only physically but also in terms of a really unique spot in your life where you're just a college student and have things going on. You sort of take it for granted later in life when you don't get the naps in the middle of day or when you're done with classes to just go relax. You sort of miss that from time to time. It's a tremendous experience so just treasure it. 

CD: Was there anything as a collegiate athlete you wish you had known before you entered the real world?

LJ: No question. I think it's unfortunate that as a college athlete you get so absorbed in whatever your sport might be whether it be swimming, football, basketball, whatever, that you really don't see beyond that. You don't really prepare yourself as well as perhaps a lot of the other students do at school. When a lot of the other students are doing internships every summer, the athletes are generally stuck on campus practicing and training for the next game or the next event. You have almost all your eggs in one basket in the sense that you're just shooting for that athletic performance and not necessarily preparing yourself for the real world job that's going to be creeping up on you right around the corner. Any student-athlete out there that might be having the unfortunate experience of listening to me talk, I think definitely get out there, get internships and get exposure to whatever it is you may be passionate about in the professional business realm because even if you go on to be a professional athlete, you can ask anyone, it's very short-lived. They set you up very well; however, you can't neglect everything else because otherwise you're just going to be at a deficit to everyone else who has done an internship for those four years. 

Sports Business Analysis Transformed

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The USC Marshall School of Business and USA Today are teaming up to create a first-of-its-kind online platform for daily content covering the business of sports. A new site, The Fields of Green, will be dedicated to vital analysis of breaking news, current events and ongoing topics in the sports industry through curated blog posts, original columns and multimedia such as slideshows, infographics and video.

Click here to check it out.

"We are so pleased to be working with the USA TODAY Sports Media Group. Fields of Green brings something completely new to the table: timely, incisive analysis of issues in sports from a business perspective," said David Carter, executive director of the Sports Business Institute and a national authority on sports business and strategic marketing. "It's a niche that no one else is filling, and a tremendous opportunity to shed light on the developments driving the sports business industry today."

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Harberts Gets the Dream

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USC women's basketball two-time All-Pac-12 center Cassie Harberts will be reunited with former Women of Troy head coach Michael Cooper whose Atlanta Dream selected Harberts 20th overall in the 2014 WNBA Draft.  She is the 11th Trojan ever to be selected in a WNBA draft joining an elite sorority including her former teammates Jacki Gemelos and Briana Gilbreath.

Click here for the complete story.

Harberts departs USC as the No. 7 all-time leading scorer and No. 8 all-time rebounder in program history. As a senior, she led the Trojans to the program's first-ever Pac-12 Tournament title, and brought them back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006.

Mic'd Up: Chris Wilson

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The USC defensive line has earned consistent praise from head coach Steve Sarkisian this spring.  NT Antwaun Woods has been "the standard on the defensive side of the ball", while Claude Pelon and Delvon Simmons have both been tabbed as breakout candidates.

Even without All-American Leonard Williams at his disposal, new defensive line coach Chris Wilson is getting it done in his first few months.  Listen in to the coach at work in our latest mic'd up...

Recapturing the Feeling

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In the first month of the season, USC baseball celebrated four walk-off wins.  The Trojans' late-inning mojo has been largely absent since then though as they have lost three consecutive extra inning games.

In desperate need of a victory, USC recaptured that exhilarating feeling Saturday as two substitutes, freshman Reggie Southall and sophomore Turner Clouse, who both entered the game as pinch runners, combined to deliver the game-winning run on a sacrifice fly.  Finally able to exhale, the Trojans pounded out 13 runs on a season-high 19 hits Sunday to take the three-game series from Utah.

Click here for the recaps.

USC sits at 17-17 overall with Arizona coming to town for three games this week (April 17-19), which will all be broadcast live on Pac-12 Networks. 

Senior Jake Hernandez leads the team in hitting with a .354 BA.