State of Troy: May 2015

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Each month, we interview USC Athletic Director Pat Haden to get his take on the hot topics around Heritage Hall.

Haden on sand volleyball's perfect season and national championship...

Team-SandVolley-15.JPGConsidering this is just our fourth season, it is remarkable. There are now over 50 teams playing sand volleyball, so this is no longer a minor sport. Next year, it becomes an official NCAA sponsored sport. We have had only a special few undefeated national champions here at USC, and I was lucky enough to play on one of them back in 1972, so I know how hard it is. To go from not fielding the sport to undefeated in four years is a real testament to coach Anna Collier and the students that she has recruited.

Haden on another strong NFL Draft for the Trojans...

Playing in the NFL is a great job if you can get it. We know that one of the reasons students come here is because we have such a rich tradition of not only graduating our players, but also putting more in the NFL than any other school in the country. It is wonderful to chase that dream as long as you are not precluded from realizing other opportunities as well.

Haden on needing Trojan Athletic Fund members now more than ever...

Thumbnail image for Jimmy Jones for Post.jpgIf you have been paying attention to the conversations around collegiate athletics, you are aware of the budgetary challenges athletic departments are now facing. We want to do all that we possibly can for our students, including full cost of attendance, $1 million more in food, and the O'Bannon deferred compensation costs. This is why supporting the Trojan Athletic Fund is so critically important, so we can continue to have a broad based program. We have some great upcoming events, including the Trojan Huddles throughout Southern California, for returning and prospective Trojan Athletic Fund members.

Haden on the academic progress of the athletic department during his tenure as Graduation approaches...

I am very happy with the direction that we have taken in our academic profile over the last five years. We are graduating over 90% of our student athletes who complete their athletic eligibility at USC. We are just a few percentage points behind the general population, and we want to close that gap. It is not easy being a student here as well as an athlete, but we are making great progress.

Haden on the USC Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2015 being inducted next week...

We have 16 new members, and they are all phenomenal. Some of the names may not resonate with our younger fans, but if you look at someone like Jimmy Jones (pictured), who was an African-American quarterback here in the late 60's and early 70's, one of the very first in America, and the success that he had here and in his career, there are going to be so many stories like that among the 16. There will be names that people know like Pete Carroll, but even the names that you do not recognize, they are part of this rich fabric and tradition of USC athletics. It is really a stirring evening. It reminds you how deep and strong our athletic heritage is.

Power Surge

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No. 13 USC baseball cranked three more home runs on Tuesday to give the team 26 for the season, the most by the program since 2010. Junior A.J. Ramirez is at the front of the slugging line, belting seven bombs, the most by a Trojan since Ricky Oropesa in 2011.

Ramirez and his teammates will have many more chances this weekend against Stanford's pitching staff, which has given up more runs than any other team in the conference. The three-game series against the last place Cardinal is important for USC, which is down to nine regular season games remaining. The final two series after this home stand are at Cal and home to Arizona State, two teams ahead of USC in the Pac-12 standings.


Change at the Top for Men's Volleyball

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USC men's volleyball head coach Bill Ferguson will not return after nine years leading the program, athletic director Pat Haden announced today.

"We want to thank Bill for his service to USC these past nine years," said Haden.  "He fielded competitive teams that often were in the national discussion and he recruited some accomplished players who represented our University well.  He took over a program that had been wallowing for five years and changed its culture not only on the court, but in the classroom and in service to the community.  We will now move forward to re-energize the program."

Said Ferguson:  "I love USC and I always will.  I want to thank the athletic department for the opportunity to coach at USC and for all they did for me, my family and the program.  I'd also like to thank the men's volleyball alumni for their support.  I am proud of the work I did here, and I am proud of the players and assistant coaches who came through our program and those currently here.  The program is in very good shape for the future and I look forward to the success it will enjoy."

Ferguson won 59.5% (150-102) of his matches during his nine-year (2007-15) career.  He led the Trojans to three trips to the NCAA Championships (with a pair of runner-up finishes when he was named National Coach of the Year), two Mountain Pacific Sports Federation regular-season titles and an MPSF Tournament crown.  Among the players he coached were National Players of the Year Murphy Troy and Tony Ciarelli, along with All-Americans Micah Christenson and Riley McKibbin and current beach star Tri Bourne.

His 2015 team went 19-9, was fourth in the MPSF, advanced to the MPSF Tourney semifinals and finished with a No. 7 national ranking.  The previous two seasons (2013-14), USC had a combined 22-29 record while placing eighth and 11th in the 13-team MPSF.

A search for Ferguson's successor will begin immediately.


Trojan Track Corner: BeeJay Lee

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USC track & field captain BeeJay Lee is a pocketful of dynamite. At just 5-foot-6, he explodes out of the blocks in the sprints, winning the Pac-12 100m dash title in 2013 (10.07).

Lee is even sharper in the classroom. Boasting a 3.17 GPA, the senior is more than prepared for life after track.

How to be the Champ

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No. 1 USC women's tennis was paid a special visit this week before the Women of Troy embark on the final adventure of the season. USC's goal is to be the national champion, so who better to give an inspirational pep talk than the champ herself, Laila Ali.

The boxing great, who is married to USC All-American WR Curtis Conway, has the Trojans ready to fight for the NCAA title, starting Saturday against Youngstown State at Marks Stadium (Noon). A dual match victory would mean a second round encounter with either Virginia Tech or Long Beach State (Sunday at Noon).

Click here for more.

USC women's tennis is 21-2 on the season, having already claimed the Pac-12 crown. The Women of Troy are the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1985, hoping to bring home the program's first national championship since that same year.


Secret to Success

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No. 7 USC men's tennis begins its quest for a sixth national championship in the last seven years on Friday against Idaho at Marks Stadium (1 p.m.). The Trojans are hosting the first and second rounds, so the winner of their dual match will play the winner of San Diego and San Diego State on Saturday at 3 p.m. for a spot in the Sweet 16 (May 14 in Waco, Texas).

Click here for the complete preview.

Head coach Peter Smith has always been able to strike the right balance between the physical and mental sides of tennis. As an example, the Trojans, both players and coaches, are often seen on Brittingham Field in shirts and skins competing in Ultimate Frisbee.

USC Sends Support to Nepal

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

On May 4, a six-person medical response team from USC's Keck School of Medicine departed for Nepal to deliver and assist with critical care for victims of the devastating earthquake that occurred on April 25. The USC athletic department was proud to provide bags for the team to transport medical aid supplies on its journey.

The response team is led by Keck School of Medicine Dean Carmen A. Puliafito and Demetrios Demetriades chief, division of trauma and surgical critical care in the Department of Surgery. Accompanying them are other members of the trauma and surgical critical care team. Their trip is scheduled for nine days.

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Photo Gallery: SCelebrate the Women of Troy

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Barbara Hedges, who helped create the Women of Troy, led the sendoff of this year's class at an event last week. After Hedges' remarks, the seniors introduced themselves and elaborated on their bright futures ahead.

Here are the photos from the evening at Bashor Lounge courtesy of John McGillen:

Two in the Too-Early

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

After two Trojans were taken in the first round of last week's NFL Draft, ESPN's Todd McShay thinks the same will be true in 2016. In his way-too-early mock draft for the upcoming season, the insider has junior linebacker Su'a Cravens going No. 19 and senior center Max Tuerk going No. 32 overall.

Regarding the 2014 All-Pac-12 first team center and now candidate for the Rimington Award, McShay writes, "Tuerk possesses excellent versatility, having started games at left tackle as a true freshman before starting the full season at left guard in 2013 and the full season at center in 2014."

Cravens still has two years of eligibility remaining at USC, but is an early candidate for the Bednarik and Nagurski Awards this season. McShay notes, "Cravens has the size (6-1, 225 pounds) of an in-the-box safety who can also play some weakside linebacker. He has trouble covering the quickest slot receivers, but he can hold up in coverage for the most part because of his length and instincts."


Nwanebu Leaving USC

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After long consideration, USC women's volleyball All-American Ebony Nwanebu has decided to leave the university. The 6-5 outside hitter was a first-team AVCA All-American selection and the National Freshman of the Year in 2013. While training with the U.S. Women's National Team in the summer of 2014, Nwanebu sustained a back injury from which she would spend most of the fall season recovering.

The time allowed her to consider and address personal issues with regards to expectations, injury, depression and anxiety, topics faced by student-athletes across the country. The Texas native recently expressed her thoughts in a candid blog post.

Click here to read the entire blog post.

Ebony writes that she is "leaving USC with a heavy heart," and although she doesn't know what her future holds, she appreciated her time at USC:  "I'd like to take a moment and thank my USC family and supporters. Thank you so much for these past two years. Your devotion and constant support has been one of the things that kept me rooted here. To my teammates, words cannot express how much I will love and miss you with everything I have. Thank you for being my second family and my sisters, and for accepting without (too much) judgement, the thousands of unnecessarily random hugs I annoyed you all with every practice. To my coaches, thank you for teaching me everything you know and for helping me grow so much."