The trumpeted blast of "Conquest" always sends chills through the spines of USC fans.
It is the regal sound of majesty ... of pride ... of triumph. Perhaps no other single bar of music, save the fight songs of Notre Dame and Michigan, is as identified and recognized with collegiate football power.
It's been 123 years since the birth of the USC football program. It is a program rich in tradition and teeming with pride. Success. Certainly. Success is a foundation of any program. Witness:
That experience begins long before kickoff.
Anyone who has ever set foot on campus recognizes the bronze statue of Tommy Trojan, perhaps the most famous of collegiate landmarks around the country. Forged in 1930, Tommy Trojan has been the symbol of the university's fighting spirit and the focal point of its pep rallies.
Any trip to the USC campus merits a quick walk through the center of campus and past the most famous man of Troy.
Walking south toward the Coliseum, the sights and sounds of football increase with every step. There is a definite Cardinal and Gold flavor all around. Pennants, streamers, shirts, sweaters, caps, jerseys and other regalia bear the school colors and insignia. It's been this way since 1895.
A side trip to the famous Heritage Hall is an absolute must. There you see the various displays and honors, the 11 national championship teams, the bronze Heisman replicas for Mike Garrett, O.J. Simpson, Charles White, Marcus Allen, Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. Hundreds of photos and displays ... All-Americans, Pac-10 championships, Rose Bowl trophies ... every moment in the history of Troy seems to be there.
You probably won't catch a glimpse of Lane Kiffin. Hours before game time, he's meeting with his staff and players, going over last-second details, checking notes, re-checking the game plans, making sure everybody is "up" for today's game. Everybody is. Nothing is left to chance.
The players arrive early. Some dress right away. Others get taped. Still others wander around the locker room. Certain players prepare by exchanging encouraging words to one another. There is a tinge of tension mixed with a bubbling of emotion. Some players, however, sit quietly, alone with their thoughts. There is a struggle about to begin, and they are on the firing line.
The Coliseum itself maintains a rustic elegance. The structure has seen many of the greatest athletes and performances ever. Its facade blends perfectly with the USC heritage and tradition. Despite the numerous facelifts and modernizing changes, she remains a grand old lady.
Going through the gates, you feel the rush of excitement as football fills your senses. Peering through the tunnel, you see the greenest green the Almighty has to offer. There is beauty in the symmetry of the yard markers. The place is enormous. Remember, this is a place of champions, past and present. You can feel those triumphant vibrations.
Game time is still a ways away, but you sense the excitement building. Fans greet one another as old friends, bonded by one common denominator ... Trojan football. This bond extends far beyond game day. Many are business associates, co-workers, friends, neighbors ... Troy's extended family has incredible reach.
USC's Song Girls join in the fun. Their spirited yells and dance routines have been seen throughout the world on national television. Somehow, they look even better in person.
The Trojans emerge from the locker room, their classic uniforms cast against the green canvas. Even with the massive backdrop of the Coliseum, the Trojans look huge. They are. They are the men of Troy.
The referees appear. The band plays. Traveler charges. Everything is ready. Everything is perfect. Kickoff is imminent.