For all the absurdities the new era of college football has already brought to scheduling, rumors swirled Wednesday that overshadow all of them: an Alabama-USC game could be slated for as early as 2016.
This particular rumor’s origin point is titular host of the national radio program The Dan Patrick Show. Alabama head coach Nick Saban confirmed via TideSports.com that the Crimson Tide was at least “looking” at a neutral field matchup with USC, albeit vaguely.
But not anything I can share with you right now. I don’t think we want to create speculation. We’re playing Wisconsin in Dallas the next year (2015), and we were supposed to play Penn State in 2016, they bailed out on us, so we’re looking for an opponent to play somewhere in 2016 right now
The potential matchup is wrought with intriguing story lines. Each program is steeped in tradition and both boast rich histories.
The 1970 Alabama-USC in Birmingham marked a watershed moment in the racial integration of SEC football, as the Trojans routed Bear Bryant’s all-white Crimson Tide team, 42-21.
“They were good players. By no means am I implying that they weren’t. But we were bigger, stronger and faster,” former USC running back Sam Cunningham told the Wall Street Journal in December 2009.
Nothing in the Alabama-USC relationship since matches the cultural or historical significance. Nearly 30 years past since they last played in the 1985 Aloha Bowl, though the seeds of a rivalry are already planted.
USC was the nation’s dominant program before Alabama began its rise in the late 2000s. Saban’s first national championship with the Crimson Tide was won in Pete Carroll’s last season at USC.
Alabama was the landing spot for former USC head coach Lane Kiffin, whose brief tenure ended dramatically in September 2013. Kiffin was reportedly fired at LAX, upon returning to Los Angeles from a 62-41 loss at Arizona State that dropped the Trojans to 0-2 to start Pac-12 play. Kiffin entered the year on the hot seat after his 2012 squad became the first ever preseason Associated Press No. 1 to finish unranked.
Kiffin’s former colleague at USC, Steve Sarkisian, was hired to replace him in December 2013.
USC also won a verbal commitment from 5-star quarterback Ricky Town, who decommitted from Alabama in January.
A potential Alabama-USC pairing also bears significance for two proud conferences. Each program is arguably the most synonymous with its respective leagues–two leagues that have been painfully bereft of meaningful matchups with the other.
Of course, there are potential hurdles and various wrinkles that need ironing out before this matchup can be made official. Perhaps the highest hurdle is a little-known provision in the Pac-12 Networks’ contract, detailed in an AL.com report (huge h/t to Michael Felder).
According to the contract, no Pac-12 school may enter into an agreement to play a neutral-site football game unless the deal provides the Pac-12 with exclusive broadcast rights and digital rights in all media and the game’s copyright. An exception can be made when the neutral-site game is the away game of a home-and-home series.
You read that correctly: a neutral site Alabama-USC game at AT&T Stadium could be the broadcast property of Pac-12 Networks.
While this is one major detail among a few that require attention, that these discussions exist have to whet college football fans’ appetites. The name brands are too big, the history is too extensive and the impact is too great for this game not to happen.