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USC is Still Very Much in Pursuit of Urban Meyer

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - DECEMBER 01: Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes runs off the field at halftime in the game against the Northwestern Wildcats at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 01, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Several reports have surfaced over the past few days claiming USC was not interested in hiring Urban Meyer to become its next football coach. The reports have typically claimed new USC president Carol Folt was against hiring Meyer and therefore the school's pursuit of him was done. I'm going to shock you here, but the real story is nowhere near that simple, and Meyer is very much still in play for the Trojans.

The truth is there are people at USC who don't want Meyer anywhere near campus. In some cases, their concerns are valid and relate to his handling of the Zach Smith affair at Ohio State. I say their concerns are valid because, from their view, Meyer knew Smith was a repeated domestic abuser and lied about it. That's a tough pill for many on USC's campus to swallow. It feels as though those people are leaking reports that Folt is against the potential hire.

But that's not the end of the story.

Several high-ranking donors and boosters are dead-set on hiring Meyer, and many around the football program want him as well. It's all but a foregone conclusion Clay Helton will be fired at some point in the coming months. With Meyer setting up shop across town at FS1 this fall, it's an obvious fit. In fact, it almost makes too much sense not to happen. But things are never as easy as they seem with big-time universities and big-time athletics.

It wouldn't be wrong to suggest a bit of a civil war is brewing on campus at USC. There are some in positions of power who feel they be on the chopping block if Meyer is hired and, in turn, brings his own people in. Meyer is famously independent and, given his reputation, will not be dictated to by higher-ups. He'll want to be left alone to run his program how he sees fit.

At the same time, there are others who want USC to return to the top of the college football world and see Meyer as the quickest way to get there. Don't expect either side to roll over in this internal struggle.

An obvious key here will be whoever USC hires as its new athletic director. Many have suggested Villanova's Mark Jackson is the obvious choice, but he's far from a slam dunk hire.

Jackson spent time as assistant athletic director at USC and was the driving force behind the hiring of Steve Sarkisian as the school's football coach back in December of 2013. Jackson helped lead a wildly-flawed search process that failed to do adequate due diligence on Sarkisian and ignored a number of potential red flags. Plenty in positions of power at USC remember the fallout from that disastrous hire and the embarrassment it caused the university. Jackson will have a lot of detractors if he's considered for or actually gets the job.

Whoever Folt brings in as athletic director will likely help determine who the next football coach is, but there will be tremendous pressure to put the full-court press on Meyer. From all indications I've been given, Folt hasn't made any statements eliminating Meyer or any other potential coach from consideration.

So will Meyer end up at USC? No one knows. He's been receptive to overtures, but his family will need to be on board with the decision. Nothing from USC's side of things suggests the school wouldn't want him. Any reports to the contrary are either false, or have been carefully leaked to the media for a purpose.