There's an old Seinfeld episode called "The Opposite," in which George Costanza looks at his life and realizes everything he does is wrong. Why not do exactly the opposite? Well, the same logic applies to USC's Ed Orgeron, who was elevated to interim head coach after Lane Kiffin was fired at an airport terminal. The former Ole Miss headman developed a reputation with the Rebels for hard practices, and his disciplinary attitude arguably broke his team.
Now, with a second chance and the luxury of having nothing to lose, Orgeron's social experiment has turned out to be one of the more impressive storylines in the 2013 college football season.
From an article by USA Today's Dan Wolken, it started with Orgeron embracing that Costanza mentality:
Everything Kiffin did, Orgeron undid. Every decision from team meals to whether music played at practice, Orgeron reversed. Fifteen times a day, he says, Orgeron thinks about how he would have done something at Ole Miss and then stops and goes the opposite direction.
It was clear Kiffin's approach wasn't working in the slightest, and the players weren't responding. USC has been through a lot over the past few years, and losing sight of the fact that football is a game -- not just a day job -- can be taxing on college kids, especially if they're not winning.
Easing up on dietary restrictions seemed to help. Treats were brought back, and other measures (like bringing the team to a screening of Captain Phillips) were taken to support the players. From ESPN:
"You feed a lineman a cookie, he's happy, you know?" Orgeron asked.
It didn't stop with sweets. Savory items were brought in, too. CBS' Bruce Feldman noted that Orgeron catered Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles for a team dinner. And there was that time he surprised the guys with In-N-Out.
Now, Orgeron has actually taken a page out of Kiffin's book and acknowledged the Spirit of Troy, USC's renowned marching band. While Kiffin and receiver Marqise Lee delivered ice cream to the band before the season, Orgeron wrote each of the members handwritten notes in advance of the Trojans' game against Stanford this weekend.
This is SO awesome. Everyone, every single member, got a personally-adressed note today from @CoachOUSC. THANK YOU! pic.twitter.com/qWDQETwLkG
— The Spirit of Troy (@USCTMB) November 14, 2013
The results thus far have spoken much louder than food and calligraphy. The Trojans are 4-1 since Orgeron took over and have allowed just 18 points per game during that stretch. While it remains to be seen whether Orgeron will be considered for the permanent job, the fact he's made it even a conversation is a pretty big deal.
Entering Saturday's matchup against the Cardinal, USC has an outside shot to win the Pac-12 South. Whether or not the Trojans are able to pull off the upset, Orgeron's approach has made a difference and salvaged what could've been a really sour season. Which just goes to show you, there's plenty of merit to the Tao of Seinfeld, after all.