Ron Allice ended his coaching career on Saturday after 50+ years in the sport, including the past 18 years as head coach at the University of Southern California. His last NCAA meet was a pretty darn good one with his two star seniors Bryshon Nellum and Reggie Wyatt both taking home their first national titles. The Trojans finished fifth in the team standings, a strong performance for a team that only sent five men to Eugene this past weekend.
But after finishing just 11 points behind co-champions Texas A&M and Florida, one has to wonder about how USC would have fared if the cookie had crumbled differently.
The Trojans left points on the table when they suffered the loss of sophomore sprinter Beejay Lee, the Pac-12 100 meter champion, failed to qualify out of regionals due to an injury. The rapidly improving Lee was tied for fourth with teammate Aaron Brown on the national list and was a favorite to make the NCAA final prior to getting hurt.
Even a bigger contributor to USC’s title hopes could have been Josh Mance. The Olympic 4×400 relay silver medalist silver medalist transferred to Florida State this past December after a falling out with the coaching staff at Southern Cal. Mance’s short stint in Tallahassee was tumultuous one as he was suspended from the team after allegations of involvement in a gunfire case. Mance was later cleared of all charges, but the suspension lead to him forgoing his collegiate eligibility to sign a professional contract to run for Nike.
Mance’s season best is 45.08 from the Oxy Invitational, slower than his personal best of 44.83 from the 2012 NCAA meet. The time would have placed fifth in Friday’s 400 meter final. Although I’m confident Mance would have finished higher in such a competitive race, we’ll conservatively add four points to the Trojans’ column.
Mance’s departure also forfeited any 4×400 hopes USC had. With him in the lineup, the Trojans would have fielded a formidable squad consisting of Mance, 400 meter hurdles champion Wyatt and 400 meter individual champion Nellum. Even without a strong fourth man, USC surely would have been in the mix with the Florida’s and Arkansas’s of the world. The extra toll of running relays may have negatively impacted individual performances for Nellum and Wyatt, but in this purely hypothetical exercise, I’ve taken the liberty to hypothetically say they wouldn’t have been harmed too much.
Add three points for Lee in the 100, four for Mance in the 400 and six in the 4×400, and the Trojans win the national title by two points over A&M and Florida.
Coach Allice will already retire as a legend of the NCAA coaching ranks but going out on top could have made that departure even sweeter. Oh, the possibilities.