USC remains silent on O.J. Simpson’s death, underscoring…

USC remains silent on O.J. Simpson’s death, underscoring…

LOS ANGELES (AP) – A copy of O.J. Simpson’s Heisman Trophy still sits in Heritage Hall on the campus of the University of Southern California, at least when it isn’t being displayed elsewhere along with the rest of the school’s large collection.

Simpson’s jersey is still retired by USC in recognition of his two remarkable seasons as the Trojans’ tailback, and his No. 32 is prominently displayed at every home football game on the banners that drape the peristyle steps of the venerable Coliseum.

But when Simpson’s death from prostate cancer at 76 in Las Vegas was announced Thursday, his school made no public acknowledgement of it.

The silence – atypical for the Trojans, who have lauded their passing football greats with flowery public statements – is an obvious statement in itself about the complicated relationship with one of the most accomplished athletes in USC history.

Lincoln Riley was born 15 years after Simpson won his Heisman, but the current USC coach was left to provide what might turn out to be the university’s only prominent words on Simpson’s death during his normal spring football media availability.

“Certainly as a head coach here, you obviously know about his history and his legacy, the kind of player that he was here,” Riley said. “We definitely, certainly recognize that, and obviously extend our sympathies to his family on their loss.”

FILE – University of Southern California runningback O.J. Simpson (32)runs against Notre Dame Notre Dame in the first half of an NCAA college football game in South Bend, ind., Oct. 14, 1967. and picks up a few yards in their intersectional football game, Oct. 14, 1967 in South Bend, Indiana. Blocking for USC are Bob Miller (86), Mike Taylor (74), and Dan Scott (38). O.J. Simpson, the decorated football superstar and Hollywood actor who was acquitted of charges he killed his former wife and her friend but was found liable in a separate civil trial, has died. He was 76. The family announced on Simpson’s official X account that he died Wednesday, April 10, 2024, of prostate cancer.(AP Photo/File)

That disconnect largely has been the standard for institutions in Los Angeles and across the nation for the past three decades since Simpson was charged with killing his former wife and her friend in 1994.

The worlds of sports and entertainment largely disassociated from one of the most famous athletes-turned-actors of his generation, and most of his longtime friends and admirers had dropped Simpson by the time he was acquitted in 1995.

So it’s difficult to remember that until the public course of Simpson’s life changed forever in his late 40s, he was widely perceived as an embodiment of the American dream.

He grew up in the Potrero Hill housing projects of San Francisco, overcoming brushes with gangs, a few arrests and juvenile corrections before finding a way out through football. Simpson then played two seasons at City College of San Francisco, becoming a two-way junior college star.

Major programs offered scholarships to Simpson for the 1967 season, and he chose USC, the school he admired growing up. He arrived on campus with high expectations under coach John McKay, but he exceeded every reasonable prognostication by becoming one of the most dominant running backs in college football history.

Just how important was Simpson to the Trojans while they went 19-2-1 and made two Rose Bowl appearances during his two seasons? He carried the ball a jaw-dropping 674 times in just 22 games for 3,423 yards and 36 touchdowns.

Simpson remained popular in Los Angeles when he went on to his NFL career in Buffalo and San Francisco, and he returned to Hollywood to continue his acting career after his retirement from football. He was an avid golfer and a member of the famed Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, where he played several times a week in 1994 – including the morning before Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were killed.

Simpson was found liable for the deaths in a civil trial in 1997, and subsequent attempts to rehabilitate his image foundered. Simpson’s charmed Hollywood life was over.

The former football star and USC remained publicly estranged for the rest of his life – and an attempt to change that backfired as well.

Simpson visited USC’s practice in Fort Lauderdale in late 2002 while the Trojans were preparing to face Iowa in the Orange Bowl. The 1968 Heisman winner, who hadn’t been around the team since the murders, chatted with reigning Heisman winner Carson Palmer and others.

Pete Carroll called Simpson “a legend” after welcoming him, but the coach and the school received widespread public condemnation for re-associating with Simpson. His connection with USC was largely finished from there, particularly after his subsequent nine-year incarceration for armed robbery.

Simpson´s death didn´t change how most of his former teammates and friends felt, for better and worse. Many of Simpson´s former USC teammates have also died, and others didn´t want to speak publicly about him when asked Thursday.

Three years ago, Simpson told The Athletic that he didn’t enjoy being in Los Angeles because “I might be sitting next to whoever did it. I really don´t know who did this.”

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AP college football: website

FILE – Southern Cal’s O.J. Simpson poses with the Heisman Trophy at New York’s Downtown Athletic Club, Dec. 5, 1968. O.J. Simpson, the decorated football superstar and Hollywood actor who was acquitted of charges he killed his former wife and her friend but later found liable in a separate civil trial, has died. He was 76. Simpson’s attorney confirmed to TMZ he died Wednesday night, April 10, 2024, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/File)

FILE – Buffalo Bulls running back O.J. Simpson (32) has his jersey pulled by Baltimore Colts linebacker Mike Curtis, during the second quarter of an NFL football game in Baltimore, Md., Oct. 12, 1975. Simpson, the decorated football superstar and Hollywood actor who was acquitted of charges he killed his former wife and her friend but later found liable in a separate civil trial, died Wednesday, April 11, 2024, of prostate cancer. He was 76. (AP Photo/File)

San Francisco 49er O.J. Simpson takes to the air as Cleveland Brown’s Thom Darden makes the tackle during the second quarter of an NFL football game, Sept. 3, 1978, in Cleveland, Ohio. Simpson, the decorated football superstar and Hollywood actor who was acquitted of charges he killed his former wife and her friend but later found liable in a separate civil trial, died Wednesday, April 11, 2024, of prostate cancer. He was 76. (AP Photo/File)

FILE – O.J. Simpson checks out the bronze bust of himself after his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday, Aug. 3, 1985 in Canton, Ohio. O.J. Simpson, the decorated football superstar and Hollywood actor who was acquitted of charges he killed his former wife and her friend but was found liable in a separate civil trial, has died. He was 76. The family announced on Simpson’s official X account that he died Wednesday, April 10, 2024, of prostate cancer. (AP Photo/Ernie Mastroianni, File)

FILE – O.J. Simpson, second from right is joined by, from left, Frank Gatski, Joe Namath, Pete Rozelle, and Roger Staubach, right, during enshrinement ceremonies at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, Aug. 3, 1985. O.J. Simpson, the decorated football superstar and Hollywood actor who was acquitted of charges he killed his former wife and her friend but later found liable in a separate civil trial, has died. He was 76. (AP Photo/Ernie Mastroianni, File)

FILE – San Francisco 49ers running back O.J. Simpson looks over his shoulder at fans in the stands calling for his attention before an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons game in Atlanta, Sunday, Dec. 16 1979. O.J. Simpson, the decorated football superstar and Hollywood actor who was acquitted of charges he killed his former wife and her friend but later found liable in a separate civil trial, has died. He was 76. (AP Photo/Charles Kelly, File)

FILE – Buffalo Bills runningback O.J. Simpson (32) runs over some teammates as he latches onto Joe DeLamielleurs (68) during an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Rich Stadium in Buffalo, N.Y., Sept. 3, 1977. Buccaneers Council Rudolph (78) follows at right. (AP Photo/File)

FILE – Buffalo Bills’ O.J. Simpson posed in 1969. O.J. Simpson, the decorated football superstar and Hollywood actor who was acquitted of charges he killed his former wife and her friend but later found liable in a separate civil trial, has died. He was 76. Simpson’s attorney confirmed to TMZ he died Wednesday night, April 10, 2024, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/File)

FILE – O.J. Simpson sits at his arraignment in Superior Court in Los Angeles on July 22, 1994, where he pleaded “absolutely, 100 percent not guilty” on murder charges. Simpson, the decorated football superstar and Hollywood actor who was acquitted of charges he killed his former wife and her friend but later found liable in a separate civil trial, died Wednesday, April 11, 2024, of prostate cancer. He was 76. (AP Photo/Pool/Lois Bernstein, Pool)

FILE – In this July 20, 2017 file photo, former NFL football star O.J. Simpson reacts after learning he was granted parole at Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nev. Simpson, the decorated football superstar and Hollywood actor who was acquitted of charges he killed his former wife and https://nhanlambangcap24h.com/ her friend but later found liable in a separate civil trial, has died. He was 76. (Jason Bean/The Reno Gazette-Journal via AP, Pool, File)