The bottom line: Matt Leinart has a built-in and faithful (not to mention violent) audience at all times.
So what exactly do the students think of all of this? There seems to be a division, and the dividing line is the sex of the student.
Women take a very common-sense approach. They worry about his education (as a fifth-year senior, he needs only a few more credits to graduate). They point out that he has a lot of school spirit -- he wants to stick by his teammates as long as possible. They know that his reputation is at stake. And they think that by finishing his degree and maybe (fingers crossed) winning that second Heisman, he will reach ultimate role model status.
Plus, he looks pretty darn good without a shirt on.
The gentlemen, on the other hand, are obsessed with the cold, hard sports considerations. They tend to bombard their listeners with news about the plays he still needs to perfect, and where he would have ended up had he gone pro.
A local college read, "Saturday Night Magazine," asked our coach, Pete Carroll, just how he manages the star power of a player like Leinart. His answer: Leinart is merely another player on a great team.
Jeff Tola, a varsity linebacker and an old buddy of mine from high school, is similarly matter-of-fact. His opinion on Leinart's decision to remain a Trojan: "Well, he's a good player on the team, so of course we're happy to have him back."
In the end, it comes down to this: Who would want to give up his superstar status? Leinart would have gone to the 49ers, a mediocre -- at best -- team that is not in immediate need of a quarterback.
Here, he has girls throwing themselves at him almost constantly, not to mention the envy and respect of the vast majority of the school's male population. So why would the Big Man on Campus want to go to the big, bad NFL and return to freshman status? Instantaneously, he'd be transported to the days of getting his head stuck in the toilet by a bunch of bullies out to prove that the Golden Boy from USC is more bronze than gold.
Plus, as one freshman triumphantly informed me, "I saw Matt Leinart scratch his back in Alumni Park today. He's, like, the best scratcher ever."
Erica Lucero is a 19-year-old USC student from Upland, Calif., working toward an English major and an American Studies minor. Her activities on campus include writing for the college newspaper, serving as an officer of her sorority, representing the Trojan Alumni Association as a Pepster and acting as a peer mediator.