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Thursday, September 8, 2011
USC playing on damaged field

By Arash Markazi
ESPNLosAngeles.com

A concert at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum will force USC to play this season on an uneven playing field which will be painted green on a weekly basis to hide numerous areas of dirt and dead spots.

L.A. Rising, a music festival featuring Rage Against the Machine, Muse and Rise Against, was held at the Coliseum on July 30, five weeks before USC's Sept. 3 season opener against Minnesota. The short window between events did not give the Coliseum enough time to replace the field, a process which normally takes six weeks. USC is now stuck with the field in its current condition until the end of the season.

The issue was raised during a meeting of the Coliseum Commission, the nine-member governing body of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which was attended by Kristina Raspe, USC's associate senior vice president of real estate and asset management.

"We did not find the condition of the turf to be acceptable," Raspe said. "After the concert that was held on July 30, the turf had substantial damage. There were multiple dead areas where there were fires on the field and having the field covered by boards for almost a week. The field was painted green no less than four times for it to appear the way it does today. I believe it was again painted today."

USC athletic director Pat Haden and J.K. McKay, the school's senior associate athletic director for football, both personally reached out to committee member Rick Caruso, who is a state appointee on the Coliseum Commission and on the USC board of trustees, to express their concerns about the field.

"If you go out there today, you'll see a pretty green field. It looks pretty nice," said Coliseum acting general manager John Sandbrook. "Are there some spots where I wish there was a little more grass around the 30-yard line on the south side, the answer is yes."

Raspe disagreed with Sandbrook, saying the field has "multiple dead patches and there is dirt that has literally been painted green."

"I don't think at any point this season will it be to the level that is called upon under our lease agreement, but we are doing the best with what we have," Raspe said. "Frankly, the field should have been replaced after the concert, on July 30, but at the time the decision was made to allow us to consider a replacement it was too late and we didn't have an option on relocating the game somewhere else."

USC has brought in field experts from AEG and the Home Depot Center to work on the field, and Sandbrook agreed the Coliseum wouldn't schedule any events less than six weeks before USC's season opener in the future.

That decision, however, won't be up to Sandbrook or the Coliseum Commission for much longer as the commission unanimously voted Wednesday to engage in negotiations with USC on a master lease that would give the school much more control over the stadium. An agreement is expected to be reached within 90 days.

Arash Markazi is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.