1980 Rose Bowl: If You Pass, You’re Fired!

NBCSN recently showed the 1980 Rose Bowl, when USC defeated Ohio State, 17-16.

About 20 years later, I heard this story from a USC coach: With 1:32 left in the game and Ohio State ahead 16-10, USC coach John Robinson turned to offensive coordinator Paul Hackett and said, “If you call a pass play, you’re fired.”

The ball was on the USC 17-yard line.

  • Charles White gained 31 yards on first down.
  • White gained 30 on the next play.
  • Michael Hayes and Marcus Allen then gained 11 yards in the next 2 plays down to the Ohio State 11.
  • White then gained 3 yards.
  • Then 5 yards.
  • Then 2 yards just one foot from the goal line.
  • White then scored running behind Allen.
  • Hackett had followed directions.

“I was looking at the other guys and saying they have to stop 11 of us, not just me, all 11,” White said. “I didn’t think they could do that.”

19 thoughts on “1980 Rose Bowl: If You Pass, You’re Fired!

  1. J-Rob 1.0 was the man. How could you not run with Marcus and Charles in the backfield, and having them run behind Brad Budde, Chris Foot, Don Mosebar, Keith Van Horn, Hoby Brenner.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. 67,
      Wouldn’t it be fun to see the look on Harrell’s face if Helton said to him, “if you pass, you’re fired!” in the last minute of a game?…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Michael, so many possibilities here:
        “If you don’t have 11 men on the field, you’re fired!”
        “If you allow a kickoff return for a TD, you are fired!”
        “If the O-line can’t hold their blocks for 3 seconds, you’re fired!”,
        “If 2 guys have the same number on at the same time, you’re fired!”,


        Liked by 1 person

      1. How can you say that? Lynn brilliantly pinpointed the problem with Helton’s tenure as limited only to “conditioning, attitude, discipline, toughness, physicality, planning and the entire culture of the program….”


    1. Ya gotta remember that Hackett went 5-7(!) in 2000 with Carson Palmer, Troy Polamalu, Sultan McCullough, Kareem Kelly, Keary Colbert and Kris Richard…..


    1. “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” —William Faulkner.
      [Arturo — I owe you a big apology for sullying your beautiful quote about “not letting your right hand know what your left hand is doing” when it comes to charitable works. Only a a morally sensitive person would recognize the importance of that statement].


      1. MG- here is one that is just as good: “A friend loves at all times.” That’s all I have for you, compadre.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Scott:

    Guess what offensive lineman was leading the charge? JR told me this lineman was on fire that day.

    Best regards,


    Sent from my iPhone

    William L. Banning, Esq.
    Banning LLP
    16409 Via de Santa Fe
    Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067-9600
    Tel: (858) 756-0056
    Fax: (858) 756-0003

    Certified by the California State Bar as a Specialist in Admiralty and Maritime Law

    Liked by 2 people

  3. But Paul Hackett had bigger, and better ideas on how to run the USC football program, after serving John Robinson’s successful coaching staff. 😂😂. It’s kinda like Clay Helton deciding to emulate Mike Leach’s Washington States program, as oppose to Nick Saban. That’s the frightening lack of intelligence of Helton, he’s definitely in the running for the “Dumb Ass of the Year” award.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In the running?! In the RUNNING?! Clay took that award home after blowing the Holiday Bowl and saying USC was “good, not great”…..


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