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Heisman Trophy VIP Dinner and Reception

New York City
Remarks by Steven B. Sample
President, University of Southern California

December 16, 2002

I should like first to thank the members of the Downtown Athletic Club for providing this opportunity to honor Carson Palmer for winning the most prestigious award in college athletics ? the Heisman Trophy.

I should also like to thank some of the other people who made this achievement and this celebration possible. First, I want to thank and congratulate Carson Palmer himself. Carson, your achievements have placed you at the very pinnacle of college athletics, and have added another chapter to the long and storied history of athletics at USC.

I want to thank Coach Pete Carroll and his outstanding staff, whose leadership, enthusiasm, and teaching abilities have enabled USC to field one of our finest teams ever, and have enabled us to win our fifth Heisman Trophy.

Special thanks go to the man who recruited and appointed Coach Carroll: our Athletic Director Mike Garrett. In 1965 Mike became USC's first Heisman Trophy winner. This evening Mike can take great pride in the fact that one of the athletes in his charge joins him as a member of the elite fraternity of Heisman winners.

I know Carson would like me to thank two other special groups. First, let me thank his teammates. Time and again, Carson has said that he accepted the Heisman Trophy on behalf of his fellow Trojan football players. Finally, and perhaps most important of all, I want to thank Carson's family, and especially his parents, for the sacrifices they made in order to allow Carson to reach his full potential as an athlete.

Carson Palmer personifies excellence. At USC we have a long and proud tradition of excellence in many areas. For example, we have a legacy of athletic excellence unrivaled by any university in America. USC has sent more athletes to the Olympic Games than any other university, with our athletes winning at least one gold medal in every summer Olympics since 1912. We have won more men's national championships than any other school in NCAA history. We have won eight national championships in football. We have won USA Today's National Collegiate All?Sports Championship six times. Our athletes have won the Heisman Trophy five times, which exceeds the record of all but two other universities.

But at USC excellence is not limited to athletics. This year our athletes ranked seventh nationally in the total number of NCAA postgraduate scholarships awarded. In 2001 the graduation rate for our football players was at an all?time high ? 82 percent ? which was more than 30 points higher than the national average.

It?s not easy to achieve that kind of athletic record at USC, which is one of America's leading research universities. We have very high academic expectations. For example, our entering class this fall averaged 1335 on the SAT exam, which is higher than all but a handful of other universities. Our students come from the upper 6 percent of their high school graduating class. We received 10 applications for every one opening in this year?s freshman class. In terms of selectivity, USC is in the top 1 percent of all colleges and universities.

The life of student?athletes at elite universities such as USC is both prestigious and daunting. These young men and women are idolized when they succeed and criticized when they don't. They are simultaneously motivated and burdened by the lofty expectations of coaches, fans, faculty, and alumni. At USC those expectations are especially intense, because our tradition and our history tell us that we are capable of achieving academic and athletic excellence at the same time. And then, as though to prove this point, every so often a student?athlete like Carson Palmer comes along who serves as a flesh?and?blood model for what it means to be a Trojan.

So, Carson, on behalf of the entire USC community and our legions of loyal fans, I want to say how proud we are of you, and how thrilled we are that you have received this great honor. No matter where your talents take you, you will always be a member of the Trojan Family and a shining beacon of excellence for thousands of Trojan athletes who will come after you.