TV pulls the strings for college football

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That is becoming a large issue. Of USC's 12 remaining games this season, only five have a listed started time. Haden says he has one season-ticket holder who comes in for games from London. Another from Chicago.

"How do you book a flight?" he says.

His challenge, and that of many of his peers, is to find a way to compete with the very people who are funding him. He says high-definition TV is making the game so attractive that it becomes harder to get people off their couches.

"We have to find a way to make the game-day experience so good that they still want to come," he says.

He says he recently learned that some of the telecasts will add two more commercial spots this season. He finds that a positive.

"It gives me two more chances to do something for the people in the stadium," he says.

He has done well with that so far. USC led the conference in attendance last year, averaging about 83,000.

USC won its season opener in Hawaii on Thursday night. Yes, Thursday night. It was remarkably unremarkable. Ramifications ahead will not be.

Coach Lane Kiffin is probably on a short leash, although Haden won't say that. The Trojans have two fairly equal quarterbacks, something often more problematic than advantageous.

And somewhere in Bristol, Conn., home of ESPN, a high-paid puppeteer is poised to pull a string that will somehow yank USC, and dozens of other teams.

Just because he or she can.

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