"The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story" won big at the Emmy Awards on Sunday night. The FX miniseries took home nine awards including, one for the outstanding limited series. But while a major TV network replays the story of O.J. Simpson, some at USC are still grappling with its relationship to its old football star.
Simpson went to USC from 1967 to 1969 and became a hero on the football team. In 1968, he broke the NCAA record for yards rushed in a single season. He then became USC's second Heisman Trophy winner. But, of course, everything changed when Simpson was put on trial and was acquitted of charges in the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown-Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.
Eric He, a journalism student at USC, wasn't even born by the time of the trial. But with the fresh crop of documentaries, he said it feels like the trials may as well have happened yesterday.
"It's a hot topic," He said. But one that can be difficult to talk about he noted, almost "taboo." The 19-year-old sophomore said that USC students have a hard time negotiating Simpson's crime with his athletic accomplishments at the school.
The university is not exactly flaunting Simpson's history here, he said, but not completely erasing it either. Simpson's Heisman is still on display on campus; it is one of six displayed in Heritage Hall around a statue of a USC drum major. He is glad it is still being showcased.
"I feel like it [the trophy] should be here because it's history. You shouldn't remove it just because of somethings that happened later on…. I feel like you should honor history in a certain way. I don't think hiding it is a great way to go."
But Darian Nourian, who graduated with a degree in journalism last year, thinks that the trophy is something that USC should hide. He said that Simpson's relation to USC is one of shame and stigma especially when it concerns students like him, who never saw Simpson play.
"You hear USC being associated with a double homicide murder case. You hear USC being associated with armed robberies….That's the last thing you want to be associated with." (Simpson is serving time for an armed robbery at the Palace Hotel in Las Vegas in 2007.)
Nourian, who is now an advisory associate at KPMG, knows that USC will always have some connection with Simpson. But he thinks they shouldn't celebrate it by displaying Simpson's Heisman. In fact, in February, he wrote an op-ed for the Daily Trojan asking USC to take down the trophy. His article received huge backlash from USC students and alumni.
"People called me a USC hater and O.J. hater and said that I didn't respect history."
It hit a nerve with people that he wanted to take away a USC accomplishment, Nourian said.
For one university official, there are two Simpsons: the one who was here at USC and the one who left afterward. Tim Tessalone, the director of sports information at USC, said that Simpson is regarded as a great football player here.
"What happened after USC is really beyond our scope," he said.