Following USC’s 62-41 loss to Arizona State, head coach Lane Kiffin was fired after three-plus years at the school. Based on the Trojans’ 0-2 start in Pac-10 play and their collapse last year, few people were surprised about Kiffin’s firing. The 0-2 conference record now makes it very difficult for USC to plan a realistic run at the Pac-10 title with eight games left.
Athletic director Pat Haden fired Kiffin when they returned to Los Angeles from Tempe. The fourth-year coach spent the next 45 minutes trying to convince Haden why he should remain at the helm. But it was to no avail because the AD had already made up his mind on the matter
Today, Haden gave more details on his decision to fire Kiffin. “I haven’t felt particularly good even from the Hawaii game,” he said. “I just felt like we haven’t been the consistent team that we need to be at USC. We’ve played 125 years of some pretty dog-gone good football here at USC.
“We’re just all a piece of the continuum. We’re going to be playing football 125 years from now. I was just a tiny little piece of it, Lane was, Pete Carroll was, and we all add up into this continuum of USC football, and we just realized that our history has been great, and we need to be great again.”
Sources say that Kiffin took the firing very professionally, although he was quite sad over hearing the news. He departs USC with a 28-15 record, and a 35-21 record overall as a college head coach (including Tennessee).
Current USC assistant coach and former Mississippi head coach Ed Orgeron will now serve as the interim replacement. “I want to tell you we’re here as a staff to answer the bell,” Orgeron said. “We’re all accountable for what happened as a staff and as players. Us Trojans know how to do it.”
There’s no official word yet on who will replace Kiffin on a more permanent basis. However, Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has emerged as a prime candidate. But if these reports are true, Del Rio certainly isn’t revealing anything. “There isn’t anything to say,” he said after the Broncos blowout win against Philadelphia on Sunday. “It’s all speculation at this point, I’ve got a job to do here, my focus is right there.”
News sources close to Denver claim that Del Rio wouldn’t make any decision on the USC job until after the Broncos’ season is over. Haden wouldn’t comment on Del Rio’s candidacy. He also left the door open for Orgeron by saying, “He’ll be evaluated just like any other candidate.”
Going back to Kiffin, he was unofficially on thin ice after the Trojans finished with a 7-6 record last year. They came into 2012 with very high expectations thanks to a No. 1 preseason ranking. But after losing five out of their last six contests, USC finished unranked. This made them the first top-ranked preseason team to finish outside the top 25 in nearly 50 years.
All three of Kiffin’s head coaching jobs have ended in controversial exits. After excelling as the USC offensive coordinator during a 23-3 two-year run, he landed the Oakland Raiders head coaching job at just 31. Following public feuds with owner Al Daivs, Kiffin was finally canned in 2008, thanks to a 5-15 overall record.
He then landed at Tennessee in 2009 and was already under pressure, due to the fan base’s love for ex-coach Phillip Fulmer. Following a 7-6 record, Kiffin quickly departed Tennessee when he got the Trojans head coaching job. And this very short stint left Volunteers’ fans with a bitter taste in their mouth.
Furthermore, many people questioned Kiffin’s USC hiring, given his previous track record and lack of success at Tennessee. Now, over three years later, skeptics have been proven right when looking at the near-disastrous recent results.