Last week, Lane Kiffin was caught in a pickle after the USA Today released his preseason Coaches’ Poll to prove that the third-year USC head coach had the Trojans pegged No. 1, despite saying he wouldn’t. Today, Kiffin announced his departure from the poll, after the athletic department cited a ‘conflict of journalistic interest’ on behalf of the USA Today, in their releasing of his rankings.
The whole story is a gigantic non-story that gets Kiffin dragged through the mud for the 89th time as a head coach.
First, Kiffin was asked a question about where he would rank his team. It’s a no-win question from the media, as if he says the Trojans are ranked No. 1, he gets labeled as cocky, and if he says no, he gets vulnerable with the poll.
Secondly, it’s been widely noted for years that a predominant number of coaches do not actually vote in the poll. Perhaps the USA Today is in some denial about the process at which votes are made, but assistant coaches and Sports Information Directors tend to be the ones taking the time filling out the poll. Let’s face it, the coaches hardly have time to watch television as it is, they’re not seeing all of the games.
Then there’s USC’s statements that the USA Today is in a conflict of interest. That’s a stretch. The poll doesn’t want a lack of integrity, which is a reasonable request on their behalf, and yes, isolating a coach’s vote is rather brazen. But a conflict of interest? That’s a defensive smear by USC, even if the reporter questioning Kiffin was a USA Today guy.
Then again, in the position Kiffin and SID Tim Tessalone were in last week, there’s not much they could say. “My bad,” doesn’t exactly cut it.
In the end, the entire story a giant non-story. Many will use this as another reason to hate Lane Kiffin and throw expletives his way. Others will cast the USA Today in a light that makes them look bitter over the vote. The truth? Kiffin isn’t the jerk people think he is, and the USA Today is just trying to do their job, even if it’s awkward to throw a coach under the bus.
Let’s just drop the name ‘Coach’ from Coaches’ Poll, eh? That would solve everything.