Sep 28, 2013; Tempe, AZ, USA; USC Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin reacts after losing to the Arizona State Sun Devils 62-41 at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

USC Football: Lane Kiffin Firing a Product of Self-destruction


For all the bright moments the 2011 season brought, former USC Trojan coach Lane Kiffin offset many of the pleasant memories with numerous miscalculations and poor judgment during his tenure at USC.

From lying about his vote in the USA Today Coaches Poll, to run-ins with the media, orchestrating a mid-game jersey number change, and closing practices citing a goal of competitive advantage, Kiffin was his own worst enemy.

No matter his missteps, USC Athletic Director Pat Haden remained steadfast in his support of the embattled coach, until he could no longer stand by following the 62-41 loss to the Arizona State Sun Devils.

When Kiffin returned to USC in 2010, some Trojan fans, myself included, rejoiced as a familiar face from a dominant era was back to help usher the program through forthcoming NCAA sanctions and years with tempered expectations.

In the now infamous video released by USC on July 25, Haden stated what was believed in 2010 — Kiffin was familiar with USC and knew what it took to be successful, or so we thought.

Expecting Kiffin to be Pete Carroll lite was an unfair supposition.  Where Carroll is charismatic, Kiffin is unmoved.

Every coach needs to put their own stamp on the team, only Kiffin’s proved dreadful.

Get a lead on the Trojans and find their head coach with his head hidden behind his play chart as the team struggled to battle back.

For someone who is, or was, widely considered a bright offensive mind, Kiffin’s offense frequently failed to produce the stats that a team with USC’s talent should have.

This season, 34% of Trojan drives have ended in three and out, compared to 29% resulting in a score.

Sep 28, 2013; Tempe, AZ, USA; USC Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin reacts during the second half against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Whether Kiffin would often times overthink the play calling or simply lacks the offensive acumen he purportedly possess, we’ll never know.

During a 2012 post-practice news conference, Kiffin was asked a question about an inured player’s participation and became displeased.

His solution?  Abruptly ending the conference by informing the group that he needed to leave and subsequently jogging away without answering any further questions.

Kiffin’s downfall wasn’t so much what challenges he faced, but rather how he handled them.

Frankly, had his team been more successful on the field, he arguably could have acted in whichever manner he wished — a la Nick Saban.

Fact of the matter is USC is 4-7 in their last 11 games.  Other than the 2011 season, Kiffin failed to coach USC to a season of more than eight wins.

Rather than view Kiffin as a source only of negativity, credit him for willingly coming to USC despite the pending wrath of the NCAA that was to be handed down.

Also recognize his decision to finally relieve his father, Monte, of his defensive coordinator position and replace him with Clancy Pendergast.

Albeit, the change can be said to have occurred one season too late.

Unfortunately, when faced with the opportunity to keep changes headed in the right direction, Kiffin instead elected to retain play calling duties in 2013.

Kiffin certainly did things his way over the last season and a half, receiving Haden’s public support no matter how outlandish or tiresome his acts were.

Firing Kiffin won’t immediately solve USC’s problems, but he is leaving the program in a better state than when he inherited it.

With the Trojans not scheduled to play another game until October 10, and Kiffin’s struggles reportedly having a negative impact on recruiting, a midseason change may not have been preferred, but appeared necessary.

However, similar to when Kiffin made the change at defensive coordinator, Haden also appears to have waited too long.

Tags: Football Lane Kiffin Popular USC Trojans

  • BeingMe2

    How is it that this writer believes that Kiffen is leaving the program in better shape than he inherited? Just because of the lifting of sanctions? He certainly hasn’t developed any great players or brought any confidence to the program.

    • Matthew Moreno

      That writer probably believes the roster has more talent and depth than the 2010 team did.

      Remember, they didn’t tackle at all during practices out of fear that they would lose too many bodies.

      The depth this season isn’t great, but it’s improved, and the team is able to do some hitting during practices.

      Also, they have the capability to sign a 2014 class of 20 (some will need to be early enrollees). And don’t dismiss the notion that perhaps the scheme/play calling was a factor as it was downright horrid at times.

      A changing of the guard appeared necessary. One man’s trash may be another man’s treasure.

      Thank you for reading.

      • BeingMe2

        I thought the comment made it sounds as though Lane improved the program, when in fact he improved nothing, he just happened to be at the helm during the first years of penalties. I understand he had limited resources, but he still managed to recruit some pretty high profile players and got nothing out of them.. or perhaps I should say he did nothing to help them.

        • Matthew Moreno

          I wouldn’t say Kiffin improved the program. But, he did do a good job of crafting a plan to handle the scholarship reductions.

          Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and perhaps he spent a little too much time focused on the off-field plan and not enough on game planning, player development, etc.

          I’m not as down on Kiffin like others are. I do think he did some good while at USC.