I had intended to mention the firing of Lane Kiffin as the head coach of USC in passing as part of the “General Comments” section of this week’s NCAA Mythical Picks. I was not all that surprised to see that he was fired; it did surprise me that he was fired somewhere around 3:00 AM and not during “the work day”. However, the story expanded and I think my comments would be too long for my intended slotting; hence, the following…
It might be a bit simplistic to say that losing to Arizona St. by a score of 62-41 – and giving up 611 yards of offense along the way – was THE cause for termination. Actually, I think the seeds of this action were sown back in 2011 when Kiffin led USC to a 10-2 season despite NCAA sanctions and created hugely unrealistic expectations for the program. On the strength of that 2011 record, USC was the 2012 pre-season pick to be #1 in the country in 2012 when Matt Barkley returned to school to play QB. Irritatingly in 2012, USC’s record was 7-6 ending with an embarrassing bowl game loss to Georgia Tech.
None of that sat well with USC fanboys; and so when USC lost early this year to Washington State – no less – by a score of 10-7, the natives were already restless. Then two things happened:
That Washington State team – the one that held USC to a single TD – played Stanford and lost 55-17.
In addition, there was the self-soiling loss to Arizona State mentioned above.
That is why I think the termination of Lane Kiffin did not wait until “normal business hours” on Monday – or at least until after morning coffee on Sunday.
Kiffin’s coaching career has been characterized as “failing up”. He took over the Raiders’ job when Al Davis surprisingly hired him. Many thought he was unprepared for that assignment and since Davis fired him after 4 games of his second season in Oakland, you would have to say that those prognosticators could not have been all wrong.
From that job where he amassed a 5-15 record, Lane Kiffin got the job at Tennessee replacing Phillip Fulmer. The Vols were 7-6 in Kiffin’s only season there losing in the “Chik-Fil-A” bowl game to Va Tech. [Bonus points if you know where the “Chik-Fil-A” Bowl game is played without Googling.] You cannot call his tenure at Tennessee a “complete failure”, but it was certainly not what the UT alums were thinking about when they coughed up the money to hire him.
At USC, Kiffin went 28-15; at lots of schools, that record might get a coach a 5-year extension; at USC, that is about as exciting as oatmeal flavored ice cream. [For the record, Pete Carroll’s record at USC over the period 2003-2008 was 71-7.] In Kiffin’s last eleven games at USC, the record was 4-7 and the two losses this season were both conference losses. TJ Simers now writes for the Orange County Register and he focused on a key element of this firing decision:
“I know he lost football games at USC and there isn’t anything more important in the whole wide world than winning football games at USC, or the rich folks won’t be happy and share their money with the school.”
Maybe the best way to look at this is that Pat Haden – the USC Athletic Director – saw the need for an emergency “Kiffin-ectomy” and decided not to wait until morning to have the procedure done.
This opens up a MAJOR college football coaching position for next winter. It also overshadows the fact that UConn fired Paul Pasqueloni last weekend too. UConn is not a big-time college football program, but it is a job that can fill a role on the coaching carousel for the winter of 2013. Moreover, Kiffin’s firing seems to have given credibility to the idea that Texas would be better off without Mack Brown on the sidelines. The “agents of change” at Texas who want Brown out got themselves a bit of a boost this week when Earl Campbell – a man still held in very high regard among the Texas alums – said on a radio program that he thought it was time for Mack Brown to be replaced. Trust me here; if Texas loses even one more game this season, that statement by Earl Campbell will be cited by the anti-Mack Brown forces. Here we are in the first week of October and there are already two Division 1-A coaching jobs up for grabs in December – and there will be calls for opening up another one at Texas.
I do not know if Texas or USC is the “better coaching job”. Both would be pretty nice spots for a college coach to land – assuming that he was ready to take on a job at that level of the profession and with that level of scrutiny/pressure associated with it.
Speaking of football coaches, many of them have made a habit of doing something that is sort of annoying – and not all that productive. Where there is a QB controversy – or if there is a question about the health status of a QB – many coaches will hem-and-haw and try to obfuscate the decision as to who will play in the next game. This charade is magnified a lot if the choice is between the nearly motionless “Victor the Veteran” and the agile rookie, “Teddy Twinkletoes”. The common wisdom goes that keeping this a “deep-dark-secret” forces the opposing defensive coaches to create different game plans and makes them less prepared. I think that is pure nonsense; moreover, I think the coaches that do that also know it is nonsense. Consider:
If the inability to put in a thorough game plan to play against one QB or the other were really important, why would not a coach announce that “Victor the Veteran” was his guy for this week and then start “Teddy Twinkletoes” completely by surprise after the teams warmed up on the field? You would think teams would like that advantage enough for that to happen at least a couple times a year, no?
By the way, in the post-game press conference, the coach could look the reporters in the eye and tell them the reason he did what he did was that he just felt like it. If a coach did that, he might actually cause opposing defensive coordinators to do more work preparing for his team than they would normally.
Finally, here is Dwight Perry’s take in the Seattle Times on the miracle comeback by the American team in the America’s Cup regatta:
“Oracle Team USA, down 8-1 to New Zealand, amazingly won eight straight races to snatch the America’s Cup.
“Or as the comeback is destined to be known: The Miracle on Melted Ice.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………