While I was watching Stanford football destroy Washington State Saturday night, I got a text from my dad saying, “Stanford rules, USC drools,” followed by: “Goodbye Lane Kiffin.”
Now, you need to know that my dad has been going to USC games since he was 8, the same age that I was when he started taking me. I swiftly turned against the Trojans, however, the second they rejected my application and I got into Stanford. My dad has taken a little more time to jump off the USC bandwagon, but I knew from the moment I saw the text that he had finally left the dark side and decided to start cheering for the right team.
My dad, and probably half of all college football fans, was correct in predicting that USC Athletic Director Pat Haden had little reason to keep Kiffin on as head coach for his fourth season after losing to Arizona State 62-41 on Saturday evening. Haden was justified in biting the bullet and getting the job done almost the second Kiffin landed at LAX.
If the USC students’ chants of “Fire Kiffin” during their first home loss to Washington State are any indication, no one can deny that Haden made the popular choice. As a Cardinal fan though, I may have hoped that Kiffin would stay on so that USC could keep up its dismal decline.
I am fortunate that I was able to be a USC fan during its heyday of Pete Carroll with Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart, and that I now get to experience the success of Stanford football post-Andrew Luck. As a former Trojan supporter, I am disgusted, though, by how the USC football program was run under Kiffin. But as a current Cardinal enthusiast, I feel it’s my duty to emphasize his misdeeds and misconduct and emphasize how he tarnished the name of USC football.
I will say that Kiffin inherited a far-from-ideal situation with the start of the “Reggie Bush” sanctions. Even continuing into this year, USC only had 56 healthy scholarship players going into last week’s game.
Kiffin created a lot of his own problems, however, with his ego, illogical decision-making, immaturity and irresponsibility. It was Kiffin who prompted the Pac-12 to pass the regulation requiring host teams to allow visiting teams to walk through the stadium the day before a game — something that Kiffin had not allowed. It was Kiffin who switched around jersey numbers last season to try to confuse the other team. It was during Kiffin’s time that USC was fined $25,000 when a team manager was caught deflating footballs prior to hosting Oregon last year. And it was Kiffin who walked out of a press conference after less than a minute because he doesn’t like to respond to questions related to player injuries. Really Lane?
What’s more, he did all of this while USC was already under scrutiny and walking on thin ice with the Pac-12 and NCAA after the sanctions.
I think that player attitude toward their coach is the best indicator of a coach’s performance — and Kiffin fails on that front as well. During the ASU game, at a time when USC was actually playing well, the announcer pointed out that after a good play, Kiffin was hard-pressed to find a player who would high-five him.
I actually had the pleasure (displeasure?) of meeting Kiffin a couple years ago, along with his associate defensive coordinator Ed Orgeron (now USC’s interim head coach). He had no personality and no people skills. Orgeron, on the other hand, displayed what a head coach should be: approachable, amiable and just happy to be there with the fans. Kiffin would be better off as a coordinator or position coach or possibly even in the NFL since there’s more business rather than emotion involved in professional sports.
Now the big question: What is going to happen to USC football? I’m sure Stanford fans would love to hear me say that this is the end; they aren’t coming back any time soon and Stanford will continue to walk all over the Trojans from now until eternity. But I would be lying and going against what I know about USC football if I said anything close to that.
USC football is still relevant and the Trojans will bounce back quickly due to their tradition of and commitment to excellence. Also, now that Kiffin is gone, USC can hope to again become a hotbed of recruiting.
But as last week’s scores in the Pac-12 indicate, USC will have a tough end to the 2013 season considering the strength in the conference.
For now, Cardinal fans can be happy that Lane Kiffin was never able to take a game from Stanford and can look forward to beating the Trojans at the Coliseum next month.
Ashley Westhem still occasionally sounds like the USC fan she once was. To talk to Ashley about her “commitment to excellence” in column writing, email her at awesthem‘at’stanford.edu.