Update 1:00 p.m.: USC addresses press on firing of coach Kiffin
At a hastily-arranged press conference Sunday afternoon, USC athletic director Pat Haden addressed the public about USC's decision to fire coach Lane Kiffin. "We just haven't been the consistent team that we need to be," he said.
Haden announced that defensive line coach Ed Orgeron would take over as interim head coach. Orgeron said he wouldn't be making many changes to the lineup, and said he wouldn't be calling plays. Quoth the gravelly-voiced new coach:
Offensive Coordinator Clay Helton will be the play-caller, Orgeron said.
The AP reported Sunday that Kiffin was fired at the airport on the team's return from Arizona, where they were routed 62-41:
Haden fired Kiffin at the Trojans' private airport terminal when the team plane returned from Arizona early Sunday morning, but not before a 45-minute meeting in which Kiffin tried to change Haden's mind. The Trojans matched the most points allowed in school history in their seventh loss in 11 games.
Update 10:55 a.m.: Pre-emptive action
L.A. Times sportswriter Gary Klein spoke to KPCC Sunday morning about Kiffin's termination. Though it's unusual for a coach to be let go in the middle of the season, Klein said, the move allows USC to get a leg up over other schools who might be seeking a new coach toward the season's end, and allows the school to gain some credibility with recruits.
"I think USC is taking preemptive action here," Klein told KPCC anchor Shirley Jahad. "Not only in terms of trying to find a new coach, but trying to secure recruits, which are the lifeblood of any college football program. And this gives them a head start on replacing Lane Kiffin."
USC is expected to address to address the decision in a press conference scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday.
Listen to the full interview here:
8:24 a.m.: USC fires coach Kiffin after 7th loss in 11 games
The Trojans posted a short news release to the athletic department website, saying that athletic director Pat Haden informed Kiffin of the decision "upon the team charter's arrival back in Los Angeles" after the defeat, USC's seventh in 11 games.
USC spokesman Tim Tessalone confirmed the decision when contacted by The Associated Press.
Kiffin went 28-15 at USC in parts of four seasons, but his team is 0-2 in conference play for the first time since 2001. And this stay — like many of his other jobs — comes with a quick, tumultuous exit.
He was an NFL head coach at age 31, a head coach in the Southeastern Conference at 33 and USC's head coach at 34. If there was a consistent trend to those stops with the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee and the Trojans, it was turmoil.
With Oakland, he lasted only 20 games and his departure became a messy, public feud with Al Davis, the late Raiders owner. His arrival in Tennessee was not warmly received by all Vols fans, given the loyalties many had to the former coach there, Phillip Fulmer.
And then came the USC era.
Kiffin faced enormous expectations at USC, especially last season, when the Trojans started out ranked No. 1 in the country. USC wound up falling out of the top 10 by mid-September, and out of the poll entirely by November — ending the season as the first team in nearly a half-century to open No. 1 and finish unranked.
It was an all-out free fall a year ago for USC, which lost five of its last six games.
The Trojans were hit with severe NCAA sanctions a few months after Kiffin arrived. He had nothing to do with the wrongdoing that wound up costing the school 30 scholarships over three years and the right to go to the postseason twice — but it set the tone for another bumpy ride.
Between the sanctions and injuries, the Trojans played at Arizona State on Saturday night with 56 recruited scholarship players; teams are allowed 85 scholarships. The lack of depth was evident at times in that game, and in the end, Kiffin was held ultimately responsible.
USC said in the statement announcing Kiffin's firing that Haden will hold a news conference later Sunday. The firing comes less than five months after Haden said thatKiffin had, given the sanctions and other issues, "been as good as he can be."
USC next plays Oct. 10 against Arizona, so the Trojans have a bye week to try to settle the coaching situation and get some players healthy. USC may have lost wide receiver Marqise Lee to a left knee injury. He is expected to have his knee evaluated later Sunday in Los Angeles.
"It didn't look very good," Kiffin said after Saturday's game. "It didn't sound very good or look very good, so that's all I got for you."
Hours later, Lee's health became just one of the huge problems facing USC's proud, storied program.
Kiffin addressed his spot on the proverbial "hot seat" after Saturday's loss, saying he's fine with it and that his own job security is "the last thing I'm worried about."
"We have to find a way to coach better," Kiffin said.
Instead, USC and Haden now have to find a different coach.
"I think the guys on this team really do care and can turn this thing around," USC quarterback Cody Kessler said a few hours before the firing was announced. "It's going to be hard — I'm not going to lie — but with the character and leadership that we have, we can do it." — AP