It wasn’t so much a dismissal as it was a public execution of Lane Kiffin, played out over 3+ seasons with a snub-nosed revolver that you thought was loaded but clicked empty no matter how many times the trigger was pulled. A slow, steady pull of the trigger with every lackluster performance and nothing happening except a hammer clicking into an empty chamber. And a little flinch.
A 39-36, come-from-ahead loss to Arizona last October. Click.
A 61-52, record-setting loss to Oregon last November – during which the Ducks’ Marcus Mariota and Kenjon Barner ran through a Monte Kiffin-engineered defense as if it was wet Kleenex. Click!
A 38-28 loss to cross-town rival UCLA that made Jim Mora Jr. look like a football genius (career record of 31-33 in Atlanta and Seattle). CLICK.
A 22-13 loss to Notre Dame. Unhappy Thanksgiving. CLICK!
A humiliating 21-7 defeat at the hands of Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl, then a post-game fight among his own players. Where’s the leadership? Click! Click!
Trojan Nation has dealt with plenty of disappointing seasons before (see the latter parts of the Larry Smith, John Robinson Part II and Paul Hackett coaching eras). But it was the way the Trojans lost and the way Kiffin carried himself that triggered the ire of SC’s faithful. This man seemed arrogant and uninspiring, a coach who preferred obfuscation and gimmicks over simplicity and productivity. The off-the-field stuff was petty and maddening – blacklisting a reporter for doing his job, deflated footballs, jersey number switching, gamesmanship at pre-bowl dinners? Click! Click! Click! Click!
A new season brought a familiar refrain. Game #2 of 2013 featured a demoralizing 10-7 loss to perennial Pac-10/12 Conference doormat Washington State in the Trojans’ home opener on September 7. Aloof Kiffin, his head buried in a playcard as big as a menu from a Mexican restaurant, barely looked up long enough to notice a reflection of team turmoil such as a players-only meeting. Is this thing loaded?
Then Saturday night’s embarrassing 62-41 drubbing at the hands of a mediocre Arizona State team – a game in which the offense put up big numbers but the defense appeared confused and unprepared. Bang.
Finally, accountability. This was a long time coming and the only way this tale could end.
As you can imagine, there is a lot to digest and no shortage of opinions about whether Kiffin ever got a fair shake at USC, as he coached under the heavy burden of devastating scholarship reductions following the Reggie Bush scandal, which eventually led to the Trojans to suit up as few as 56 scholarship players in Tempe this past weekend.
I think the overwhelming opinion of Trojan Nation was summed up by USC AD Pat Haden when he stated on the day after he fired Kiffin: “We realize our history has been great and we need to be great again.”
I’ll drink to that, and to the following selection of post-Kiffin era columns and articles:
– ESPN’s Gene Wojciechowski asserts Haden lost his resolve in backing Kiffin and discusses the Trojan faithful’s unrealistic expectations for a program still recovering from NCAA sanctions.
– The L.A. Times’ Bill Plaschke talks about why Kiffin was never right for SC and the search for the next coach.
– The Orange County Register’s Mark Whicker likens Kiffin’s dismissal to early morning surgery.
– And while we’re on the operating table, Billy Witz of The New York Times dissects how it all went down.