Besides becoming a predictable and unimpressive play-caller this year for the football Trojans, Kiffin, as a head coach, has become the laughingstock of the Pac-12 – and is now a public relations nightmare. There must be a growing hatred on the sunny and beautiful campus of USC for Kiffin, who is doing the opposite of what he set out to do.
Before I get into this, though, a disclaimer: If you want to read an unbiased column about Kiffin and his work at USC, no need to read any further. This rant will certainly be biased and very jaded. There are very few people for whom the word “hate” applies, when it comes to my attitude towards them, but Kiffin is high on the list (for the record, he comes in third, after Al Davis and Phil Simms.)
No need to get into the details, but frankly, it has to do with his past, as head coach of the Raiders and (even more so) because of the way he left the University of Tennessee hanging after only one season of coaching. He left the Vols in a bad way, and I and about 10 million of the Volunteer faithful will never, ever forgive him.
Anyway, back to the present.
Kiffin was hired in 2010 to re-establish the Trojans as a credible and successful college football program. The NCAA had handed down stiff sanctions following the Reggie Bush payments-to-athletes debacle, and Kiffin was supposed to transition the football team from those sanctions to being great again.
Because the Trojans were barred from bowl games in Kiffin’s first two seasons (2010 and 2011), nobody really paid much attention to the job he was doing at USC.
Despite recruiting limitations – and the fact that they couldn’t play a bowl game – it seemed that he was doing an OK job keeping the players he had, and recruiting some decent new players. But like I’ve stated, nobody really cared or paid attention then, because he and his Trojans didn’t matter for those two years.
So here we are in 2012. The Trojans are eligible for bowl games once again. Kiffin, at the start of the season, seemed prepared to lead the team to that bowl berth, and hopefully a spot in the Pac-12 Championship game.
Unfortunately for USC fans, the football team and anyone associated with the university, Kiffin and his greasy ways are back, and he’s been anything but the leader the school desired. In fact, he’s been more of a pain in the ass than anything else.
Prior to the beginning of the 2012 season, Kiffin voted for the first time ever in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll. Traditionally, coaches don’t vote for their own teams in the poll, and traditionally, the coaches’ votes are kept secret until the end of the season. After the preseason vote, Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, according to ESPN.com, mentioned that Kiffin did vote USC as the No. 1 team in the country.
Kiffin responded by saying he “would not vote” the Trojans No. 1 overall.
After that statement, USA Today, to set the record straight, revealed Kiffin’s vote – and guess what? He did vote USC No. 1. In response, Kiffin got mad at USA Today for revealing his vote and then played it off like it was no big deal.
He was probably right. The USA Today Coaches’ Poll voting mishap was no big deal, but it did say a lot about Kiffin’s attitude and trustworthiness. He was caught lying, and it made him look petty.
Kiffin’s media woes didn’t stop there. At the beginning of the season, he instituted a new policy that the media could no longer report on strategy or injuries observed while watching a practice.
After Los Angeles Daily News reporter Scott Wolf reported on an injury that occurred in a game, Kiffin, for some reason, flew off the handle, barring Wolf from attending practices for two weeks and taking away his media credentials for the Sept. 22 game.
What Kiffin failed to realize is that those media outlets are more important and powerful than he is. So after Wolf was barred from doing his job, members of the media, including editors from The Los Angeles Times and the Orange County Register, had a little sit-down with Kiffin and USC officials, to explain how things really are in Southern California.
Guess what? Wolf was given his credentials back, and little more was said about the issue – until a few weeks later, when a reporter asked Kiffin about a player injury during a news conference. Kiffin answered the question, but was so agitated that he left the press conference early, in a weird sort of tantrum.
There are other coaches in the Pac-12 who don’t allow reporting on injuries – it can affect preparations by future opponents – but now that Kiffin has made a big deal of it, it seems change is on the way. By 2013, there may be a mandatory injury-reporting rule similar to one already in place in the ACC. Not that I care, but I am sure those other coaches, like UCLA’s Jim Mora, are probably pissed right now that Kiffin couldn’t keep his mouth shut.
But the worst knock on Kiffin is USC’s lackluster performance so far this season. They’ve already lost to Stanford, and almost lost to the University of Utah in last week’s Thursday night game. Five games into the season, USC is 37th nationally in scoring and 48th in total offense.
According to SI.com, only seven teams in the country have had fewer third-down conversions and two of those teams play in the SEC.
Kiffin is supposed to be some sort of offensive genius, yet his playcalling, full of screens that never seem to work, seems predictable and easy to stop. And then there is quarterback Matt Barkley. Instead of going to the NFL last year, he chose to return for his senior year, believing that Kiffin would lead the Trojans to a Pac-12 Championship, and possibly lead him, Barkley, to a Heisman Trophy. I wonder if Barkley would take a mulligan on his decision. I bet he would.
The Heisman Trophy quest for Barkley is basically out of the picture right now and the Pac-12 Championship dream is next to fall.
In short, not only has Kiffin created an ongoing media nightmare for the university, he’s not delivering the winning team he was supposed to bring. It makes me wonder how long Kiffin will be on the USC payroll. He can’t be worth it.
On a happier note, I do think of all the Volunteer faithful and how happy they should be right now with Kiffin’s decision to go west. Yes, Volunteer fans everywhere should be celebrating the fact that they have an up-and-coming coach with Derek Dooley – and they aren’t stuck with that swine, Lane Kiffin.