Monday, September 30, 2013

Not So Fast Lane

By Jean Neuberger

Pat Haden didn't waste time in the early morning hours of last Sunday.

Following USC's 62-41 drubbing by Arizona State, he pulled Kiffin aside upon landing at Los Angeles International Airport and told Kiffin he was no longer the head coach of the Trojans.

Attendance was down. So were wins. And, despite the scholarship hits brought by the NCAA, the fans had seen enough of the Kiffin era to demand change. So Haden did just that.

My question is this: why now? Why not after last season?

The Trojans were the trendy pick to end the SEC's title run. They finished 7-5 and thus, were sent to represent the Pac-12 at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, where they faced a Georgia Tech team that was 6-7, but received a bowl bid since the seventh loss was in the ACC title game.

What followed might have been the worst overall bowl appearance in the history of college football. USC players trashed El Paso on Twitter. They trashed Georgia Tech before the game. They showed up ridiculously late to the Sheriff's Posse Dinner, so much so that Paul Johnson took his Yellow Jackets and angrily left.

How anyone could think Lane Kiffin had control of his team is absurdity at its finest.

The Trojans didn't show up for the game, either. Georgia Tech won easily, 21-7. The Trojan players brawled with each other in the team locker room following the loss.

Embarrassing? That doesn't even begin to describe things. The Trojan program was out of control. The players, not the coaches, were in charge and they weren't doing their school proud. Haden should've put a stop to it right then. He chose not to.

September's games proved that, nine months after the disaster in El Paso, Kiffin still had yet to assume control of his team. Whether it was Washington State's shocking 10-7 win to open the home slate, or Marquis Lee's remark of "Kiffin don't know" in reference to the players-only meeting earlier this month, Kiffin was not the man in charge of the program.

Now, instead of having a quality coach in charge, Pat Haden has handed the reins this season to Ed Orgeron. One look at his term at Ole Miss should give you a hint as to how things are going to go the rest of the season for USC.

Haden, known to be a good man who genuinely loves the school he represents, made an error in judgment. While this happens to everyone, the decision to not fire Kiffin months ago is still a puzzler. Kiffin's track record was not a great one by any means. He had left bridges scorched in Oakland, with former Raiders owner Al Davis hurling insults at him consistently. He had them burned in Knoxville, as well. During his one-year stint as head coach of Tennessee, Kiffin had committed numerous NCAA violations, attempted to pick fights with Urban Meyer and Steve Spurrier and drug the school through a miserable season before bailing on them for L.A.

Everywhere he's been, ugly, angry chaos has followed.

Kiffin won't be the only coach let go this season. Paul Pasqualoni has done miserably so far at UConn. Mack Brown's seat in Austin is practically charred. Bo Pelini better win and win big to gain any fan support back at Nebraska. There are others who are walking on edge this season.

However, Kiffin should've never been coach to begin with this season. And USC fans will have to suffer for two more months before a chance for order to be restored can happen.

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