This is not going to be a popular post so fair warning...
I have always tried to be objective but I realize that sometimes the raucous fan comes out in me. I was giddy lat night night but upon taking a second look I am not so sure.
I think it would be appropriate for all of us to take a deep breath and a step back and look at the totality of the hiring of Lane Kiffin.
This is not going to be a popular hire once the dust settles and and the excitement wears off. Many of will take a second look and shake our heads.
I understand why this hire was made. I am impressed with the assistants that have been brought in, as well as those who "may" be brought in. If USC was looking to make a statement then they certainly succeeded.
But we need to temper our enthusiasm.
USC is attempting to catch lightning in a bottle for a second time by hiring this all-star cast...understand that there is no guarantee of success. Many of these guys' egos are much bigger now then when they first came to USC. This will be difficult to manage.
Kiffin comes with some heavy baggage. He has much to prove as he takes over one of the most storied programs in all of college football.
Saving one recruiting class at the possible cost of future classes has some very definite risks.
There was a time where many were ready to shoot Kiffin on sight after ucla's 13-9 win over USC in 2006. There are others that blame Kiffin for USC's loss to Texas in the national championship game. There are even more who blame Kiffin for the departure of Norm Chow if for no other reason that it was because of Pete Carroll's nepotism. All of those complaints are legit.
So what has changed?
As many of you know I am not an alum of USC. I could not possibly know firsthand the traditions of USC athletics. Yes, I know of many of them through may dad but I did not live them myself. I didn't sit in the student section at the Coliseum, I never waited in anticipation for an acceptance letter. My affiliation with this program is one of the fan so I couldn't possibly understand the emotional investment that those who attended USC have. It is similar to those who have served in the military...you can't possibly know what it is like to put on your countries uniform unless you signed your name on the dotted line and committed to the risks.
I bring this up because this hire does make me uneasy.
The four days before this hire were stressful from a fans point of view. We saw one of the greatest coaches in modern college football take his leave from USC for a new challenge in the NFL. The years of stability under Pete Carroll were a thing of the past. The question was who would be USC's next head coach? Just like 2001 USC was rebuffed and they staring down at a number of NFL retreads or former alums that didn't want to leave the NFL.
There were rumors of some high powered trustees heading the search. Those rumors also put forth the belief that Mike Garrett was no longer making the major decisions and that he had very little input if any in the search of the new coach.
This was telling to me...Mike Garrett, whether you like him or not, is a Trojan to the core. Even if we don't like some of his decisions or his aloofness he is 100% USC. That being said, Garrett's lack of conviction to protect the university that he so dearly loves (Bush, Mayo etc.), forced the board of trustees' hand to become proactive in the coaching search. That is what makes this hire so stunning. With SC already having a target on its chest in regards to the NCAA; they approve, hire and finance a coach who has made a name for himself as a joke with one fan base and with a whole other football conference.
What I find even more stunning is that Pat Haden is rumored to be one of the trustees involved and apparent approval of this hire.
That is not the Pat Haden that many of us know as a representative of USC.
He has never shown himself to be a sell-out.
I will admit to my excitement of the news in finally getting a coach on board last night and the assistants that look to be on board, but as I look at this again will it be worth it? I admit to some rationalization in liking this hire last night, but we need to face reality...Kiffin is a quick fix. He will leave sooner rather than later. The bigger question is not if but how much damage will he leave in his wake? We have seen some of the stunts that Kiffin has pulled at UT...that may be fine for the SEC and their nutty fan base but will that fly at USC?
It should not be allowed and we should not accept it for one second if he pulls any of the stunts that he pulled at Tennessee.
I said last night that Kiffin has my unwavering support. He should, he is now the head coach but that support will crumble if he puts the program back into the cross hairs of the NCAA. No amount of wins, titles or recruiting classes is worth the black eye that could come with this hire. We are already facing some embarrassing revelations in February so why do we need to add to the list?
I will continue to write about this team as I see things through may own eyes even if my thoughts, views and opinions are not in line with others. I have yet to talk to my dad about this...that should be a fun conversation. He has always been my moral compass (even when I have screwed up big time) so his take on this will be interesting to hear because of his ties to the university and his personal relationship with Mike Garrett.
I am not expecting a thumbs up to this hire.
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Let me add a few thoughts on Norm Chow...
There are many ucla fans on the message boards that are ripping Chow...not surprising, as they feel jilted.
Chow coming on board in all of this is the only cog on the wheel that will make this work in the long run. He will temper Kiffin's youthful zeal.
It would appear that Chow is only after one thing...Money.
That is fine, we all have our vices. But it comes at a cost.
That Chow even entertained this says a lot about him. He is under contract at ucla. There were many ucla fans that trumpeted his hire two years ago but they too couldn't see the forest through the trees. Norm Chow used ucla to get back at Pete Carroll and ucla fans were only more than happy to jump on board to poke SC in the eye. Watch out what you wish for...When a better deal came along it would appear that Chow will jump at the chance to take it. Even if he doesn't leave ucla that can't be a good signal for ucla and Rick Neuheisel. A trust will have been broken. If Neuheisel keeps him after Chow unzipped his fly it will say a lot about Neuheisel as well.
This is the new age in CFB. Money controls all!
Our rivals from across town have always tried to take the moral high ground on issues of subatnce but they surrendered that when they hired a coach with 50-plus recruiting violations and a history of lying. Maybe Neuheisel now being the steward of his alma mater has changed him, maybe it hasn't...he still has a brash attitude and a little swagger. Hopefully Kiffin will take note of Neuheisel's second chance and make the best of things and lay down the law. Maybe he will be more diligent in making sure that the rules are followed...Most important, maybe this opportunity will simply make him think before he does anything or says anything that can be misconstrued by the fans, the administration and by the NCAA.
My enthusiasm is tempered over this hiring. USC now looks like a bunch of hired guns and the raiding of the UT coaching staf and recruits does not leave a very good taste in my mouth.
Instead of "Win Forever" the new mantra is now "Win at all Costs" and we should be concerned about what that says about USC...
Damn shame really...