I remember it as if it was yesterday.
Pete Carroll was on the way to Seattle and Mike Garrett appeared to pull a rabbit out of his hat in the hiring of Lane Kiffin.
There was some excitement in the sense that Lane Kiffin could save the recruiting class while keeping the winning tradition going at USC.
Kiffin was a supposed Carroll protege. He turned Tennessee around a little bit and the reaction of the UT fan base on Kiffin's abrupt departure was seen as an endorsement of Kiffin.
The possibility of Lane, Monte, Coach O and possibly, albeit very remote, Norm Chow coming back to USC made the fan base dance in the streets. Of course Chow was never a possibility based on Kiffin's comments at his introductory presser, but the recruiting class was saved and there was work to be done.
There were many who were not thrilled with this hire.
Kiffin's SEC antics left a bad taste in a lot of peoples mouths. Particularly the media who used it a baseball bat to bash Kiffin. That stuff may be routine in the SEC but USC was never like that. There was an NCAA investigation going on that Kiffin was apart of at UT and with USC still waiting for the NCAA hammer to fall some thought this would hurt USC's case.
Would the NCAA combine the UT investigation with USC's? More realistic was the concern that the NCAA would use the UT case as one more club to hammer USC five months later...even if they didn't say so publicly.
You never know with the NCAA. Their agenda is constantly changing.
Then there was Kiffin's "play calling" .
We all remember the 4th and 2 play at the Rose Bowl. Many thought that was Kiffin's call but it was really Pete Carroll's call. Still, the 13-9 loss at UCLA the following December fanned those flames again The Rise and as USC, on the verge of going to another BCS title game, lost a game that USC should have won because Kiffin could not or would not adjust to DeWayne Walker's defense.
Kiffin left a month later for the Raiders job much to many USC fans happiness…
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I first met Lane Kiffin at the first Pac-10 Media day event in NYC in 2010. USC had already been hammered by the NCAA and Kiffin's rep from his antics in the SEC made him the hot interview. I got there early and scoped things out as I wanted to be right next Kiffin. I get paid to read people for a living so I wanted to see Kiffin up close.
You can read it all here and here.
I next saw Kiffin at the second, now Pac-12, media event in NYC in 2011.
Here is my write-up from 2011.
He was not the hot property that year. The conference had now grown to 12 members and with a new coach at Stanford along with the additions of Utah and Colorado the focus was in other areas.
I always thought that Kiffin had trust issues with any media. Mainstream or otherwise. That was self inflicted because of his antics and feeling by many that he only got to where he was because of who his daddy was. Like I said he was decent to me, but I could tell he was a bit guarded and aloof...almost above it all.
Some things you don't write if you expect to get a second interview. That was when I cared about access.
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Turns out I was right. The antics were back in 2012 and Kiffin's alleged arrogance after the 2011 campaign and here we are.
I can't feel sorry for anyone who can't see the forest through the trees. Kiffin needed to change his coaching style. It is clear that he felt threatened by anyone who could see through him like Kennedy Pola. People he kept close like James Cregg are simply yes men who ultimately were part of Kiffin's downfall because he was too loyal to make a change when the O-Line's performance has been atrocious.
Kiffin made millions from USC so he is set. He will get a coordinators job somewhere and ultimately land on his feet.
It is always bad when someone loses their job but Kiffin gets no sympathy from me. Like any bad situation it was fixable.
The signals were there from the first presser when he publicly said he would call plays basically ending any chance of landing Norm Chow. Some picked up on that right away and were concerned.
It was an ominous sign and we have the final results of that today.
The fan base will rally around Coach O for the remainder of the 2013 season but I am confident that he probably won't be here for the 2014 season. Pat Haden will hire HIS coach and I would expect that coach to bring his own staff in. Similar to what happened to Bob Cantu when Andy Enfield was hired.
A new chapter in USC football starts today.