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The Fall of Troy

Lane Kiffin's window finally closed at USC
Lane Kiffin's window finally closed at USC
Christian Petersen

USC lost something special last night, and it wasn’t a game. The Trojans have more national titles than the rest of the Pac-12 combined. That usually leads to people watching a 62-41 loss in Tempe and saying things like "we’re USC, this doesn’t happen to us." And that’s true to an extent (although Oregon disagrees). But saying "this doesn’t happen to us" translates quickly to "we don’t do that." USC doesn’t lose to Arizona State, a team they’d beaten 12 of their previous 13 contests, while giving up 62 points. Except, they do. USC doesn’t start a season ranked number one and then fail to win a bowl game. Except, they do. USC doesn’t make reactionary decision mid-season like UCLA. Except, they do.

When you’ve won more national titles than the rest of your conference combined you are expected to act a certain way. On the one hand that means you’re expected to win an absurdly high number of games, on the other hand it means administratively you have to carry yourself in a different way. After the Trojans beat UCLA 50-0 two years ago the Bruins fired Rick Neuheisel before they even played their bowl game. Now USC loses to ASU 62-41 and Pat Haden fires Lane Kiffin before the team can even get back to campus. Does USC really want to say they do things just like everyone else? First Haden listens to the fan noise and fires a coach mid-season, next thing you know the Trojans are wearing their 17th alternate jersey that has nothing to do with the school colors.

Why was Kiffin fired after that particular game? Just three weeks ago everyone wanted him fired because the offense looked miserable. Against Arizona State the offense puts up 41 points and everyone still wants him fired. Maybe that’s just the price of being the head coach at USC. Maybe it really is a job that entails getting blamed (justifiably) when your side of the ball struggles and getting blamed when it plays well but the other side of the team gets blasted. Even if that is the case, can we all at least admit our reasons for wanting Kiffin fired are as inconsistent as the team he was coaching?

Midway through the third quarter last night I realized I have no idea how I’d fix this Trojan team. One second I’m thinking the offense is never going to get it together, the next I’m trying to blame Monte Kiffin for the defense even though he’s in Dallas. There is no easy answer as to what’s wrong with this iteration of Trojans outside of "we’re USC, this doesn’t happen to us." Maybe Haden finds a coach who manages to reinvigorate the team like Jim Mora has done across town, but its an awful big gamble if in the process you throw away one of the last things making your program different.

Lane Kiffin probably deserved to lose his job based on performance alone, but is USC really comfortable being the school that makes decisions like this mid-season? If Kiffin deserved to lose his job nothing that has happened since Georgia Tech enhanced that. If he deserved to lose his job he deserved the same fate eight months ago. As fans it is easy to get caught up in RIGHT NOW and lose sight of what makes your program special. As much as the 11 national titles and over thirty Rose Bowl wins it is tradition that makes USC special. Its players not having names on their jerseys, its white socks and black shoes; it’s being a program that above all else refuses to be reactionary.

Lane Kiffin reportedly lost his job at 4:30 in the morning and in that moment USC sealed the loss of more than a game last night. Firing a coach mid-season is something other schools do. USC lost part of its tradition last night. The Trojans became just the latest school to fold under fan pressure, regardless of anything else. The Trojans folded to a fan base that is currently rejoicing over Coach Kiffin losing his job.

USC may have lost its way last night, but that fan base lost something more this morning. To celebrate a grown man losing his job is lower than low. Wealth does not preclude you from deserving sympathy. Lane Kiffin coached his team to a loss last night and then had to go home to his wife and son and have them watch as millions of people celebrated the public recognition of his failure. There is something wrong with that. There is something wrong with a group of fans supporting the TROJANS forgetting the ancient value that pride commeth before a fall, forgetting that there but for the grace of God go I. Lane Kiffin may have deserved to lose his job, but if we’re celebrating another man’s firing, we have bigger problems than supporting a 3-2 football team.