Lane Kiffin got himself into a messy situation last week, and this week, he did the right thing by getting himself out of it. Permanently.
Last week, the USC head coach told reporters he wouldn't vote his Trojans No. 1 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, but according to USA Today, he did just that. On Sunday, USA Today reported that Kiffin decided to relinquish his right to vote in the Coaches Poll for the rest of the 2012 season.
Kiffin wrote in a letter to executive director of the American Football Coaches Association and to USA Today Sports, "It is an opportunity and responsibility that I do not take lightly. However, I find it necessary to relinquish my voting status."
For Kiffin, giving up his right to vote in this poll was the only way to get out of this unfortunate situation alive. Did he lie? No, according to Kiffin; when he said he wouldn't vote USC No. 1, he meant that he wouldn't do it if he were a media member or a coach of another team, per USA Today.
And that's entirely understandable. I'm not saying that because I like Kiffin or because I'm a USC fan, neither of which are true; I'm saying that because it makes sense.
Maybe Kiffin is pulling the wool over our eyes, mine included. Maybe his excuse was simply a get-out-of-jail-free card crafted by PR representatives and crisis communications experts. But it makes sense. A member of the media wouldn't vote USC No. 1 because a reporter wouldn't, at this point, be able to see these players interact and practice behind closed doors. A reporter wouldn't be able to see all of what these players are capable of.
Kiffin, however, would be able to. Kiffin, in fact, is the only person who knows what this team is capable of accomplishing, and if what he has seen has led him to believe that his team is the best one in the country, he should vote the Trojans No. 1.
And deeming the Trojans the nation's best isn't a long shot. It isn't unwarranted. Last season, USC finished first in the Pac-12 South at 10-2 overall, 7-2 in conference play, and it still has its core of stars intact.
Yes, the Trojans have fewer scholarships than some of the other contenders, but they also have some of the best recruits in the nation each year. And plus, they just landed the best running back in the country in Silas Redd, who transferred from Penn State. This team does look like one of the best in the country.
But now, because of a quotation and a story that has been blown far out of proportion, Kiffin is once again in the hot seat. His "integrity"—which, in this case, has been confused with his educated opinion—have been called into question, as has the precious sanctity of the USA Today Coaches' Poll.
Kiffin's only choice was to step down and bring this story to an end. It's not an admission of guilt; it is simply Kiffin's only way of telling the world to move on, because he has. Now, instead of answering questions every week about whether or not he still thinks his team is worthy of a No. 1 vote, he can focus on putting in the work to ensure his prophecy holds true.
Kiffin doesn't need to vote in order to prove his team is the best one in the country. His players can do that on the field—with or without his vote.