It has been a disappointing season for the USC Trojans, and it has been even worse for head coach Lane Kiffin. Once former head coach Pete Carroll left for the Seattle Seahawks, it was Kiffin that was expected to get this program back on track.
In almost three full years at USC, the head coach has a combined record of 25-10. That record may seem solid, but it is what he wasn't able to do that matters most to college football fans, and that will mean the most to his job security.
If Kiffin can't turn things around immediately, he will not make it through the NCAA sanctions that were handed down before the 2010 season. While USC is finished with its two-year bowl ban, the school still has until the 2014 season to finish probation.
This gives Kiffin the remainder of this year and all of next season to make an impact before somebody shows him the door and USC brings in the next high profile coach.
Will he get it done? I highly doubt it.
USC was pegged as the No. 1 team in the country in the AP preseason poll. Everything was wonderful in Trojan land, as many believed that it was going to be a cake walk to Miami, where this year’s squad would compete for a national championship. The team was supposed to make up for lost time after not being eligible for the postseason for two years.
Well, now the team isn't even guaranteed to make it to the Pac-12 Championship Game. The same team that was picked by nearly every media member to win the conference may not even reach the big game. USC is currently 7-3 on the season and will be in a dog fight of a game against the UCLA Bruins to try and lock up the Pac-12 South division.
This is a program that wants to compete for national championships every season and if Kiffin can't win with this year’s team, it makes you question if he will ever be able to get the job done. Once this season comes to a close, Matt Barkley, Khaled Holmes, T.J. McDonald, Jawanza Starling and likely Robert Woods are all moving on with their lives.
The key players that helped make this a national championship contender this season will no longer be around to try and make up for the failures that occurred. With all of the talent that is on this roster, there is no reason the Trojans lost to Stanford, Arizona and couldn't even remain competitive against Oregon.
This brings us to another point. What exactly has Kiffin done throughout his career to earn such a long leash?
He was a complete failure with the Oakland Raiders, he barely had a winning record in his one year at Tennessee, and now you have this frustrating season that was supposed to be the year Kiffin took a step towards becoming an elite head coach.
With his lack of success and a not-positive track record, there should be no problem in letting him go if the struggles continue.
You also have the off-the-field issues that seem to pop up weekly when it comes to the head coach, whether you want to talk about banning reporters from practices, switching jerseys in the middle of a game or letting a little air out of the footballs. Controversy has always followed Kiffin and there is only so much a program can handle, especially when the school is still on probation by the NCAA.
Should Kiffin be able to make it through the sanctions before a decision is made on his job?
There is one way to make these issues go away and that is winning at a high level. Because USC has not been as successful as it would have liked, you hear more about these incidents than you probably would have if the team was undefeated and chasing a national championship.
Kiffin has been a fabulous recruiter and has done a great job of bringing top tier talent to USC despite the lack of scholarships he has had to work with. However, this is USC, a top of the line school and last time I checked, it hasn't exactly had a difficult time in landing elite talent. Whether Kiffin is the head coach or it is somebody else that replaces him, great players are still on board with this program.
The third-year head coach is already rapidly approaching the hot seat this weekend in the game against UCLA. If the Trojans don't at least qualify for the Pac-12 title game and give themselves a shot at a BCS bowl, you could make a case that he should be fired after this season.
But if you are one that believes in second chances, seeing Kiffin coach a less experienced team next year can't exactly make you feel great about what is in store for the future.
USC will finish its sanctions beginning in 2014 and I wouldn't be surprised if it is a coach other than Kiffin that is walking those sidelines of Los Angeles Memorial Stadium.