The USC Trojan football program hasn't lived up to expectations this season, as the prior No. 1 ranked team just dropped to 7-4 (5-4 Pac-12) on the season. Head coach Lane Kiffin needs to be fired, but not because of the record or the team's play.
Kiffin's continued ignorance of NCAA rules simply can't be tolerated.
The Trojans are eligible for postseason play this season after serving a suspension for lack of institutional control following the Reggie Bush scandal. Allowing Kiffin to continue as coach is a demonstration that the school isn't taking the issue seriously.
There have been several issues this season that, looked at separately, aren't an overwhelming issue. When looked at in totality, this type of leadership can't continue.
Kiffin has stated he's been assured he'll be back as head coach next season.
Following is a summary of some of the concerns that should make administrators rethink that decision.
Lie About Voting USC as No. 1
According to a report on USA TODAY, Kiffin told reporters "I would not vote USC No. 1, I can tell you that."
Yet that is just what he did in his first ballot as an NCAA voter.
The USA TODAY report went on to explain why they revealed Kiffin's vote, something that is normally kept confidential.
Each coach's vote normally is kept confidential until the final vote of the regular season under an agreement between USA TODAY Sports and the American Football Coaches Association. However, when a voter volunteers false or misleading information about his vote in public, then USA TODAY Sports, in its oversight role as administrator of the poll, will set the record straight to protect the poll's integrity.
Kiffin either began to backpedal or offer an explanation of his comment, depending on one's perspective.
"We have less players than everybody else. So looking at it from the outside, I wouldn't (vote USC No. 1). Did I? Yeah, I did. That's not based off of 75 vs. 85. That's based off of Matt Barkley, T.J. McDonald and Robert Woods and Marqise Lee.
"When everybody has the same record, I can't go into a meeting with our players and have them say, 'You put that team and that team ahead of us.' That's why I did that."
Kiffin further stated "I don't really buy things are confidential anymore."
Well, they certainly aren't when you aren't honest about your actions.
L.A. Daily News reporter Scott Wolf reported on an injury to USC kicker Andre Heidari. Kiffin was so hot over the issue that he stripped Wolf's press credentials and banned him from practice.
This created a huge issue with the Los Angeles media as a whole, who didn't feel a coach should be able to dictate what they can and can't report.
USC athletic director Pat Haden took over the situation, restoring Wolf's credentials and forcing Kiffin to offer something that was supposed to be an apology.
I am happy to say my football practice ban was lifted after talks with Pat Haden and area sports editors. Practice policy talks continue— InsideUSC (@InsideUSC) September 13, 2012
Kiffin characterized the act of deflating the team's footballs during a game against Oregon as the act of a "rogue manager."
The back-story is the NCAA dictates football must be inflated to between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch. This gives a somewhat uniform, and fair, standard for the six footballs provided by each team for their own offense.
As a former receiver, I can attest that under-inflated balls are easier to catch and hold onto. They give when being squeezed, which makes it harder for the ball to slip through one's fingers.
USC's website provided its view of what transpired.
The student manager confirmed that he had, without the knowledge of, or instruction from, any USC student-athlete, coach, staff member or administrator, deflated those game balls after they had been tested and approved by officials prior to the game.
As a result, the Pac-12 reprimanded USC and imposed a fine.
Apparently Matt Barkley, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee couldn't tell the balls were more squishy than normal, too.
This might not have been caught, but the balls were in the possession of the officials on the Oregon sidelines. The manager tampered with them in plain view of the Oregon players and staff.
It still seems extremely suspect that a low-level member of the team would take such action without any direction, and that one of the players wouldn't notice and report the issue.
Perhaps "scandal" is a bit harsh, but the Trojans players were caught changing numbers during their conference game against the Colorado Buffaloes. Kiffin asserted he did nothing wrong.
The NCAA rules state "numbers shall not be changed during the game to deceive opponents."
Depending on one's interpretation, Kiffin could be right. He could claim they didn't change numbers to deceive opponents, but rather to allow two players that normally wear the same number to take the field simultaneously.
The more common interpretation of that rule is changing numbers could deceive opponents so players aren't allowed to do so during a game.
While this issue may seem somewhat trite, it is an issue Kiffin should have avoided in a blowout win.
Again, none of these issues show blatant lack of control and none of them are major issues.
But, when enough of these problems pile on top of each other, the athletic department needs to take action.
Allowing Kiffin to continue as head coach would tell the Pac-12 and the NCAA that the university learned nothing from the prior sanctions and welcome further disciplinary action.
USC needs to act quickly. Tennessee has already entered the shopping phase for a new head coach.
Darin Pike is a writer for Bleacher Report's Breaking News Team and a Featured Columnist covering the NFL and the Seattle Seahawks.
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