Is Lane Kiffin Worth Keeping at USC?

Emily O'Neill Elmer@emilystormsCorrespondent IINovember 24, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 20:  USC Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin looks on against the Colorado Buffaloes at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 20, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

USC coach Lane Kiffin has a problem.

It is one thing to be hated by the fans of other college football teams. It is often an indicator of success. But to be hated by your own fan base is never a good thing. Kiffin has achieved the latter. 

Let us now explore the arguments for and against USC's embattled head coach. 

The Good: 

Well, let's be honest, there isn't a lot. In terms of his record, here are the highlights:

Under the tutelage of Pete Carroll from 2001-2006, Kiffin saw great success coaching the tight ends and later as the offensive coordinator at USC. Between the years of 2002-2006 USC only lost 6 games. For the statistics geeks out there, that's an average of 1.2 games per season. Their win-loss percentage for those years was: 2002 .846, 2003 .923, 2004 1.000, 2005 .923, 2006 .864. 

 At the beginning of the millennium, USC was a powerhouse few could best. 

2006, the last year of Kiffin's tenure as the offensive coordinator, saw the Trojans go to 11-2 with a win in the Rose Bowl against Texas. That season, USC's offense had a pass completion ratio of 61.1 percent for an average of 263.8 yards per game and rushed an average of 128 yards per game. 

Not a bad season. 

In Kiffin’s three years as recruiting coordinator at USC, the Trojans had the No. 1-ranked recruiting class in college football every year. 

In 2007, Kiffin left for the Oakland Raiders and the Trojans went 11-2 again. In 2008 while still under Carroll, USC improved to 12-1 and won the Rose Bowl. 

So who was responsible for the success? Was it Carroll? Kiffin? Both of them together?

While at Tennessee, Kiffin led the Vols to a 7–6 record in 2009, improving their 2008 record of 5–7. The Vols increased their offensive output by more than 60 percent in 2009 with Kiffin calling the offensive plays, so while their record may not jump off the page at you, Kiffin was doing some good. 

The Bad:

Let's start with his time at USC.

Kiffin was the offensive coordinator for Reggie Bush. We all know what happened next. Bush accepted lavish gifts from sports agent Lloyd Lake and went down in NCAA infamy.

So how much did Kiffin know?

He worked very closely with Bush. Is it possible that he could have been oblivious to the over $290,000 in gifts Bush received? Kiffin was also a recruiting coordinator. Is it truly possible that all this went on under his nose?

On to Oakland:

In his first year as head coach of the Raiders, Kiffin went an abysmal 4-12. Clearly no cheating going on there!

In 2008, after getting off to a 1-3 start he was dismissed by Raiders owner Al Davis. In fairness to Kiffin, the Raiders were doing terribly before he got there, putting up only 2 wins to 14 losses the year prior to his arrival.

Year at Tennessee:

In February of 2009, Kiffin accused Urban Meyer, the former head coach of the Florida Gators, of violating NCAA recruiting rules while at a Tennessee booster breakfast at the Knoxville Convention Center.

"I'm going to turn Florida in right here in front of you," Kiffin told the crowd. "As Nu'Keese (Richardson) was here on campus, his phone keeps ringing. And so one of our coaches is sitting in the meeting with him and says, 'Who is that?' And he looks at the phone and says, 'Urban Meyer.' Just so you know, you can't call a recruit on another campus. But I love the fact that Urban had to cheat and still didn't get him."

When Kiffin accused Meyer of violating NCAA rules, he incidentally violated an SEC rule that prevented coaches from mentioning a recruit by name, and his accusations against Meyer were mistaken. Kiffin was issued a public reprimand by SEC commissioner Mike Slive. 

Apparently, this was not enough of a scolding for Lane to learn to keep his mouth shut.

Later that same year, he told recruit Alshon Jeffery that if he chose the Gamecocks, "he would end up pumping gas for the rest of his life like all the other players from that state who had gone to South Carolina." 

This last quote reminds me of something interesting Max Redfield said after decommiting to USC. Referring to Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, he said "He wasn't bashing any other schools, which was cool." Was Kiffin up to his old tricks while talking to Redfield? Watch the video here

Perhaps the most memorable occurrence of Kiffin's tenure at Tennessee, was the fashion in which he left the school. After just one year as head coach, Kiffin unceremoniously departed the Vols to lead the USC Trojans. Saying this did not sit well with the Tennessee student body would be an understatement. Hundreds of students rioted after the news of his departure broke. 


Well, where do I start?

Excluding the 2011 season where the Trojans went 10-2, he's had a mediocre career at USC. In 2010 they went 8-5 and this year they are 7-4, or what Pete Carroll would call bad years

The first scandal arose out of his decision to give USC a preseason rank of number 1. An act he expressly told reporters he would not do, stating "I would not vote USC No. 1, I can tell you that much." USA Today then released his vote, citing a desire to "protect the poll's integrity" and Kiffin's providing of "false or misleading information." As a result, Kiffin voluntarily gave up his voting rights for the rest of the year. 

Next, he decided not to allow opponents to conduct walk-throughs on the field of the L.A. Coliseum, a decision he stated was "solely based" on preserving the condition of the turf. Yeah, right. This ruffled more than a few feathers. 

During a game with Colorado, Kiffin was again under fire for changing quarterback Cody Kessler's number from 6 (his usual number before the game) to No. 35, the same jersey number as punter Kyle Negrete. Kessler was then used on a two-point conversion in the first half while wearing No. 35 before moving back to No. 6 for the second half.

As far as the rule book goes, "Numbers shall not be changed during the game to deceive opponents. A team caught doing so will be assessed a 15-yard penalty and "flagrant offenders shall be disqualified."

USC claimed that because the number switch was done before the game, it did not violate the rules. 

Finally, there was the ball deflation scandal. During the USC-Oregon game, Pac-12 officials found three under-inflated balls before the game and two more at halftime  A student manager, supposedly acting on his own accord, intentionally deflated game balls prior to and during the first half of USC's game with Oregon. The Trojans ended up losing 62-51, the worst defensive performance in their history.

It is incredibly hard for me to believe this lone wolf story USC put out in the wake of the scandal.

This incident set USC back $25,000 in fines. 


It seems Carroll was the true mastermind behind the Trojans' winning streak while Kiffin was the offensive coordinator.

In 2010, his first year as head coach, Kiffin put up a mediocre 8-5. In 2011 USC went 10-2, leading some to believe the Trojans were back, but this year has been lackluster to say the least. One thing that can not be taken away from Lane Kiffin is his knack for recruiting five-star talent. Unfortunately, it has been sullied somewhat because of the scandal at SC. 

As far as his time at Oakland, who can really say? He was only there for one full season and didn't get the opportunity to recruit new talent. One thing is clear though, from 2003 to present, the Raiders have gone through six head coaches, are presently on their seventh and have yet to win more than 8 games in a season.

At Tennessee, while he did improve the team dramatically, his mouth got the better of him. He also left a bitter taste in the mouth of many college football fans for his sudden departure. All in all I would say the negative outweighs the positive for his time here. 

Kiffin's tenure as USC's head coach has just been a bloodbath.

In the final analysis, Kiffin is a master recruiter and has a fairly good resume as an offensive coordinator but lacks the skill, integrity and better judgment to be a head coach. Trojan fans should demand his removal before he does long-term damage to the image of the program. 

How do you feel about Lane Kiffin remaining head coach at USC? Leave your comments below.


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