College Football: Why USC's Lane Kiffin Is Coach of the Year, Hands Down

Jonathan McDanalContributor IIINovember 20, 2011

EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 19: Head coach Lane Kiffin of the USC Trojans speaks with his team in the first half of the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on November 19, 2011 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Week 12 upsets as of midnight Saturday:

Iowa State 37, No. 2 Oklahoma State 31 (2OT)

USC 38, No. 4 Oregon 35

Baylor 45, No. 5 Oklahoma 38 (Oklahoma, bad timing for a timeout.)

North Carolina State 37, No. 7 Clemson 13

That's four teams in the top seven that fell in one weekend!

Now for Lane Kiffin's part in all of this.

Lane Kiffin stands unable to qualify for post-season bowl games, and he was sought out for his current position by USC. USC knows they asked him to burn bridges to come coach for them, and he did at Tennessee.

Lane Kiffin is still coaching, and coaching well. He's coaching so well, that his team has to be noticing that he's doing it even though he can't enter the BCS rankings yet.

That sends a clear message to anyone who is paying even the slightest attention to his program, and that message is: "Play to a standard, play to win, and play for your team, no matter the circumstances."

He's sitting under penalty for infractions that occurred before he accepted the job, and he's holding his head up high. More importantly, he's holding his team's head up high.

This quote is directly from the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award website:

"For the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award, winning is only part of the equation. Created in 2006, the award recognizes one college football coach from each NCAA division (I-FBS, I-FCS, II and III), rewarding them for their sportsmanship, integrity, responsibility and excellence."

I believe there is no argument against responsibility, integrity or sportsmanship. He is taking someone else's "lumps" for their misdeeds, and you don't hear him complaining about it. He has been a good sport this year, with the exception of comments against some officiating earlier in the season.

(Since it's not against any rules for me to say so, I'll tell you that I agreed with him on the penalty yardage and the fact that a second should have been put on the clock for him. I wasn't on the field, so I can't have an opinion on what was promised or not promised to him.)

As for integrity, integrity doesn't require men not to make mistakes, so I don't hold that against him. Integrity is upholding moral standards, regardless of the consequences. He did more to show me his integrity by not shielding the refs from their own mistakes, and then owned up to the infraction and apologized when he was called out for his mistake.

As far as excellence, he is on track for a 10-2 record with only UCLA standing in his way. Again, a 10-2 season is more than respectable, but to fight for that when the reward is not being in the Top 25 OR a Bowl game is excellence.

Some may argue that coaches in the BCS National Championship should be given a first look, but with an excellent showing against No. 6 Stanford and an upset of No. 4 Oregon, his team would be in the discussion for a possible BCS Championship appearance if he weren't disqualified. (He would probably be sitting at No. 4 right now.)

As an avid SEC fan, the circumstances surrounding his departure from Tennessee bewildered and somewhat upset me. As a fan of college football and loyalty, I feel Kiffin displayed that to USC when he left Tennessee. I feel badly for Tennessee for losing him, and I feel worse now that he's proving that to be a greater loss than we thought.

Coach of the Year? Maybe. Anyone strives for greatness when the crystal football is on the line. How many excel just to excel?