USC fires Lane Kiffin; Orgeron is interim coach

Lane Kiffin takes the field for the first time as Tennessee head coach  Saturday, Sept. 5, 2009, at Neyland Stadium. The Vols topped Western Kentucky 63-7. (Adam Brimer/News Sentinel)

Photo by KNS Archive, Knoxville News Sentinel

Lane Kiffin takes the field for the first time as Tennessee head coach Saturday, Sept. 5, 2009, at Neyland Stadium. The Vols topped Western Kentucky 63-7. (Adam Brimer/News Sentinel)

In this Sept. 28, 2013 photo, Arizona State University head coach Todd Graham, left,  shakes hands with USC head coach Lane Kiffin after ASU defeated USC 62-41 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz. USC fired Kiffin early Sunday morning, not long after the team lost 62-41 at Arizona State.  (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Rob Schumacher) MARICOPA COUNTY OUT. NO SALES

In this Sept. 28, 2013 photo, Arizona State University head coach Todd Graham, left, shakes hands with USC head coach Lane Kiffin after ASU defeated USC 62-41 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz. USC fired Kiffin early Sunday morning, not long after the team lost 62-41 at Arizona State. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Rob Schumacher) MARICOPA COUNTY OUT. NO SALES

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lane Kiffin triumphantly flew in from Tennessee nearly four years ago as the unlikely choice to extend Southern California's football renaissance.

When Kiffin's Trojans trudged home to that same airport early Sunday morning after another loss, athletic director Pat Haden couldn't wait another minute to end the divisive coach's tumultuous tenure.

USC fired Kiffin hours after a 62-41 loss at Arizona State that dropped the Trojans to 3-2 overall and 0-2 in the Pac-12. The loss was the seventh in 11 games for a powerhouse program still struggling under the cumulative effect of NCAA sanctions, but unwilling to accept such a dramatic decline.

"It's never the perfect time to do these things, but I thought it was the right time," Haden said.

Ed Orgeron will be USC's interim head coach for the final eight games of the season before Haden chooses a permanent successor for one of college football's highest-profile jobs. Orgeron, Kiffin's assistant head coach and top recruiter, is the former Mississippi head coach.

Haden broke the news to Kiffin in a 3 a.m. meeting at the Trojans' private airport terminal, but not before a 45-minute chat in which Kiffin tried to change Haden's mind. Haden didn't hire Kiffin, but had been firmly behind the coach in public until Saturday, when the Trojans matched the most points allowed in school history.

"He did a lot of things well under some very difficult circumstances here," said Haden, who also fired men's basketball coach Kevin O'Neill during the season last January. "No one could have worked harder. He did a lot of the things we asked. Graduated players, never had compliance issues ... and he really worked under some very difficult NCAA sanctions, there's no doubt about it."

Kiffin ran a competent program despite the loss of 30 scholarships over a three-season stretch that ends in 2015. But even Kiffin acknowledged he wasn't winning enough in the last two seasons at a school with USC's pedigree, and he also created off-the-field troubles ranging from ethically questionable tactics to pointless squabbles with media.

"Lane did negotiate some of these things remarkably well," Haden said. "I have supported Lane with my heart and soul for 3½ years and gave him every opportunity. He wasn't given a fair hand in a lot of ways. I said all along, we graded on the curve, but we failed on the curve, too."

The Trojans are off this week before returning Oct. 10 at the Coliseum against Arizona, giving Orgeron time to evaluate what can be done to salvage the season with the toughest matchups on USC's schedule still looming.

Kiffin went 28-15 in parts of four seasons in his self-described dream job, but USC is 0-2 in conference play for the first time since 2001 after losses to Arizona State and Washington State — and the record only partly captures the discontent of USC's fans and alumni.

The Trojans were unimpressive on offense even in their three victories this season, stoking unease around a school with sky-high expectations even at the tail end of crippling NCAA penalties stemming from coach Pete Carroll's tenure.

Kiffin received withering criticism for persisting in calling the Trojans' offensive plays himself well into the school's second straight poor offensive season. The Trojans lost their home opener 10-7 to the Cougars earlier this month, and Coliseum fans serenaded USC repeatedly with chants of "Fire Kiffin!"

USC has been in a slow tailspin since going 10-2 and beating Oregon in 2011, the last year of its bowl ban. After starting as the preseason No. 1 last year, the Trojans finished 7-6 and out of the rankings — the first preseason No. 1 in nearly a half-century to fall so far — followed by this season's disappointments.

"I think it could easily be asked, 'Why not last year after the 7-6 season?'" Haden said. "'What do you know now that you didn't know after a 7-6 season?' The rationale was the prior year, Lane had won 10 games. We thought, and (were) hoping that last year was an aberration. We felt we could rebound, make some changes, and indeed, Lane did. ... But at the end of the day, we just weren't making the progress I felt we needed to make."

The firing comes less than five months after Haden said Kiffin had "been as good as he can be" in the face of USC's sanctions. Before this season began, Haden said he was "100 percent" behind the embattled Kiffin.

"We support our coaches 100 percent until they're no longer our coaches," Haden said. "Why would you support a coach 85 percent?"

The 52-year-old Orgeron went 10-25 in three seasons at Ole Miss, but that failed tenure did little to diminish his stature as a bulldog recruiter and defensive line coach. He coached alongside Kiffin at Tennessee before following his friend back to USC.

Orgeron, a Louisiana native with a thick Cajun accent, might sound a bit out of place in Los Angeles, but he's a popular assistant coach and a USC devotee after 11 years over two tenures at the school.

"It's an unfortunate day today that a coach got let go, but we understand the circumstances," Orgeron said. "I want to tell you we're here as a staff to answer the bell. We're all accountable for what happened as a staff and as players. Us Trojans know how to do it."

Orgeron said Clay Helton will be his offensive coordinator and the Trojans' play-caller. Helton, USC's quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator, has been with the Trojans since Kiffin returned in 2010.

Most players found out about Kiffin's dismissal by text messages in the middle of the night. The players have the next two days off before returning to practice Wednesday.

"We'll try to move forward now and focus on these next eight games, really bonding as a Trojan family and getting these wins," offensive lineman Marcus Martin said.

Like the precocious Kiffin's other two head coaching jobs, his USC tenure had an abrupt, messy exit.

The Trojans' former co-offensive coordinator was an NFL head coach at age 31, a head coach in the Southeastern Conference at 33 and USC's head coach at 34. If there was a consistent trend to those stops with the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee and the Trojans, it was turmoil.

With Oakland, he lasted only 20 games as an overmatched head coach before his departure became a public feud with Al Davis, the late Raiders owner. He then infuriated Volunteers fans when he left after just 14 months to head back to the Trojans.

Former USC athletic director Mike Garrett hired Kiffin away from Tennessee to replace Seattle Seahawks coach Carroll, the architect of USC's dynasty over the previous decade. Kiffin was an assistant under Carroll, eventually running the Trojans' offense alongside Steve Sarkisian, now Washington's coach.

Kiffin had nothing to do with the misdeeds committed under Carroll and Garrett, who was swiftly dismissed and replaced by Haden.

The coach still faced enormous expectations at USC — especially last season, when the Trojans started out ranked No. 1 in the country with quarterback Matt Barkley and star receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. USC lost five of its last six games, including the Sun Bowl, and Kiffin parted ways with his father, defensive guru Monte Kiffin.

The scholarship restrictions gradually eroded the Trojans' depth, and last season's struggles clearly hurt the vaunted recruiting power of Kiffin and Orgeron. Between the sanctions and injuries, the Trojans played at Arizona State on Saturday night with 56 recruited scholarship players, well below its limit of 75 and the standard 85.

Kiffin didn't help several strange decisions.

Last year, USC was reprimanded by the Pac-12 for underinflating footballs before a loss to Oregon. Kiffin also was criticized for switching jersey numbers on players in an apparent attempt to deceive the Trojans' opponents.

Kiffin even closed USC's practices to the public after years of transparency under Carroll, who embraced USC's tradition of raucous open workouts. This season, Kiffin also closed his practices to the media.

He then dithered on his choice of a starting quarterback, waiting until the third game to select Cody Kessler over Max Wittek. The offense has been largely terrible this season, but Kiffin was finally undone by another dreadful game by his defense, which had been solid under new coordinator Clancy Pendergast until Arizona State piled up 612 yards.

USC's next game is in 11 days, giving the Trojans time to regroup and heal. Orgeron still plans to hit the recruiting trail for a school in transition.

"I want our guys to believe and have a little fun," Orgeron said. "One of the things we'll do as a staff is get really close to our players, circle the wagons a little bit and have some fun for these next eight games, and let the chips fall where they may."

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Comments » 43

cltvol writes:

suggest CBJ let him intern as qb coach

cltvol writes:

what a tangled web we weave when lst we purpose to deceive

standfast#211788 writes:

The gift that keeps on giving.

TommyJack writes:

Wonder what the pay-out is?

Orange_Power_T writes:

So much for his dream job!

I know this is going to spark controversy but, CBJ should find out how Kiffin straightened out Crompton. The similarities between pre-Kiffin Crompton and Worley are frightening. What ever Kiffin did with Crompton to straighten him out was the single only good thing resulting from Kiffins hire.

Vol-in-GA writes:

Karma, she can be slow at times, but ultimately, she'll find you.

IndianOutlaw writes:

Wonder if T is rethinking his decision to stay on the left coast? I still think he would be a great addition to UT when a correct opening happens.

gc_scvol writes:

Hate it, just hate it. NOT!!!!!

big_orange_nuke writes:

Perhaps Southern Cal should give Dooley a call...

gc_scvol writes:

He would probably come here as QB coach for free.

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

Do you think Tee Martin is second guessing his decision not to come home when he had the chance?

johnlg00 writes:

Not sure about karma, but it clear that Kiffen was prematurely propelled into head coaching jobs before he was ready. If he had followed a normal career progression, he ought to be a QB coach or an offensive coordinator instead of a man who has already left/been fired from three head coaching jobs. I watched parts of that USC-ASU game, and the lack of depth was a major factor in the magnitude of that loss, even though they got behind pretty big and pretty early. I would be surprised if USC finishes with a winning record. Their defense looked like UT's last year.

Even though the offenses leading to USC's sanctions occurred before he got there, Kiffen's stock with Haden was low as soon as Haden became AD. In that sense, Kiffen was living on borrowed time ever since. It will be interesting to see how his future unfolds, that is, if he has the wherewithal to resurrect himself. Although some of the half-serious suggestions that he come back to UT as a QB coach sound crazy on the surface, that is probably his best bet for starting his rehabilitation, though probably not at UT.

BrassMonkey writes:

Like it or not Kiffen would have turned UT around faster than Dooley or, eh hem, Jones.

oldvol59 writes:

in response to IndianOutlaw:

Wonder if T is rethinking his decision to stay on the left coast? I still think he would be a great addition to UT when a correct opening happens.

That was one of my first thoughts after hearing the news. I wonder if Tee Martin is second guessing himself this morning.

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

in response to IndianOutlaw:

Wonder if T is rethinking his decision to stay on the left coast? I still think he would be a great addition to UT when a correct opening happens.

Although I appreciate all the good things Tee did at Tennessee, I question the judgement of a person who goes to work for a person who doesn't know a dream from a nightmare.

slov writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Not sure about karma, but it clear that Kiffen was prematurely propelled into head coaching jobs before he was ready. If he had followed a normal career progression, he ought to be a QB coach or an offensive coordinator instead of a man who has already left/been fired from three head coaching jobs. I watched parts of that USC-ASU game, and the lack of depth was a major factor in the magnitude of that loss, even though they got behind pretty big and pretty early. I would be surprised if USC finishes with a winning record. Their defense looked like UT's last year.

Even though the offenses leading to USC's sanctions occurred before he got there, Kiffen's stock with Haden was low as soon as Haden became AD. In that sense, Kiffen was living on borrowed time ever since. It will be interesting to see how his future unfolds, that is, if he has the wherewithal to resurrect himself. Although some of the half-serious suggestions that he come back to UT as a QB coach sound crazy on the surface, that is probably his best bet for starting his rehabilitation, though probably not at UT.

He was there as an assistant while the infractions and offenses were being committed. Now that's Karma.

WaitUntilNextYear writes:

The fraud has been exposed again. As Paul Finebaum called it yesterday Kiffinboy is the Miley Cyrus of football coaches. What is more amazing is the lemmings in Knoxville that really believe he was a good coach. Hamilton's incompetence was only exceeded by Kiffinboy and Doofusly.
He is not a good position coach or offensive coordinator. He destroyed Heisman candidate Barkley and lost a number of games due to bone-head decisions. Remember UCLA, Alabama? After he fired Daddy he was fully exposed. He is a con artist and a compulsive liar. He took a pre-season #1 ranked team and led them pathetically to an unranked season culminated with a loss to a 6 win Georgia Tech team in the Sun Bowl. Wow, what a coach, what a leader?
For you lost souls that still believe in him, you remind me of the same fools that chant SEC SEC and pull for your hated rivals to win the National Championship while Tennessee fails to have a winning season or go to a bowl game.
Do you really believe Alabama, Florida, LSU, Georgia, or South Carolina winning a National Championship helps Tennessee? Living vicariously through other SEC teams is warped.
The Jimmy and Joes want to play for the best and our hated rivals success undermines the Vols recruiting and potential to at least be significant. Kiffinboy and his failed recruiting class destroyed the short term future and Doofusly didn't help. It may be years if ever if Tennessee is competitive again on the national stage. Still sanguine about firing Fulmer? Really?
There are some real confused so called Vol fans that have no common sense and frankly are pretty ignorant.
Kiffinboy is a poison for organized football at any level and obviously incompetent. So happy he is fired! He will probably show up again as a tele-evangelist or a snake oil salesman.

BankerVol writes:

in response to BrassMonkey:

Like it or not Kiffen would have turned UT around faster than Dooley or, eh hem, Jones.

Correct about Dooley but not Jones. Had CBJ been hired to replace Fulmer we would probably be a top 10 team right now. The guy is a solid coach, great recruiter and has more character in his little finger than Kiffin and Dooley combined.

underthehill writes:

Expectations exceeded performance ..that is all there is to this story as far as I'm concerned..what does it matter to the Vol football program at this time..nothing..UT fans have far more to be concerned about..it appears patience is going to face a stronger test than at any time in Vol history..in spite of the strong fan support for Jones..UT needs to win some of the winnable games left on the schedule..

IndianOutlaw writes:

in response to snowpeapod#263184:

Although I appreciate all the good things Tee did at Tennessee, I question the judgement of a person who goes to work for a person who doesn't know a dream from a nightmare.

Excellent point and I like the dream/nightmare. May I borrow it if I quote you. I will stick with Jones.

mhwhite1#1422673 writes:

Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. One can only ride daddy's coattails for so long. Speaking of so long...SO LONG KIFFIN! You go what you and your lousy character and ethics deserved.

utfans#211352 writes:

As in life if you go around acting like you are king of the world even though you have accomplished nothing eventually it comes around to get you, No one likes or supports you when things go bad. Kiffin was stupid to leave here, Tennessee was stupid to hire him, we layed down with a dog and we still have fleas. His lack of respect for what he had here and our acceptance of his trying to turn Tennessee into SC still appalls me, we sold our soul to get some hot shot recruits and a flash in the pan coach . I don't know if we will ever return to how it was, if we ever recover it is going to take a brick by brick effort. I sure hope Butch is the guy

OrangePride writes:

in response to BrassMonkey:

Like it or not Kiffen would have turned UT around faster than Dooley or, eh hem, Jones.

Really? Jones is 5 games into the year and you're off the Tennessee bandwagon already?? Dooley is a given...Jones however is still making great progress. No? Go look at the recruiting class and let me know when we were last this high...and we're not done yet. So how about you just give CBJ and this team a couple of seasons to grow. Hopefully your post isn't suggesting you wish Kiffin had stayed.

bUTch__please writes:

....and not a mattress was burnt.

MikeNPS writes:

in response to BrassMonkey:

Like it or not Kiffen would have turned UT around faster than Dooley or, eh hem, Jones.

But do you think he could have done so WITHOUT major NCAA violations?

MikeNPS writes:

in response to BankerVol:

Correct about Dooley but not Jones. Had CBJ been hired to replace Fulmer we would probably be a top 10 team right now. The guy is a solid coach, great recruiter and has more character in his little finger than Kiffin and Dooley combined.

I disagree with your comment about Dooley's character. I do not think he was the right person to head up our program, but I really do not question Dooley's character at all.

GerryOP writes:

in response to Orange_Power_T:

So much for his dream job!

I know this is going to spark controversy but, CBJ should find out how Kiffin straightened out Crompton. The similarities between pre-Kiffin Crompton and Worley are frightening. What ever Kiffin did with Crompton to straighten him out was the single only good thing resulting from Kiffins hire.

Comparing Worley to Crompton is a valid comparison, but some believe it was Chaney who straightened out Crompton.

MikeNPS writes:

I live in Southern California and people out here are upset about the way his firing was handled. Everyone wanted it to take place on prime time tv!

RoadTrip writes:

Buh-bye, Liar Surfer Dude.

allvol8 writes:

in response to MikeNPS:

I live in Southern California and people out here are upset about the way his firing was handled. Everyone wanted it to take place on prime time tv!

LOL thanks!:)

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

in response to IndianOutlaw:

Excellent point and I like the dream/nightmare. May I borrow it if I quote you. I will stick with Jones.

You're more than welcome to use the quote anytime and often. I agree with you about Jones. Having lived near Cincinnati since 1959 I see why the Bearcat fans loved Jones and hated to see him go. He brings something to our program that Kiffin never had and never will, CLASS.

psychovol2 writes:

Butch equals class; Dooley equaled naiveté and hubris, Kiffin equaled arrogance and narcissism; Fulmer was only as good as his coordinators, didn't make good hires and got lazy at the end standing pat on his laurels. He was wrong when he said we didn't forget how to coach. That's Saban who produces one national championship after another and never thinks he has arrived.

murrayvol writes:

in response to psychovol2:

Butch equals class; Dooley equaled naiveté and hubris, Kiffin equaled arrogance and narcissism; Fulmer was only as good as his coordinators, didn't make good hires and got lazy at the end standing pat on his laurels. He was wrong when he said we didn't forget how to coach. That's Saban who produces one national championship after another and never thinks he has arrived.

Man, do I wish Saban would take the USC job....or the Texas job....or any job that would get his butt out of Alabama.

murrayvol writes:

in response to GerryOP:

Comparing Worley to Crompton is a valid comparison, but some believe it was Chaney who straightened out Crompton.

Count me among the "some".

Snapshot writes:

in response to BrassMonkey:

Like it or not Kiffen would have turned UT around faster than Dooley or, eh hem, Jones.

If it hadn't BEEN for Kiffin and Dooley there wouldn't be such a monumental rebuilding job facing Butch Jones.

I think Pat Haden has just been waiting for a reason to fire him, and apparently giving up over 60 points to ASU was it! Yes indeed, karma can be a B----!

SmokeysPup writes:

in response to BrassMonkey:

Like it or not Kiffen would have turned UT around faster than Dooley or, eh hem, Jones.

seriously?????? you must be a Bama fan

IndianOutlaw writes:

Lane and Ed are not our problem to issue let it go and act like we did in the 90's and then we shall see.

slb1zellwood#1421797 writes:

in response to Snapshot:

If it hadn't BEEN for Kiffin and Dooley there wouldn't be such a monumental rebuilding job facing Butch Jones.

I think Pat Haden has just been waiting for a reason to fire him, and apparently giving up over 60 points to ASU was it! Yes indeed, karma can be a B----!

You may be right about the firing but by naming old goof ball interim coach Hayden just jumped out of the frying pan into the fire as old pappy used to say when someone did something stupid.

rockypop writes:

The Kiffin "era"at UT was a total aberration. While I hate the outcome, I must admit that Kiffin's take on the outrage of Tennessee fans on his leaving was probably right.

According to Kiffin, the reason the fans hated his departure was that he was doing a good job, and they could see the ship being righted. Then, all of a sudden, he was gone,and UT was back in the wilderness.

Yeah, the majority of great Kiffin recruits bailed or were terminated, but who's to say what would have happened if he had stayed. Ultimately, I don't think Kiffin could have survived at UT, because he never embraced the culture or the traditions. Winning would have cured that for a time, but no self-respecting UT fan wants USC Heisman Trophy winners' pictures in UT's football complex.

That being said, I think Kiffin got a raw deal at USC. I know his firing made a lot of UT fans delirious, but let's face it, he inherited a worse situation than CBJ did. Sure, the guy did some questionable stuff at USC, but the real story was the lack of scholarships he had. You can't be competitive with 30 fewer scholarship players than your peers. End of story.

At any rate, how many football coaches have a resume that states they have been a head coach at three iconic football teams - two in college and one in the NFL, before they are 40?

MikeNPS writes:

in response to rockypop:

The Kiffin "era"at UT was a total aberration. While I hate the outcome, I must admit that Kiffin's take on the outrage of Tennessee fans on his leaving was probably right.

According to Kiffin, the reason the fans hated his departure was that he was doing a good job, and they could see the ship being righted. Then, all of a sudden, he was gone,and UT was back in the wilderness.

Yeah, the majority of great Kiffin recruits bailed or were terminated, but who's to say what would have happened if he had stayed. Ultimately, I don't think Kiffin could have survived at UT, because he never embraced the culture or the traditions. Winning would have cured that for a time, but no self-respecting UT fan wants USC Heisman Trophy winners' pictures in UT's football complex.

That being said, I think Kiffin got a raw deal at USC. I know his firing made a lot of UT fans delirious, but let's face it, he inherited a worse situation than CBJ did. Sure, the guy did some questionable stuff at USC, but the real story was the lack of scholarships he had. You can't be competitive with 30 fewer scholarship players than your peers. End of story.

At any rate, how many football coaches have a resume that states they have been a head coach at three iconic football teams - two in college and one in the NFL, before they are 40?

Yes, his resume may say that he has been head coach at three iconic football teams but, if the resume is accurate, it will also say that he never accomplished anything at any of the three.

MikeNPS writes:

in response to Snapshot:

If it hadn't BEEN for Kiffin and Dooley there wouldn't be such a monumental rebuilding job facing Butch Jones.

I think Pat Haden has just been waiting for a reason to fire him, and apparently giving up over 60 points to ASU was it! Yes indeed, karma can be a B----!

Haden also went ahead and took action at this time because potential recruits were making it known that they were having serious doubts about going to USC because of Kiffin. Also, the "Fire Kiffin" chants at home games were getting very, very loud.

GerryOP writes:

Kiffin's job was to get USC through the NCAA penalty time. Everyone but Kiffin knew this.

rnb48vols#251344 writes:

the snake is gone and the devil takes over

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