Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Who Got USC's Kiffin Fired? Angry Boosters and Players

The angry texts among big USC boosters, report Trojan inner-circle sources, started during the nightmarish third quarter of the team's` 62-41 collapse in Tempe Saturday night, when coach Lane Kiffin suddenly turned into Curly of the Three Stooges,.

Watching that slapstick-comedy-style loss to Arizona State, SC boosters had a fit: Their texts said it all. Predicted one: "Lane won't last the week." Said another: "Lane won't last the weekend." Moaned another: "I'm ashamed to be a Trojan. I'm not giving another cent til that clown is fired."  Screamed another: "Get rid of that bum. No more checks."

AD Pat Haden was cringing on the sidelines in Tempe with SC president Max Nikias, You know they got wind of the boosters' outrage, via a flurry of texts, tweets and emails. During the game, Kiffin made some shockingly stupid play calls, making you seriously wonder; "Has he lost his mind?" The capper was the laugher late in the third quarter, on a fourth-and-one on SC's 41 yard line. Kiffin resorted to trickery, calling for a pass, from RB Tre Madden, of all people, who tossed it right to an Arizona State CB. You just know that when Haden was firing Kiffin in the middle of the night at  LAX, he mentioned that ridiculous play. Would Nick Sabin or Urban Meyer have called that play? How about Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, rumored to be a candidate for the SC job? No way.

It wasn't just the boosters' rebellion that pushed Haden over the edge. There were flagrant signs that Kiffin had lost the team. The players weren't just whipped in the second half. They clearly quit. Sources on the sidelines said their disdain and disrespect for Kiffin was obvious. Clearly Haden and Nikias saw it too.

And what about the recruits? Word has been spreading for a while in those elite high-school circles that SC is a place to avoid. Why? Because Kiffin is a micro-managing, cold-fish of a coach who doesn't connect with players. In those circles, the SC atmosphere is perceived as drab and low-energy. One local recruit, a lineman, when asked by a source to describe SC, he replied: "Dead." So, for sure, no more Top 25 recruiting classes with Kiffin in charge.

Haden knew this was a bye week, so a new coach, SC assistant Ed Orgeron as it turned out, would have extra time to get acclimated. SC's next game is Thursday night, next week, on national TV, against conference foe Arizona. Already loud at home games, the ugly "Fire Kiffin" chants would have been deafening by then. After the Arizona State fiasco, the Coliseum would probably be half empty. Disaster loomed.

Haden no doubt considered Pac12 factors. SC has already lost two games--to two so-so conference teams, Washington State and Arizona State. What's going to happen when they face Stanford? Another UCLA rout is a given. The boosters, in particular, dread that. Also, how does SC measure up to Pac12 powers Oregon and Washington, which they fortunately don't have to play this season? On the plane back from Tempe, Haden probably imagined what Oregon would do to SC and chills ran up and down his spine.

With Kiffin in the driver's seat, SC was headed down hill--in high gear. Haden knew the boosters were furious and would withdraw support from the program. The players clearly had soured on Kifffin. With the program in shambles how could SC recruit? No time to waste. So when the team plane landed, after the game, in the middle of the night in LA, Haden summoned Kiffin to an airport room and canned him.

Word got out right away. A giddy booster recalled that he got a 5 am text from an insider that simply said: "Mission accomplished."