Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - In the end, it doesn't matter who you
are or who you know. In the end, it comes down to whether you win or lose.
On Sunday morning, Southern California athletic director Pat Haden finally
dismissed head coach Lane Kiffin in a move that seemed to be inevitable for
just that reason.
Under Kiffin's care, the proud Trojans were 28-15. That included a collapse
from a No. 1 national ranking a year ago and an 0-2 start to Pac-12 play this
season. Those types of results simply don't stand up to the long history of
overwhelming success at USC.
"This has been brewing for a while. We realize that our history has been great
and we need it to be great again," Haden said in a press conference the day
after he fired Kiffin outside of the team bus just hours after a 62-41 loss to
Now the story shifts to who will replace Kiffin, who has now had messy endings
at every head coaching stop he has had.
The immediate solution has been the insertion of assistant Ed Orgeron, who
began the season as defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator, into the
head coaching vacancy on an interim basis. In his comments after letting
Kiffin go, Haden was adamant that this is not a lost season and the search for
the next head coach will not interfere with the team.
"We are going to try to find the best coach that we can possibly find for USC.
It's not fair to our team to start talking about the search now." Haden said.
Whether it is fair or not, what will intrigue most people about USC going
forward will not be its effort on the field, but that search. Already rumors
are flying from all corners of the country as to who will be stepping in to
clean up Kiffin's mess.
The early front-runner for the job is Jack Del Rio. The current defensive
coordinator of the Denver Broncos has roots at USC, as he was an All-
American linebacker for the Trojans in the 1980s. However, Del Rio, who played
professionally for 11 seasons, has not had any experience heading a college
program. He has coached for five different NFL teams, including a nine-year
stint as the Jacksonville Jaguars' head coach. He was 68-71 and made two
playoff appearances in those nine seasons.
Del Rio would certainly fit in well with the current Trojans because they have
been one of the better defensive squads in the Pac-12 this season. However,
turning around an offense that has struggled could be tougher. While with
Jacksonville, Del Rio only had one season when his team ranked in the top 10
in the NFL in total offense, while four of his squads were among the 10 worst
teams in the league in turnovers.
There are some other coaches from the NFL ranks who have had their names
mentioned for the USC job as well. The main candidates have been coordinators,
such as Greg Roman, who currently serves as the offensive coordinator for the
San Francisco 49ers, and Pep Hamilton, who leads the offense for the
Indianapolis Colts. Each has plenty of familiarity with the Pac-12 as they each
served as coordinators at Stanford in recent years.
Dipping into the college ranks also yields some interesting possibilities.
Whenever a big-time BCS program has a coaching vacancy, Chris Petersen's name
is going to come up. Just about anyone in the country knows Boise State and
its blue turf, and Petersen has been the major reason why. Since taking over
for Dan Hawkins, who left the Broncos to take a job at a BCS program himself
(Colorado), Petersen has led Boise State to an 87-10 record, making him the
winningest active coach in the college ranks.
Petersen hasn't just led the Broncos to wins over pipsqueaks. His Broncos have
made it to two BCS bowls and come out on top each time. If Petersen could
elevate a team without much football history, and the type of alumni support
that goes with it, it stands to reason he could find even more success at a
place like USC.
However, this isn't the first time Petersen's name has surfaced during a
coaching search for a major program. Jobs at Ohio State, Florida and UCLA have
sprouted up in recent memory and Petersen has stayed firm in his loyalty to
Boise State. It remains to be seen if USC can break that allegiance.
Then there are a couple of coaches at mid-level BCS programs who might be
looking to make the jump to the college football elite. Pat Fitzgerald has
turned Northwestern into a real threat in the Big Ten in the past two seasons,
while James Franklin has picked Vanderbilt up from being a doormat. Each coach
is young and hungry and could bring a fresh energy to the job.
The Trojans could even try dipping into their own conference, hoping to lure
coaches to the bright lights, and bigger paychecks, of a media market like Los
That could certainly be an appealing prospect for Steve Sarkisian, the
Washington head coach. Sarkisian was the quarterbacks coach for USC from
2001-2003 and then again from 2005-2008 before taking the job with the Huskies.
Sarkisian took over an even more distressed program in Seattle. The Huskies
were 0-12 the year before he was hired. Since then, Sarkisian has been to three
bowl games in four seasons and currently has the squad sitting higher in the
national rankings than it has been in more than 10 years.
Some other fellow Pac-12 coaches who might be interested include Oregon
State's Mike Riley, though he has been fervent in his dedication to the
Beavers as the longest-tenured coach in the conference, and even Stanford's
Of course, there is always the chance the Trojans go with some homegrown
prospects. Orgeron may be taking over as head coach on an interim basis, but,
if the Trojans do well, this could turn out to be just an extended job
interview. Or perhaps defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast could be
promoted at year's end. After all, he is heading the Pac-12's second-best
defense right now.
Finally there are the long-shot names, like Jon Gruden and Herm Edwards, who
are more fun to talk about than they are real contenders.
No matter what, it is obvious what will be expected of whoever signs the
dotted line. No excuses, just wins.
The Sports Network