Notre Dame v USC

Haden: ‘no reason Lane Kiffin shouldn’t be our coach’


If USC had just lived up to expectations in 2012, issues such as deflated footballs and uniform number swaps and the coaches’ poll imbroglio and media brouhahas would’ve been minor hassles on the way to bigger and better things.

The Trojans didn’t, and those issues were magnified in a six-loss season that culminated with an embarrassing performance in — and after — the Sun Bowl.  It was the worst finish ever for a preseason No. 1, with seemingly everyone calling for the boot to be applied to head coach Lane Kiffin‘s backside.

Everyone, that is, except for athletic director Pat Haden, who very publicly proclaimed back in late November he is “150-percent” behind the embattled coach.  Two months later, Haden’s stance hasn’t shifted much if at all.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Los Angeles Times, Haden once again stood firmly behind Kiffin as USC’s coach, although he jokingly allowed that his support might have dipped into the “137.5 percent” range.

“I understand people disagree with me,” Haden said of his continued support for the coach. “But in my judgment, and I get paid to make the best decisions I can for USC, there’s no reason that Lane Kiffin shouldn’t be our coach. …

“These are things that all can be fixed. And they all can be fixed by Lane Kiffin.”

One of those fixes was “parting ways” with Kiffin’s father, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, at season’s end.  Thus far, though, Kiffin is holding onto his beloved offensive play-calling duties, a source of criticism that Haden acknowledges and hints could be hampering the team as a whole even as its considered by the AD to be one of Kiffin’s strengths.

“Sometimes when you’re calling plays… you don’t sense maybe the whole team,” Haden explained. “So I think he has to really sense the whole team and feel and have the relationship with the whole team.”

As for Kiffin’s future with the program, Haden gave a curt “I’m not answering that question” when asked what it would take for the coach to keep his job.  Suffice to say, it’ll take more than a seven-win season to keep the critics at bay.  It also wouldn’t hurt Kiffin if the off-field issues slowed to a trickle in the coming months, although even Haden knows that may be easier said than done given the reputation his coach earned over the past several years.

“His reputation, it’s going to be really hard to sanitize that over time unless he kind of wins a lot of games and does things right, which we plan to do,” Haden said.

“He’s anti-Teflon. I mean, stuff sticks to him that doesn’t even belong on him.”

Vols ‘very confident there was no inappropriate conduct’ between Butch Jones, player

KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 11:  Head coach Butch Jones of the Tennessee Volunteers watches the action during a game against the Chattanooga Mocs at Neyland Stadium on October 11, 2014 in Knoxville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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In the midst of reports that he had a physical altercation with one of his Tennessee players during summer camp this year, Butch Jones labeled the speculation “absolutely ridiculous.”

Apparently, his bosses agree with the head coach.

At a board meeting Thursday, UT-Knoxville chancellor Jimmy Cheek stated that he and athletic director Dave Hart had done their “due diligence” in investigating the accusations that Jones and senior offensive lineman Mack Crowder were involved in some type of physical skirmish during practice this past August.  The end result of interviews with Jones, coaches and players was the conclusion that there was nothing to the reports and message-board rumors.

“There’s been a lot of rumor and misinformation on social media and message boards about an alleged incident during football practice,” Cheek said according to‘s Wes Rucker. “It’s not our practice to respond to rumors, but I thought it was important to let you know that we’ve done our due diligence and Dave Hart and I are very confident there was no inappropriate conduct with any players or coaches.”

Shortly after Cheek spoke at the board meeting, Crowder took to Twitter with a series of missives that speaks around the issue.

Michigan’s keeping ‘fingers crossed’ for leading rusher’s availability

De'Veon Smith
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Michigan played without its leading rusher in Week 5.  The Wolverines are hoping there won’t be a repeat in Week 6.

De'Veon Smith sustained a lower-leg injury in the Week 4 win over BYU and didn’t travel with the team for last Saturday’s win over Maryland.  Smith has been practicing with his teammates throughout the first few days of this week, and head coach Jim Harbaugh is guardedly optimistic that the running back will be available for what’s turned into a huge Big Ten matchup with Northwestern Saturday in the Big House.

“He’s practicing and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he’s going to stay good and be ready to play,” Harbaugh said during a radio appearance Thursday morning. “But we’ll (keep) looking at that every day.”

Despite essentially missing a game and a half, Smith currently leads the Wolverines with 331 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. He’s added four receptions for 35 yards and a touchdown coming out of the backfield the first four games.

Should Smith be unable to go again, the Wolverines have three other backs with at least 100 yards on the ground: Ty Isaac (187, 7.2 yards per carry), Drake Johnson (125, 4.2 ypc) and Derrick Green (100, 3.3 ypc).

In addition to Smith, Harbaugh is hopeful Channing Stribling will be available this weekend as well.  The starting cornerback didn’t play against the Cougars because of injury