Lane Kiffin returned to USC in 2010 to become the Trojans’ head coach following a one-year stint at Tennessee, but the dream job Kiffin accepted hasn’t exactly gone smoothly.
Sure, there are the NCAA sanctions he inherited, which include scholarship reductions and previously banned the program from going bowling, but the 7-6 record USC finished the 2012 season with after being the preseason No. 1 team raised questions if 2013 would be the last year Kiffin coached the Trojans. And that came just one year removed from going 10-2 with no hopes of a postseason. Then there was the heavy staff turnover this offseason that saw Kiffin’s own dad, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, depart — likely as an act of falling on the proverbial sword for his son.
So, yeah, it hasn’t always been an easy go for Kiffin, who enters his fourth year with USC. In an interview with Ralph Russo of the Associated Press, Kiffin admits as much by joking, although with perhaps some sense of seriousness, that he’s already pondered what life would be like on a smaller stage. From the story:
“I did think the other day what it would be like to be a high school head coach or to be at a small school,” Kiffin said. “I thought about it the other day. The first time. I wonder if there’s something to that peace of mind. Maybe it’s something I can go back and do when I get older. I’m going to go coach high school.
“It’s just the game. It’s the game in its realest sense and it’s fun. Working with the kids and not all this other stuff. You go back and have fun.”
But Russo brings up a good point about Kiffin later in the piece: “When it comes to turmoil, Kiffin seems to either walk into it or create it. It’s a talent that has made him maybe the most vilified man in college football today.”
Kiffin knew what he signed up for when he took the job three years ago. He was already going to be under the Los Angeles media market microscope anyway, and with his, shall we say, “demeanor”, he’s going to get even more attention. I’m sure USC is still Kiffin’s dream job and anything he says about leaving the bright lights of L.A. is mostly jest, but those comments reveal some of the pressures of coaching at a big-time program.
The theme of Russo’s piece is that Kiffin and USC are hoping for a drama-free 2013. The only way that happens is if he wins.