USC athletic director Pat Haden spoke to the media on Sunday morning, just hours after he made the decision to terminate Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin.
Haden was generally conciliatory when referring to his former coach, noting that he fought for his job until the very end.
“I want to thank Lane and his family for all he has done for USC,” Haden said. “He did a lot of things well under very difficult circumstances.
“Lane was clearly disappointed by my decision. He’s a great recruiter and he battled me and really tried to keep his job. I respect him for that. I’d respect him less if he didn’t.”
Haden went over the timeline for his decision, noting that it had been brewing for a while.
“I think it can be easily asked why not last year after going 7-6?” Haden said. “The rational was: The prior year Lane had won 10 games and we hoped last year was an aberration and that we would rebound after making some changes.”
But after a 3-2 start this year against the weakest portion of the schedule, including two losses to start Pac-12 play, the course became clear for Haden.
“At end of day it became a gut feeling that we weren’t making the progress that we needed to make,” he said. “There were inconsistencies that we found in our team.”
Haden made his final decision to fire Kiffin during USC’s 62-41 loss to Arizona State on Saturday night. He told Kiffin before they boarded the team plane at 1 a.m. Sunday that he wanted to speak to him when they arrived back in Los Angeles. They met for 45 minutes in a private room at the Los Angeles airport and, by 3:45 a.m., the Kiffin era at USC was officially over.
“This has been a hard day for all of us inside USC athletics,” said Haden. “For me this is not the most fun part of the job, but it is part of the job. The decision I have made is, I believe, best for USC.”