With Kiffin canned, to whom does USC turn?

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Shortly after Arizona State had put the finishing touches on an yet another embarrassing loss for the storied USC football program, the questions surrounding the future of head coach Lane Kiffin once again surfaced. Less than three hours later, at 4:28 a.m. PT, the athletic department posted the following on its Twitter account:

“Breaking news: Lane Kiffin has been relieved of his duties as USC’s head football coach per AD Pat Haden.”

And with that, the Kiffin Era in Los Angeles came to a (merciful) end in an LAX parking lot.

Despite extremely punitive NCAA sanctions slapped on the program… despite very steadfast support from his athletic director… the physical act of canning the 38-year-old Kiffin was the easy part.  Beginning in 2012 and after being picked by many as the No. 1 team in the country heading into the new season, the admittedly undermanned Trojans have stumbled and tripped their way to a 10-8 record, including a 5-6 mark in Pac-12 play.  Oregon and Stanford have far surpassed USC in the Pac-12 football pecking order; perhaps more importantly, hated cross-town rival UCLA has done the same.

No, the hard part will be just who Pat Haden hires to replace the man hired by his predecessor.  Haden was tabbed by his alma mater in August of 2010 to replace Mike Garrett, and this will easily be the biggest hire the former Rhodes Scholar makes and will leave the most lasting impact on his résumé.

The good news for Haden specifically and the Trojan fan base in general is that USC still has a helluva lot to offer any potential Kiffin replacement.  From sparkling new facilities to well-heeled boosters to a fertile recruiting base to lasting brand name, USC remains one of the top jobs at the FBS level.

With just a couple of hours to digest the stunning (but yet not-so-stunning) news, here’s a quick-hit look at just whose name will be mentioned — realistically or not — as Kiffin’s replacement, knowing full well that the actual permanent successor likely won’t come from this initial pool of possibilities.

CHRIS PETERSEN
Regardless of how big of a pipe dream this may be, anyone and everyone knows full well that USC officials will back the Brinks truck up to the Broncos head coach’s door and dare him not to answer.  Prior to Kiffin’s hiring, Petersen was reportedly contacted by USC about their opening and rejected the overtures.  In December of 2011, Petersen reportedly rejected UCLA — for a second time — when they offered him $4 million annually at a time he was making just over $1.5 with the Broncos.  Petersen has had myriad opportunities to leave Boise, and has yet to take the financial bait.  Don’t expect him to do it this time, either.  Probably.

JACK DEL RIO
The former USC All-American’s name is already being bandied about as perhaps the top candidate to replace Kiffin.  Currently the defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos, Del Rio was also mentioned as a possibility to replace Pete Carroll.  Del Rio has never been a coach — head, assistant or otherwise — at the collegiate level and it would be stunning if the Trojans went in this direction.  Speaking of which…

JEFF FISHER
Another former USC All-American, Fisher’s name, as expected, surfaced (again) earlier this month even before Kiffin was officially booted in an LAX parking lot.  Like Del Rio, Fisher has never been a coach at the collegiate level.  Would Fisher give up a head coaching job in the NFL to return home and rescue his college program?  Don’t look for USC to even give him an opportunity to make such a choice despite a segment of the fan base that would love to see it happen.

JAMES FRANKLIN
Four names in, and this might be the most realistic and viable option.  While Franklin has very few ties to the West Coast — one year at Washington State (1998) and one at Idaho State (1999) — he’s one of the best young head coaches in the game and turned Vanderbilt into a competitive football program in the best football conference in the country, no small feat that won’t go unnoticed by those at this level looking for a new coach.  Franklin is one of the top recruiters in the game, and has done well on that battlefield in the SEC; one could imagine what he would do on the fertile California recruiting grounds with “less-intense” competition plus his ties in that arena to the South.

STEVE SARKISIAN
Sarkisian is just 30-25 in his four-plus years at Washington, but he has the Huskies undefeated and ranked (at the moment) No. 16 in the country.  He was a USC assistant for seven of the eight years prior to his hiring by UW and grew up in Torrance, Calif., less than an hour’s drive to Los Angeles.  It would be beyond surprising if Haden didn’t at least reach out to Sarkisian let alone not make a full-blown effort to land him.

GREG ROMAN
Roman was the offensive coordinator at Stanford for two seasons before following Jim Harbaugh to the San Francisco 49ers.  He has previously been linked to openings at Cal and Penn State.  With the success Harbaugh had in the Pac-12, and with Roman playing a role in it, this could be a direction in which Haden turns.  Keep an eye on this name.

KIRBY SMART
As far as coordinators, it wouldn’t take long to call roll on those more respected than Alabama’s defensive (co-) boss.  He’s had numerous opportunities to leave Nick Saban’s side the past couple of years but has remained in Tuscaloosa as the situation simply wasn’t right.  Smart’s entire coaching career has been east of the Mississippi; would the bright lights of LA scare him off if the Trojans came knocking?

CHAD MORRIS
If Haden is looking to go outside the box, you wouldn’t get much further out than this.  Not only has the Clemson offensive coordinator never been a head coach at the collegiate level, he didn’t take his first college job until 2010 at the age of 42 after a highly successful run as a high school coach in Texas.  Despite that lack of experience, Morris is one of the brightest and most respected offensive minds in college football — Urban Meyer tried to lure him to Ohio State upon his hiring — and has turned the Tigers’ offense into one of the nation’s best.  With college football leaning more and more toward up-tempo offense, especially in the Pac-12, kicking the tires on Morris might make sense on some level.

Mike Riley
USC’s offensive coordinator from 1993-96, the 60-year old Riley has spent the past 11 seasons as the head coach at Oregon State.  While it would seem unlikely that a coach of his age would make a move, he did reply “you never know” when the Los Angeles Daily News asked a couple of years ago about a potential return to the Trojans.  That same paper is already listing Riley as a possibility, although that would be hard to see becoming a viable option if for nothing more than the age factor.

KEVIN SUMLIN
I’m not saying USC will reach out to the Texas A&M head coach, but I’m saying they damn well should.  And they’d better do it before the NFL gets its hooks into one of the brightest coaches at the FBS level.  It won’t be easy for anyone to pry Sumlin out of College Station, though, as A&M officials will rightly do anything and everything to blunt even flirtatious overtures let alone full-blown pursuits.  It wouldn’t seem like Sumlin would leave an SEC job to plow new ground out west, but stranger things have happened.

DAVID SHAW
See above.  The Stanford head coach’s name has already been mentioned as longshot possibility, although it seems more likely that he would leave The Farm for the NFL rather than another college job.

JON GRUDEN
In accordance with federal and state regulations, we’re required to include Chucky on any and all lists related to major head-coaching vacancies.  Seeing as his wife was not a cheerleader at USC, though, we highly doubt this one has a torso much less legs.

2018 LSU-Miami opener to be played Sunday night Labor Day weekend

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In October of 2014, it was confirmed that LSU and Miami would open the 2018 college football season against each other.  Nearly three years later, we have a date and time to go along with it.

It was announced Tuesday that the Tigers and Hurricanes will meet Sunday, Sept. 2, of next year at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. ET.  It was originally scheduled to be played the day before.

That matchup will be broadcast on ABC.

The opener will mark just the 12th meeting ever between the football programs, and the first since 2013.  This will also serve as the third-ever regular-season meeting between the ACC and SEC squads, with the last one coming way back in 1988.

The Tigers will be playing just their second game ever on a Sunday.  They last did so in 2002 against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

Maryland loses yet another QB to ACL injury, this one Kasim Hill

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I don’t even know if bubble-wrapping Maryland quarterbacks would help at this point.

This past Saturday afternoon, Kasim Hill went down with what appeared to be a very serious-looking injury to his right leg in the first quarter of the loss to UCF.  Three days later, it was confirmed that the true freshman has been diagnosed with a torn ACL and will miss the remainder of the 2017 season.

Hill is the second Terrapins quarterback to suffer such a fate the first four weeks of the season.  In the second half of Maryland’s season-opening 51-41 upset of Texas, Tyrrell Pigrome went down with what was later diagnosed as a torn ACL, ending his 2017 season as well.

Unfortunately for the Terps, the injuries, ACLs in particular, haven’t been limited to just those two of late.

Hill will be replaced in the starting lineup by No. 3 quarterback Max Bortenschlager, who started one game last season for the Terps.  After replacing Hill, Bortenschlager completed 15-of-26 passes for 132 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in the 38-10 loss to the Knights.  Prior to that, he had attempted just two passes this season, completing one of them for four yards.

Cornhuskers legend Dave Rimington tapped as interim Nebraska AD

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There were many who thought Nebraska’s now-former athletic director was disconnected from the university’s deep football history.  With today’s move, the athletic department has made a 180-degree turn.

NU announced Tuesday afternoon that Dave Rimington has been named as the interim athletic director.  Rimington replaces Shawn Eichorst, who was dismissed late last week after nearly five years on the job.

Rimington was one of the greatest college football centers in history, and, in 1981 and 1982 for the Cornhuskers, became the only player to win back-to-back Outland Trophy Awards.  In 2000, the Rimington Trophy was established to honor the most outstanding center in college football.

In 1997, he was named to the College Football Hall of Fame.

“I’m so pleased that we could count on Dave Rimington, who is a Husker through and through, to answer our call to lend his administrative expertise and unwavering support for Nebraska Athletics during this key time of transition,” chancellor Ronnie Green said in a statement. “I am confident that Dave will provide exceptional leadership as we move forward in our search for a new, permanent director of athletics.”

“I am humbled and grateful to accept this responsibility,” Rimington, one of 17 former ‘Huskers with their jerseys retired, said. “I look forward to working with the coaches, staff and student-athletes at Nebraska, which is a truly special place that has had a profound impact on my life and the lives of countless others.”

Rimington is currently the president of the New York-based Boomer Esiason Foundation, but will be taking a sabbatical from those duties.

Mike Leach: ‘I’m proud of this country and would stand for the anthem and respect the flag’

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Never one to back down from any issue in the past, at all, Mike Leach has publicly tackled the most polarizing issue facing the country in the here and now.

At a campaign rally in Alabama earlier this past week, the President Donald Trump let loose on those NFL players who have decided to use the National Anthem as a vehicle for protesting social injustice.  In essence, Trump called for those who participate in the demonstrations to be summarily dismissed.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!’” Trump was quoted as saying. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’”

The NFL responded en masse over the weekend, with dozens upon dozens of players — and owners and coaches — taking part in protests further fueled by the POTUS’ fiery rhetoric.  In that aftermath, college football coaches, who don’t have to deal with the issue as most teams are in the locker room when the anthem is played, were asked about the situation.  Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh labeled Trump’s comments ‘ridiculous’ while advising him to “check the Constitution,” while Alabama’s Nick Saban described it as “a little painful” to see what “were unifying events (the pregame anthem)” when he grew up not being so much right now. “But I also respect everyone’s rights not to be censored in terms of the way they express their beliefs,” Saban added.

And then there’s Leach.

The Washington State head coach, who was a supporter of Trump’s presidential campaign, was asked if he had addressed the NFL protests with his team.  Showing once again he has no interest in biting his tongue, Leach stated that he’s not entirely clear what’s being protested, intimating that the protests during the anthem are the wrong place and wrong time for the point the players are attempting to make.  Even as Leach doesn’t know or understand what that point is.

“First of all, we’re in the locker room during the anthem, we’re together as a team,” Leach said according to the Seattle Times. “To me it’s not real clear what’s being protested – I haven’t heard a clear articulation of what’s protested or objected to. Me personally I’m proud of this country and would stand for the anthem and respect the flag. But with that said, I don’t know exactly what they’re objecting to.”

“But with that said, I don’t know exactly what they’re objecting to.”