Lane Kiffin

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.

Matt Wells makes tweaks, addition to Utah State staff

LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 09:  Head coach Matt Wells of the Utah State Aggies watches his team warm up before their game against the UNLV Rebels at Sam Boyd Stadium on November 9, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Utah State won 28-24.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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A couple of tweaks to coaches already in the building as well as an addition from outside the program has given Matt Wells‘ Utah State a different look heading toward spring, the school announced Tuesday.

Passing-game coordinator and wide receivers coach Jovon Bouknight has been promoted co-offensive coordinator of the Aggies. Bouknight, entering his eighth season at USU, will continue to coach receivers.

The other co-coordinator, Luke Wells, brother of the head coach, will continue to serve in that capacity, but will give up his job as tight ends coach. Instead, the co-OC will take over as quarterbacks coach from Josh Heupel, who left Logan last month to become the coordinator at Missouri.

“We are excited to announce Jovon and Luke as our co-offensive coordinators,” said Matt Wells in a statement. “They both have extensive experience in our offense and have been successful position coaches during their time at Utah State.

“As we move forward with our offense, I will be heavily involved in the game planning and will call the plays during games. We have time during spring ball to work through this and I am excited to work with Jovon and Luke in making our offense better.”

In addition to the shuffling on the offensive side, Wells made an addition on that side as Steve Farmer was introduced as USU’s line coach.  The past six seasons, Farmer served as offensive coordinator and assistant head coach at Louisiana-Monroe.

“We are excited to announce the hiring of Steve Farmer as part of our coaching staff,” said the head coach. “Steve has an extensive background in playing and coaching the offensive line, as well as success as an offensive coordinator. He fits very well into our scheme and has had experience in spread offenses and coordinating the run game. We welcome Steve, his wife Amy, and their two children to the Aggie family.”

Jim Harbaugh ponders the attractiveness of whining in firing shot across SEC’s bow

ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 28:  Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines reacts to a roughing the kicker call against his team during the first quarter against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Michigan Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Say what you want about Jim Harbaugh, but he certainly makes college football a more interesting sport.  And, arguably more importantly, he keeps his Michigan football program front and center in the 24/7/365 news cycle that the game has become.

Case in point?  Spring practice.

During National Signing Day last week, UM revealed that they intended to spend a portion of spring practice this year parked at a locale in Florida.  Specifically, Harbaugh would haul his Wolverines to the Sunshine State during the school’s spring break to conduct a handful of practices in the heart of SEC country.

Suffice to say, that’s not sitting well with the SEC as the conference has asked the NCAA to block teams from holding spring practices over that school’s spring break.  The league’s commissioner wants to “draw a line and say ‘that’s not appropriate.'”  The media in that part country has followed suit.

Harbaugh’s reaction?

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Harbaugh has proven in his one year in Ann Arbor that, if there is a line, he’s going to push it.  And if there are buttons to be pushed in the southern part of the country?  He’ll gladly take care of that as well.

Lawsuit: Vols player put ‘hit’ on UT teammate who helped rape victim

KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 01: The Volunteer mascot waves the flag in the edzone after a Tennessee touchdown as the Tennessee Volunteers defeated  the Mississippi Rebels 27-10 at Neyland Stadium on October 1, 2005 in Knoxville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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The football culture at Tennessee is rapidly coming under heavy fire and intense scrutiny, with yet another disturbing layer emerging as more details of a lawsuit come to light.

Tuesday, six unnamed women who claim they were victims of sexual assault at the hands of UT student-athletes filed a federal lawsuit in which they claimed the university “has created a student culture that enables sexual assaults by student-athletes, especially football players, and then uses an unusual, legalistic adjudication process that is biased against victims who step forward.” Four football players, three former and one unnamed current, are mentioned in the suit.

Also mentioned in the suit is a former UT football player, Drae Bowles, who it’s alleged was assaulted by his Vols teammates after he had “taken Plaintiff Doe IV to the hospital the night of her assault and who had supported her decision to report the incident to the authorities.” As it turns out, The Tennessean reports, Bowles was also attacked a few days later at the football facility by the same teammates who had attacked him the first time.

The twin attacks were just part of a pattern of alleged retribution against Bowles by his teammates, as well as what’s been described as “deliberate indifference” on the part of university officials and athletic department personnel.  From the paper’s accounting of the lawsuit, with the “Williams” in question being Mike Williams, a former UT defensive back who’s facing trial next month on rape charges:

While the woman, a student-athlete, was meeting with executive senior associate athletics director Jon Gilbert, senior associate athletics director Mike Ward and her coach, she received a message from her roommate “who was witnessing at that moment several football players jumping” Bowles, the lawsuit says. The woman informed the athletics officials of the incident and was told they would “look into it,” according to the suit. The lawsuit says “athletic coaches were present during that altercation.”

But, the lawsuit says, Williams told police in November 2014 that then-Tennessee defensive back Geraldo Orta had “a hit” out on Bowles.

According to the lawsuit, Orta, a Valdosta, Ga. native, told University of Tennessee police he felt “Bowles betrayed the team and that where (Orta) came from, people got shot for doing what Bowles did.”

Orta told police in an interview conducted during an investigation into the sexual assault claims against Johnson and Williams that he approached Bowles in Smokey’s Café, the athletics dining facility. Orta admitted getting “in (Bowles’) face” and saying “some threatening things,” according to interviews with police cited in the lawsuit.

Orta also told police that then-Tennessee star Curt Maggitt confronted Bowles in the team locker room “before the team was instructed by head coach Butch Jones not to talk to him and before Bowles was given time away from the team,” the suit says.

In interviews with police, Maggitt said he confronted Bowles and said he purchased alcohol for the party at which the Jane Doe plaintiff was allegedly assaulted, the lawsuit says. Neither Orta nor Maggitt were disciplined, according to the lawsuit.

Shortly after the alleged attacks in November of 2014, the first of which came one day after Plaintiff Doe IV was allegedly raped, Bowles transferred out of the football program and continued his playing career at Chattanooga.

The alleged victim helped by the player claimed in the lawsuit that “the incidents involving Bowles contributed to a culture that intimidated victims of sexual assault by football players.”

Cyclones’ third-leading rusher, receiver no longer on team

STILLWATER, OK - OCTOBER 4:   Wide receiver D'Vario Montgomery #8 of the Iowa State Cyclones tries for a touchdown pass as cornerback Ramon Richards #18 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys defends October 4, 2014 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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Ahead of the start of spring practice next month, Iowa State’s returning offensive production has taken a significant hit.

Wednesday, ISU announced in a press release that wide receiver D'Vario Montgomery and running back Joshua Thomas are no longer a part of first-year head coach Matt Campbell‘s Cyclones football program. Montgomery was dismissed by Campbell for the standard unspecified violations of team rules, while Thomas has decided to transfer out.

Last season as a redshirt junior, Montgomery was third on the team in receiving yards (335) and receiving touchdowns (three), while his 27 receptions were fourth. A year earlier, he led the Cyclones with 605 yards receiving.

Montgomery came to ISU as a transfer from USF in 2013.

Thomas, meanwhile, was second among Cyclone running backs with 295 yards rushing, and led the team with seven rushing touchdowns. With the emergence of Freshman All-American Mike Warren (team-leading 1,339 yards), however, the freshman Thomas has opted to transfer to another program that might give him a better opportunity to be a feature back.

Thomas is actually the second ISU running back to transfer in less than a month. In late January, it was confirmed that Tyler Brown, who began 2015 as the starter, had decided to leave Ames as well.