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

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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.”

Matt Campbell signs contract extension at Iowa State

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Now that we know Matt Campbell will not succeed Urban Meyer as Ohio State’s next head coach, Iowa State is getting down to business of keeping the 39-year-old in Ames for as long as possible.

Campbell signed a new 6-year, $22.5 million contract after last season’s 8-5 campaign that saw Iowa State register wins over then-No. 3 Oklahoma and then-No. 4 TCU, but the school wasn’t done investing in him.

On Sunday, Iowa State announced Campbell has signed an extension keeping him in Cyclone colors through 2024. While this extension doesn’t include a raise for Campbell — last year’s deal boosted his salary from $2.1 million to $3.5 million immediately — it does carry an additional $1 million for his assistants.

In addition to the $1 million Iowa State also committed last year, the school has now committed an extra $3.4 million annually to keeping Campbell and his assistants over the past 13 months.

“Coach Campbell and I had a great end-of-the-year meeting Friday and during our visit we mutually agreed to extend his contract to 2024 and further demonstrate Coach Campbell and the University’s commitment to one another,” Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard said in a statement. “I couldn’t be more excited for our current players, fans and recruits to receive this great news.”

Iowa State’s assistant pool was $2.982 million in 2018 according to the USA Today salary database, putting the Cyclones 49th in the country. Adding another million would boost the Cyclones to 27th, based on 2018 figures.

Ranked No. 24 in the final College Football Playoff poll, Iowa State concluded the regular season at 8-4 and in third place in the Big 12. The Cyclones’ six conference wins are the most in the program’s 23-year history of Big 12 membership, and this year’s club was the closest Iowa State team to reaching the Big 12 Championship since the 2005 team that came within a game from winning their first (and only) Big 12 North title.

The Cyclones will finish Campbell’s third season against No. 13 Washington State in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Dec. 28.

Alabama flips 5-star safety from Michigan

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Tua Tagovailoa may have come in second in the Heisman race, but Saturday was still a winning night for Alabama.

While he was in New York with his quarterback, Nick Saban‘s recruiting machine was still humming at full capacity as the Crimson Tide managed to flip 5-star safety Dax Hill from Michigan.

A Tulsa native and the younger brother of Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill, Hill is the No. 8 overall player and the top safety in the 2019 class, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.

“This was a tough decision for me and my family but I have decided to de-commit from the University of Michigan and flip my commitment to the University of Alabama!!” Hill wrote in a Twitter post.

With Hill’s commitment, Alabama’s 24-man class has increased its lead for the No. 1 ranking in the 247Sports Composite team rankings. Alabama has a 25-point lead over Texas A&M for the top spot with a week and a half before the early signing period.

Hill’s loss means Michigan’s 23-man class now ranks 11th nationally and second in the Big Ten.

UTSA QB Bryce Rivers announces transfer

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Go ahead and add another quarterback to the transfer market.

UTSA quarterback Bryce Rivers announced his intent to transfer on Saturday night. “After long talks with close friends and family, I think it is in my best interest to transfer from UTSA,” Rivers wrote in a note posted to his Twitter account.

A San Antonio native, Rivers backed up senior starter Dalton Sturm in 2017, appearing in just three games and throwing eight passes. He competed with junior Cordale Grundy for the starting role heading into 2018 but lost that battle.

By appearing in just three games, Rivers could use this season as a redshirt and play elsewhere as a redshirt junior in 2020.

Jim Harbaugh: “I’m staying at Michigan.”

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Rumors popped up in the past week — from no less a source than former Ohio State wide receiver Cris Carter — that Jim Harbaugh was open to returning to the NFL. Tired of banging his head against the scarlet and gray wall in the Big Ten, the story went, Harbaugh would pack up his bags and leave Ann Arbor for a second time.

He was intrigued by the chance to coach Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, the rumors said. Maybe he’d cross Lake Erie and coach the Browns. Or maybe Dolphins owner and Michigan booster Stephen Ross could lure him to South Beach.

The story is wrong, Harbaugh said.

Speaking to ESPN on Sunday, Harbaugh said this:

“This is a choreographed message that comes up at this time every year before signing day. It’s people spreading messages to further their own personal agenda.

“But I’m on record right here, right now: I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying at Michigan. We have big plans here, and there’s a lot we want to accomplish.”

There are ways to deflect coaching rumors without outright confirming or denying them, but this isn’t that. It’s hard to be any more unequivocal than, “I’m staying at Michigan.”

Four years into his return to Michigan, Harbaugh has undeniably improved the program from where he found it, going 38-13 with two top-15 finishes and another on the way, though hasn’t lived up to the expectation that he’d wrest control of the Big Ten away from Urban Meyer and return the maize and blue to national prominence.

With Meyer leaving Columbus, the second stage of Harbaugh’s Michigan tenure will see even more pressure to push the Wolverines past the Buckeyes, once and for all. And it appears Harbaugh is open to the challenge.