Pat Haden: Kiffin ‘battled’ to keep his job

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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.”

Ohio State transfer Jared Drake moves on to the FCS

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After moving on from Ohio State, Jared Drake has opted to drop a couple of rungs on the college football ladder in continuing his playing career.

On his personal Twitter account Thursday, Drake announced “that the next stop on this long journey will be with the Leathernecks of Western Illinois University!” As Western Illinois plays at the FCS level, the linebacker will be eligible to play immediately in 2018.

Drake came to the Buckeyes as a walk-on in 2015.  he played in nine games the past two seasons, almost exclusively on special teams.

According to his official OSU bio, Drake had “added long snapping to his résumé along with his responsibilities as a linebacker.”

Houston, UTSA announce tweaks to twin home-and-homes

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The aftereffects of Hurricane Harvey continue to linger, in this case as it pertains to college football scheduling.

Houston and UT-San Antonio in March of 2016 announced a future four-game series, with two of the games set to be played at the latter’s home (2017, 2023) and two in the former’s (2022, 2024). Because of the once-in-500 years flooding event in the Houston area last August, however, the 2017 game was canceled.

In a press release Thursday, UTSA confirmed that the canceled 2017 game will now be played on Aug. 30, 2025, at TDECU Stadium in Houston. The 2023 game, which had been scheduled to be played in San Antonio, will now be played in Houston.

The 2022 and 2024 games had been scheduled for Houston’s home but will now be played in San Antonio’s Alamodome.

The two football teams have met twice previously, in 2013 and 2014. The road teams won each of those matchups, with the Roadrunners spoiling the opening of UH’s new stadium in the 2014 game.

Oregon LB arrested for removing parking boot dismissed by Ducks

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In April, Fotu Leiato was arrested on a couple of charges related to the illegal removal of a parking boot from his vehicle.  A month later, we’ve learned Leiato was given the boot from his current football program for good measure.

247Sports.com was the first to report that Leiato has been dismissed by first-year Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal.  Further to the point, the linebacker’s dismissal came a day after his April arrest but the news didn’t surface until Thursday.

In the April incident, Leiato was arrested on charges of second-degree criminal mischief, second-degree theft and criminal trespassing.  That was actually his second arrest this year as he was charged with misdemeanor trespassing in January.

The combination of the two arrests led Cristobal to pull the trigger on a dismissal.

Coming to Eugene as a three-star safety, Leiato played in 37 of 38 games the past three seasons.  The Washington native earned the first start of his collegiate playing career during the 2017 season.

The senior had been in line to earn a starting job exiting spring and heading into the summer phase of the offseason.

LB Darrin Kirkland announces transfer from Tennessee

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Darren Kirkland‘s injury-plagued time on Rocky Top has come to an end.

On his personal Twitter account Thursday evening, Kirkland announced that he has decided to transfer out of first-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt‘s Tennessee football program.  The linebacker gave no specific reason for his decision to move on from the Volunteers.

“Tennessee will always hold a special place in my heart,” Kirkland wrote. “These moments have been priceless and I’m a better player and man from this experience.”

As a graduate transfer, Kirkland would be eligible to play for another FBS program in 2018.  Not only that, but he will have two seasons of eligibility remaining counting this year.

A four-star 2015 signee, Kirkland started 10 games as a true freshman and then another six in a sophomore campaign marred by a high-ankle sprain that forced him to miss four games.  In summer camp last year, he suffered a knee injury severe enough to sideline him for the entire 2017 season.

The rehab from that injury kept Kirkland from being a full participant in Pruitt’s first spring practice this year.