Lane F**king Kiffin, Bro
That was the slogan of a very popular t-shirt among young USC football fans a couple of years ago. It was a preshrunk cotton middle finger to Trojan haters. It meant “Yeah, our coach is an arrogant prick, and we love it because we’re better than you.”
Those t-shirts disappeared as quickly as the “Mike Williams Is Gangsta” shirts did in 2003 (those are so obsolete you can’t even find a picture of one online anymore). The words “Lane F**king Kiffin, Bro” are now something that Trojans were muttering as they trudged half a mile through a muddy parking lot at the Rose Bowl on Saturday afternoon, shuddering at the sound of obnoxious 8-claps echoing through the raindrops.
The worst news was yet to come.
About 45 minutes after Matt Barkley was knocked out of the game (and possibly the season), Lane F**king Kiffin was telling reporters that he was coming back next season. Athletic Director Pat Haden then confirmed it shortly after.
What Kiffin did to pull USC through the first three years of sanctions was nothing short of remarkable. What he did with a preseason No. 1 ranking and bowl eligibility this season is inexcusable.
The loss to UCLA was the last straw.
He failed to establish the run early despite having a red-hot Curtis McNeal in his backfield. Instead, he had his star quarterback force the ball into heavy coverage to try to add momentum to the Heisman campaign of Marqise Lee. That led to an interception on the first play of the game, which soon became a 24-0 first-half deficit.
The Trojan defense, masterminded by Lane’s dad Monte, was as infuriating as it has been all season. The Bruins’ first drive of the second quarter summed it up. Runs of 10 and 11 yards came right off the bat for UCLA’s best player, Johnathon Franklin. USC benefitted from a 15-yard tripping penalty to make it 1st and 25 for the Bruins. Two plays later, UCLA converts on 3rd and 14. USC would be nabbed for pass interference on the next third down and then allowed redshirt freshman Brett Hundley to hook up with Joseph Fauria for a 16-yard completion on 3rd and nine. The next play? A 16-yard touchdown for Franklin.
Look, we could go into X’s and O’s all day. On the field, a gaggle of 4- and 5-star recruits have looked hapless for much of the year. A top ranking has turned into no ranking at all. The play-calling has been suspect. Matt Barkley has digressed, lowering his hype and losing millions of NFL dollars because of having to force passes. Robert Woods has digressed due to a lack of targets. The entire defense has digressed due to a once-brilliant but now overaged coordinator who doesn’t have effective game plans week-to-week, allowing too many points early in games.
And for Lane Kiffin as a person?
It used to be cool that he came across as an arrogant prick. He was despised for abandoning Tennessee. It was funny that Al Davis himself had called him a liar after firing him from the Raiders. He would go for two with a lead in the first quarter. He would wear a white visor. He would run up the score.
Trojans bragged about his hot wife, and loved that everyone else hated their head coach. They wore white visors in homage to him. It even said “We Play for The Visor” on Trojan website ads.
Kiffin was caught lying early in the year and fans loved it. But then the team started losing, and losing for reasons that were a direct result of coaching decisions. A student manager shadily deflated balls used by Oregon and the USC defense still gave up 730 yards to the Ducks at the Coliseum.
Being a prick is only acceptable when you’re winning.
Heading into the UCLA game, USC’s hopes for the season had gone from a national championship to an outside shot at a Rose Bowl. After Saturday’s disaster, the Trojans are without Barkley for a potential blowout at the hands of top-ranked Notre Dame, a five-loss season, and hopes to at least get an easy-to-hate team like Texas to face in a shitty bowl game.
By the time the first quarter had ended on Saturday, Facebook was blowing up with Trojans calling for their coach to be axed. Now it looks as if he’ll be back next year, leading the nation’s best athletes on a path of underachievement.
People still point to Kiffin’s ability to recruit as a reason to keep him around, but USC is USC. It will always have top-tier recruiting classes. Besides, alpha-male Ed Orgeron has as much to do with the recruiting as Kiffin does. There are big-name coaches (see Jack Del Rio) out there drooling over the USC job.
While the nation faces a fiscal cliff, the USC football program faces a fall from dominance down to the mediocrity of the 90′s.
Notre Dame has obviously caught up with the Trojans. More alarmingly, a UCLA team that lost to USC 50-0 last season has caught up in the blink of an eye. The rest of the conference, led by Stanford and Oregon, is on the rise. USC needs to get back on track in a hurry, and Kiffin is not the one to right the ship.
Some of us were lucky enough to black out at Homecoming 2010 and wake up the next morning without our Lane Kiffin t-shirts.