The Pac-12 Conference's reprimand and fine of the USC Trojans football team after a student manager intentionally deflated several footballs during the Trojans' 62-51 loss to Oregon on Saturday may be the last straw for coach Lane Kiffin, according to Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times.
On the field, this team with unbeaten talent is 6-3 while gaining national recognition mostly for reckless penalties and questionable play-calling.At 37, Kiffin is the youngest coach of a Bowl Championship Series conference team. While he managed to avoid controversy during his first two seasons at USC -- during the program's NCAA probation -- Kiffin has been criticized for recent decisions including banning visiting teams from Coliseum walk-throughs the day before games and temporarily banning a reporter from writing about injuries. Prior to the deflated ball incident, Kiffin changed jersey numbers on USC players possibly violating an NCAA ethics code.
Off the field, Kiffin has dragged the team through an array of distractions and ethics dilemmas that have tarnished the athletic department's sterling post-probation image cultivated by Athletic Director Pat Haden.
Kiffin was not hired by Haden, and there is now real doubt about his ability to keep his job beyond this season as the department sinks deeper into embarrassment. Kiffin was a Mike Garrett guy, and there are indications that Haden is ready to rid the program of the last traces of that legacy. As always, winning solves everything, and it appears Kiffin is going to have to do plenty of it in these final three regular-season games.
Like, maybe, win all of them?