By Michael Rosenberg
January 13, 2010

Well, I really have to hand it to the USC Trojans: They aren't even faking it anymore.

They're in it to win, everything else be damned. They don't care what the NCAA thinks, what other schools think or what the public thinks.

The Trojans brought O.J. Mayo in to their basketball program in the most publicly illegal way possible. Their best football player of the last decade, Reggie Bush, reportedly took hundreds of thousands of dollars from a wannabe sports marketer while in school. Their best running back last season, Joe McKnight, reportedly drove a Land Rover registered to another marketer.

For years, USC has stonewalled all investigations. USC thinks the "N" in NCAA stands for "nuisance" and the other three letters aren't worth learning.

Now, with the NCAA finally dragging its USC investigation(s) to the finish line, USC athletic director Mike Garrett just hired ... Lane Kiffin.


Lane Kiffin, Mike?


What happened?

Did Barry Switzer say no?

This is the same coach whose Tennessee program is facing a wide-ranging investigation into its recruiting practices, according to The New York Times. This is the same Kiffin who falsely accused Florida coach Urban Meyer of recruiting violations last year, and who has committed more than his share of secondary violations in Knoxville, and who served under Pete Carroll when the Bush scandal happened.

It is the same Kiffin who torches so many relationships, he might as well dip his finger in lighter fluid before he shakes hands. Kiffin's mouth poses such a danger to the people around him that when he goes through airport security, he has to remove his tongue.

USC doesn't care about any of it. I think Garrett saw the recent ESPN documentary on Miami's football program and thought it was an instructional video.

If USC were a public university, with elected trustees, subject to Freedom of Information Act requests, the Trojans probably couldn't get away with this. They would at least have to fake guilt for their scandals. Somebody would step up and say enough already.

Most schools in this position do what they can to convince the NCAA they are sorry. They scrounge up evidence that they have changed their ways. Sorry, but you can't trot Lane Kiffin in front of the NCAA and say things have changed. USC must know that. USC just doesn't care.

USC is just confirming what people already suspected about it. And Kiffin is confirming what people suspected about him.

Kiffin is a bright young coach who is confident enough in his own authority to surround himself with big-name assistants. But he is living in a world where all that matters is Lane Kiffin winning. He just proved it once again.

It's not just that Kiffin left Tennessee after one year. In a vacuum, that is understandable. Circumstances change, your dream job comes up -- nobody can control timing.

But it is hard to imagine a university putting itself on the line for a coach more than Tennessee did for Kiffin. Remember: Kiffin was coming off a disastrous stint with the Raiders when the Vols hired him. (By definition, all stints with the Raiders are disastrous.) Raiders owner Al Davis had called him a "flat-out liar."

Tennessee pulled Kiffin off the discard pile, paid him more than $2 million a year and gave him more than $3 million to pay his assistants -- the biggest salary pool for any school in the country. (One of those assistants, Lane's father Monte, got $1.2 million -- and a $300,000 retention bonus if he was still on staff Dec. 31. Now, two weeks later, Monte is heading to USC -- and presumably taking that retention bonus with him.)

Tennessee stood by Kiffin when he violated rules and falsely accused others of doing so. The school deified him when he boasted about hurting his SEC rivals by stealing their coaches.

Tennessee let Kiffin do pretty much anything he wanted to whomever he wanted. As he told SI's John Ed Bradley last winter: "You can't count the number of people we've run off because they couldn't keep up, and I'm including secretaries. They had to go because they weren't going to make it, and they knew it."

Maybe I'm not tough enough for Kiffin's world, but I have a problem with a coach who makes millions of dollars bragging that he ran off a secretary.

So what happens to the secretaries now, Lane? What happens to the support staff? What happens to the players who came to Knoxville with the promise that you were going to win big and watch out for them?

Kiffin seems to think that's Tennessee's problem. And sadly, he is right. Kiffin gets to run off to USC, where all they care about is winning. Lane Kiffin and USC deserve each other. This marriage is both absurd and perfect, all at once.

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