Following USC’s loss last weekend to Notre Dame (their fourth in five games) it seemed inevitable that change was coming in some form in Los Angeles. Athletic Director Pat Haden insisted that head coach Lane Kiffin was safe and Haden also mentioned that he’d leave it up to his head coach to make all decisions on the future of his staff. But to appease a frustrated fan-base after a disappointing 7-5 season, it did seem like change was coming in some form.
Well, it did come, late Thursday night with the “resignation” of defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin to pursue opportunities in the NFL. Monte is of course the father of Lane.
Here is what Monte had to say about the situation via a release from the school:
"I wanted to make this announcement now so that our players who are preparing for the bowl game and our recruits who will be visiting campus are aware," said Monte Kiffin. "I really enjoyed my time at USC and the opportunity I had to work with our players and coaches. The chance to work for my son, Lane, was unique and memorable, but we always treated each other professionally on a coach-to-coach basis.
"Although things didn't always go as well as we would have liked this year from a defensive and win-loss standpoint, I will leave USC with the utmost respect for the University, the Trojan Family and, most importantly, the players I had the good fortune to coach. I see great things ahead for the USC football program."
Now obviously, no one believes that Monte actually “resigned” as much as he saw the writing on the wall, realized how unhappy the fan-base was with his often overwhelmed defense and (to use a very bad pun) made the decision to fall on the sword and potentially save his son’s job. People were calling for someone’s head at USC, and if Monte didn’t step back, it might’ve been Lane who was forced out next year.
At the same time, it’s hard to blame the Trojans fan-base for forcing Lane and Monte’s hand here.
Obviously nobody wanted to see it end like this, but it was clear that after four years back in college football, Monte’s defenses just didn’t seem to have an answer for the spread offenses that have become common in college football and are particular prevalent in the Pac-12 in particular. This season USC finished 30th nationally in total defense allowing 451 yards a game and also allowed 24.6 points per game as well.
Now on paper those numbers look respectable, except the problem is of course, that games aren’t played on paper. And in actual games, this defense wasn’t nearly as good as the numbers might otherwise say. In USC’s five losses they allowed an average of over 500 yards per game, including an especially brutal back-to-back two game stretch against Arizona and Oregon where they allowed a combined 1,300 yards of total offense to the opponent. Losses to UCLA and Notre Dame to close the season didn’t help things.
What will be interesting now is to see what direction USC goes from here.
Names that have been thrown around include former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik, a guy who may have flamed out as a head coach on the Plains, but coordinated back-to-back undefeated defenses at Auburn and Texas in 2004 and 2005 (ironically, Chizik’s Horns beat USC for the National Championship that year). There’s also the chance that Ed Orgeron moves from his current position as USC’s defensive line coach to the coordinator position.
Either way, change was needed and it came Thursday.
Now, will this change be enough to keep change from coming next off-season in the head coach’s chair?
That remains to be seen.
For all his opinion, analysis and insight be sure to follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.