His absence mattered most of all. The absence of his name, precisely.
Expunge Lane Kiffin, USC fans said, and we'll be happy. Rid us of this era, and we'll get on board now for the next one.
And so, after the fifth game of the season, USC athletic director Pat Haden did. In the middle of the night, after returning to Los Angeles from USC's ugly loss at Arizona State, he told Kiffin that was enough.
Players, students, alumni, boosters, your average nut - everyone mildly or maniacally associated with USC football seemed frustrated. They had a head coach known for his offensive genius who couldn't craft even a remotely threatening attack.
They had a receiving corps more talented than most, yet USC fans were treated to a choked and conservative passing game that ranked 54th in yards per attempt (7.5) during Kiffin's five games. Instead of letting the field breathe, Kiffin served up bubble screens and a run game that, at 4.63 yards per pop, quivered at 57th among FBS schools.