The USC Trojans fired coach Lane Kiffin not six hours after dropping to 3-2 after a blowout loss to Arizona State. Trojans athletic director Pat Haden broke the news to Kiffin after the team’s charter-flight arrival back in Los Angeles early Sunday morning after the 62-41 loss at Tempe, Ariz., the school said in a statement on its website. USC has lost seven of its past 11 games dating to last year and both of its first two in Pac-12 play this season.
Kiffin’s overall record in four years at USC was 28-15.
Haden will hold a news conference at USC on Sunday afternoon, the school said. The specific time and location of the event was unknown.
According to the Los Angeles Daily News, Haden met with advisers Saturday during a 28-0 Arizona State run in the third quarter, and that’s when it was decided to dismiss Kiffin.
Kiffin was pulled off the team bus in a parking lot at Los Angeles International Airport by Haden for a brief meeting with the AD and several other school administrators and was told he was fired, the Daily News reported.
Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio is expected to emerge as a candidate to replace Kiffin, NFL sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Kiffin had been retained for 2013 despite the Trojans’ three-game skid to end last season while losing five of their last six. That included a 38-28 loss to crosstown rival UCLA, a 22-13 defeat to then-No. 1 Notre Dame and a Hyundai Sun Bowl setback to Georgia Tech, 21-7, on New Year’s Eve to cap the season.
The Trojans debuted at No. 24 this preseason before dropping out of The Associated Press Top 25 in the third week.
They had entered the 2012 season No. 1 but finished unranked — the first team in nearly a half-century to accomplish the ignominious feat.
Kiffin’s stay at USC — like many of his other jobs — came with a quick, tumult-laden exit.
Kiffin was an NFL head coach at 31, a head coach in the SEC at 33 and became USC’s head coach at 34.
If there was a consistent trend to those stops with the Oakland Raiders, then the Tennessee Volunteers and finally the Trojans, it was turmoil.
With Oakland, he lasted only 20 games and his departure became a messy, public feud between he and Al Davis, the former owner who died in 2011.
His arrival in Tennessee was not warmly received by all Vols fans, given the loyalties many had to the former coach there, Phillip Fulmer.
And then came the USC era. The Trojans were hit with severe NCAA sanctions a few months after Kiffin arrived — he had nothing to do with the wrongdoing that wound up costing the school 30 scholarships over three years and the right to go to the postseason twice — but it set the tone for another bumpy ride.
Between the ongoing issue with the sanctions and injuries, the Trojans played at Arizona State on Saturday night with 56 recruited scholarship players. The lack of depth was evident at times in that game, and in the end, Kiffin was held ultimately responsible.
USC next plays on Oct. 10 against Arizona, so the Trojans have a bye week to try to settle down the coaching situation and get some players healthy. USC may have lost wide receiver Marqise Lee to a left knee injury, one that Kiffin said on Saturday night after the game may be serious. Lee is expected to have his knee evaluated later Sunday in Los Angeles.
“It didn’t look very good,” Kiffin said. “It didn’t sound very good or look very good, so that’s all I got for you.”
Hours later, Lee’s health took a backseat among the problems facing USC’s storied program.
Kiffin addressed his spot on the proverbial “hot seat” after Saturday’s loss, saying he’s fine with it and that his own job security is “the last thing I’m worried about.”
“We have to find a way to coach better,” Kiffin said.
Instead, USC and Haden now have to find a different coach.
“I think the guys on this team that really do care and can turn this thing around,” USC quarterback Cody Kessler said Saturday night, a few hours before the firing decision was announced, “It’s going to be hard — I’m not going to lie — but with the character and leadership that we have we can do it.”