- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Pac-12 is supposed to be a collegial league. Folks throw the ball a lot and mostly get along. There are strong rivalries, but no real villains.
Heck, the new Pac-12 is loaded with villainy. At least it is when my bosses tell me to write a story about the top coaching villains in the Pac-12 as part of our "Love to hate!" series this week.
Villains? Iago, Darth Vader and Loki have nothing on Pac-12 coaches.
New Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez ruined a great Michigan program. Well, it was him and a bad administration, bad players and a bad streak of duplicitous jealousy from former coach Lloyd Carr. But it's more fun to just blame Rich Rod. And Greg Robinson.
New Arizona State coach Todd Graham left Pittsburgh high and dry after just one season to take over the Sun Devils. His rosy-cheeked players cried for days, though it's possible they were more upset about hearing the truth about the Easter Bunny -- he's doing 5-to-10 in New Jersey State Prison for vandalizing gardens.
California coach Jeff Tedford has failed to build on the incredible success of his predecessor, Tom Holmoe.
Colorado coach Jon Embree made his team play 13 consecutive games last season with no bye. Wait ... that wasn't his fault? Oh. Well, I heard Embree yell at practice once.
Oregon coach Chip Kelly fails to have a sunny disposition around reporters on a consistent basis. Dante reserved a special level of hell for coaches who aren't nice to the media.
Oregon State coach Mike Riley... Er. Hmm. Well, one might smile, and smile, and be a villain, yes?
Stanford coach David Shaw is always throwing his Stanford-ness in your face. You know the, "Oh I played receiver for Stanford," "Oh, I've got a B.A. from Stanford," "Oh, I'm the coach of Stanford," "Oh, I didn't get rejected by Stanford's graduate English program like you did," etc, etc.
UCLA coach Jim Mora wasn't all rainbows and roses with Doug Gottlieb in a radio interview once.
USC coach Lane Kiffin? Lane Kiffin! Don't listen to revisionist history. He's still Lane Freaking Kiffin!
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham might act all soft-spoken and nice, but he sports a gotee and he's buffed up like a linebacker. He's clearly just waiting for everyone to turn away so he can snap your spine over his knee. And don't act like you haven't thought the same thing.
Washington coach Steve Sarkisian? Two words: Coach thief.
So who is the top coaching villain in the Pac-12?
The easy answer is Kelly. He's gruff. He's closed practices. He flirted with the NFL. And, well, he wins too much.
But watch out for Kiffin. If USC again climbs back to the top of college football, that success might inspire Kiffin to again tweak his critics and adversaries. Not unlike Kelly, Kiffin has a pretty amusing, sarcastic sense of humor that isn't for everyone and sometimes doesn't translate well to print. Can he really keep that muzzled forever?
In fact, the Pac-12's biggest villain likely will be the winning coach when Kiffin and Kelly square off in the Coliseum on Nov. 3. The winner likely will be front-and-center in the national title race.
And no one likes a winner.