- Arash Markazi, ESPN Staff Writer
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LOS ANGELES -- USC will enter Thursday's season opener against Hawaii with two quarterbacks still competing for the starting job, but athletic director Pat Haden said he expects the Trojans to name a starter after the first or second game of the season.
USC coach Lane Kiffin said he would not name a starter before the game and that both Max Wittek and Cody Kessler would play against Hawaii. He has not said when or if he will name a starter for the rest of the season, but Haden believes that decision will come after Kiffin sees both quarterbacks play in a game or two.
"I don't think this is going to be a thing for the season," Haden told ESPNLosAngeles.com. "This is going to be decided here perhaps the first week, maybe the second week."
Haden, who was a Rhodes scholar quarterback at USC, said it wouldn't be his preference to have two quarterbacks alternating during the game this season but that he trusted Kiffin's judgment in making a decision on the starting quarterback moving forward after the season opener.
"I've never played the situation like that myself but Lane's our coach and Lane's my coach, and if that's what he thinks is best for the USC football team, I'm all for it," Haden said. "I'm supportive of him and I know he hasn't taken this lightly. He has taken a lot of time making this decision. He believes this is the right thing for USC."
Haden reiterated during an expansive interview with ESPNLosAngeles.com that Kiffin is not on the hot seat this season and that he believes the Trojans will recover from last season's disappointing 7-6 mark. He was, however, realistic about the expectations with USC still playing with limited scholarships stemming from NCAA sanctions levied against the school three years ago.
"We've got some talented players; we just don't have enough players," Haden said. "I'm optimistic that we'll have a good season but it really depends on how healthy we stay. ... We're tired of talking about the sanctions, and I'm sure people are tired of hearing about the sanctions, but we still have two more years of them, this year and next year. The focus is to navigate through these uncharted waters."
Haden said he followed how the NCAA handled sanctions against Ohio State and Oregon in recent years, which paled in comparison to the penalties levied against USC, but that he had moved on from trying to understand the sanctions after two failed appeals.
"My job is to worry about USC," Haden said. "I think it's apples and oranges. I didn't think we were treated fairly. I don't think the sanctions were fair at all or that the punishment fit the crime but it is what it is. We had two shots at the NCAA and we lost both of them. We're nearly through it. I just wish and want the NCAA to treat everybody fairly and with transparency. That's all I ask."
20hSam Khan Jr.