Trojans dismiss coach Lane Kiffin

Updated: September 30, 2013, 11:38 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

LOS ANGELES -- The USC Trojans fired coach Lane Kiffin less than six hours after a blowout loss at Arizona State.

Ed Orgeron was picked as USC's interim head coach by athletic director Pat Haden later Sunday. The Trojans (3-2, 0-2 Pac-12) have eight games left on their 13-game schedule.

"I want to tell you we're here as a staff to answer the bell," Orgeron said. "We're all accountable for what happened as a staff and as players. Us Trojans know how to do it."

Orgeron was Kiffin's assistant head coach and the former Mississippi head coach.

Haden fired Kiffin at the Trojans' private airport terminal in Los Angeles when the team plane returned from Arizona early Sunday morning following the 62-41 loss in Tempe, but not before a 45-minute meeting in which Kiffin tried to change Haden's mind. The Trojans matched the most points allowed in school history in their seventh loss in 11 games.

Kiffin's overall record in four years at USC was 28-15.

"I haven't felt particularly good even from the Hawaii game," Haden said. "I just felt like we haven't been the consistent team that we need to be at USC. We've played 125 years of some pretty dog-gone good football here at USC. We're just all a piece of the continuum. We're going to be playing football 125 years from now. I was just a tiny little piece of it, Lane was, Pete Carroll was, and we all add up into this continuum of USC football, and we just realized that our history has been great, and we need to be great again."

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 handled the news "very professionally, stoically," but was sad and completely caught off guard, a source told ESPN's Shelley Smith. Players and staff who saw the discussion said they figured what was being said and weren't surprised. Players were notified via text message shortly before USC announced the move at 4:25 a.m. local time.

Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio is expected to emerge as a candidate to replace Kiffin permanently, NFL sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter. 

"There isn't anything to say," Del Rio said after the Broncos' game Sunday. "It's all speculation at this point, I've got a job to do here, my focus is right there."

Multiple team sources told ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold on Sunday morning that Del Rio would stay through the remainder of the Broncos' season, no matter if he interviews, or even accepts, a new job.

[+] EnlargeLane Kiffin
Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY SportsLane Kiffin was fired hours after a 62-41 defeat at Arizona State, USC's second Pac-12 loss in 2013.

Del Rio is in his second season as the Broncos defensive coordinator, which has made him a rare coach in that position for the team. Upon his arrival to John Fox's staff in 2012, Del Rio became the seventh defensive coordinator in seven seasons.

When asked about the search for a possible permanent replacement, Haden said that it was still too soon, explaining, "This is not the right time," while also noting of Orgeron, "He'll be evaluated just like any other candidate."

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 21-7 Hyundai Sun Bowl setback to Georgia Tech on New Year's Eve to conclude 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 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.

"I'm fine with that," he said. "I have been dealing with that for 12 months. That's fine. That's the last thing I'm worried about. We have to find a way to coach better and play better and get our backups ready."

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."

Information from ESPN college football reporter Joe Schad, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, ESPN.com Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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