Richly rewarded for mediocre performance, football coach Lane Kiffin's career is the antithesis of the American Dream. The 34-year old, whose resume includes head
coaching jobs in college and pro football, has been hired three times
in the last four years despite a career coaching record of 12-21 and a hoard of NCAA sanctions off the field.
Kiffin's latest windfall came Tuesday, when perennial college football power USC hired him to replace departing head coach Pete Carroll. Students at the University of Tennessee, his former employer, were so put-off by Kiffin's golden-ticket deal that they formed a mob and burning Kiffin T-shirts in effigy.
For their part, the football cognoscenti also went up in flames. Beat writers and bloggers alike panned the move, expressing contempt for both Kiffin and USC athletic director Mike Garrett. Though a few heavy hitters like Bleacher Report's Jonathan Mathis came out in support of the hire, the vast majority of pundits had four main gripes with the Trojans' decision to stake their future to Kiffin.
- His Record Doesn't Match His Pedigree "Paris Hilton has paid more dues than Lane Kiffin," hisses ESPN's Pat Forde, who takes USC to task for being the young coach's latest "enabler." He adds, "Kiffin comes across as a guy who was born on third base and acts as if he hit a triple -- but given the way people have thrown good jobs and big money at him, it's hard to blame him for thinking he's the next Knute Rockne."
- He Plays Fast and Loose With NCAA Regulations Sports Illlustrated's Michael Rosenberg warns: "This is the same coach whose Tennessee program is facing a wide-ranging investigation into its recruiting practices, according to The New York Times. This is the same Kiffin who falsely accused Florida coach Urban Meyer of recruiting violations last year, and who has committed more than his share of secondary violations in Knoxville, and who served under Pete Carroll when the [Reggie] Bush scandal happened." Perhaps emulating the oft-sneering Kiffin, Rosenberg throws in a little snark of his own, quipping, "Kiffin's mouth poses such a danger to the people around him that when he goes through airport security, he has to remove his tongue."
- He's a "Weasel," FOX Sports' Peter Schrager declares. "This was a 34-year-old man (er, boy) who hasn't won a thing as a head coach sneaking out the back door and creeping up the football coaching ladder, yet again." Schrager adds: "Whether he's a snake, weasel, or just your garden variety spoiled brat, it's really of no great circumstance. What matters is that Lane Kiffin is done with Tennessee after just one year and on to bigger and better things. In his wake, he leaves a program that was likely better off having never known him at all."
- He's Not Worthy of USC Bombastic Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke draws on all the arguments above to make his larger point: Kiffin is not fit to run USC's "heavyweight" program. "This is who a true Trojan hires?" he asks. "A program that covets an NFL pedigree just added a guy who was 5-15 with the Oakland Raiders in his only NFL head-coaching experience. How bad was that experience? Al Davis ended it by calling him a "flat-out" liar. Yeah, that bad."