April 01, 2011
LOS ANGELES — University of Southern California football coach Lane Kiffin has been found alive by officials and animal control workers on the USC campus, ending a round-the-clock search that alarmed and delighted students when the coach escaped from his habitat in Heritage Hall last week.
The elusive coach was found "coiled, sort of secluded in a dark corner" about 9 a.m. Thursday, just a couple hundred feet away from the enclosure he had slipped out of, said USC athletic director Pat Haden. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Kiffin was recovered by an employee of the Animal Resources Department using "special tongs to grip the coach," Haden said.
"As you can imagine, we are delighted to report that our football coach has been found alive and well," Haden said. "He certainly looks in fine condition."
Officials had earlier cautioned that it might take days or even weeks before Kiffin was found, and urged the public not to panic, saying the coach was likely contained within the building. The image of the coach as scary was not really accurate, the athletic director said.
"Kiffins in general are shy, secretive creatures," Haden said, who if given a choice between fight and flight would go for flight. While Haden called the coach's absence "a serious situation," he said he was heartened by what he described as an apparent confidence among students that officials would find the coach. They "wouldn't have spoofed the situation the way they did" if they believed otherwise, he said.
Despite a campus-wide lockdown and a search that extended into surrounding residences, however, the coach had sought a secure hiding spot in the same building he had escaped from, in the office of recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron — a complex, swamp-like environment filled with pumps, stacks of hay, areas of with several feet of standing water and an elaborate maze constructed of decades' worth of game plans, film and discarded cans of Red Bull. The head coach, who had been fed shortly before his escape, apparently survived on a variety of small insects and one unfortunate mouse.
Kiffin was lured out after officials left voice mails from high-profile recruits across areas where they guessed the coach was hiding.
"It was the sound of 17-year-olds mumbling through vague descriptions of their daily routine that we hoped would bring him out," Haden added.
"The key strategy here was patience."
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.