There are few head coaches in college football that are more hated than the University of Southern California Trojans' Lane Kiffin - especially, if you contact anyone in the southeastern portion of the country. Although a zebras stripes never change, they do grow - and grow up Lane Kiffin has done heading into the 2012 football season. He may be adding his name to the list of storied coaches at USC.
Born and raised in Minnesota, Lane is the son of Monte Kiffin - a longtime college and NFL football assistant who was a defensive mastermind - conceiving the 'Tampa 2' defense. Monte is the current assistant head coach for the Trojans. Lane played quarterback in college at Fresno State and then became an assistant there before moving around and eventually ending up as recruiting and offensive coordinator for USC at the age of 30, after Norm Chow left. And like his father, Lane is also known for his game planning with an almost mastermind quality - but mostly on the offensive side of the ball. By the way, on a side note, every year Lane was the recruiting coordinator, the Trojans were the #1 ranked class.
Raiders & Vols
But after the Trojans visited the Rose Bowl back-to-back, Kiffin moved up to the National Football League. Oakland Raiders Al Davis hired Kiffin at the age of 31, making him the youngest NFL head coach ever in the modern era (source - Chronicle). But that short story has been told and the falling out that Davis and Kiffin had was ugly with each saying the other lied. After being fired from the Raiders in 2008, the 33 year old Kiffin was hired by the University of Tennessee Volunteers who were coming off their worse record since Johnny Majors first season in 1977.
He once again was the youngest head coach - this time in Division 1 football. Kiffin brought the Vols back to a winning record but a loss in the Peach Bowl and a much bigger opportunity in Los Angeles, pushed him to pack his bags one more time. In his one year at Tennessee, Kiffin seem to upset everyone in the South, including a much talked about battle with Florida Gators coach Urban Meyer. Arrogant and confrontational were almost always how Kiffin was described.
Kiffin has a poignant feature that when combined with his high energy style has always been a value and worth that makes him who he is - good and bad. Here's an interesting fact, a recent questionnaire for prep football players states Lane Kiffin as one of the most persuasive head coaches out there on the recruiting trail and they also rate him highly as being the easiest to talk to (source - Rivals.com).
Now 37 (still the youngest BCS head coach) and entering his third season at USC, there seems to be an ever subtle but steady change. And think about it. Kiffin came into the job staring right down the barrel of a huge probation with penalties. Yes, I believe the hiring of Pat Haden as Athletic Director has had a positive influence on Kiffin and the program, but watching what you say and not being so egotistical doesn't change the play-calling or your team systems and functions.
Although the Trojans are a private university, it's estimated that Lane Kiffin makes about $4 million a year - a little less than Pete Carroll before him but still not chump change (source - Yahoo! Sports). That's 4 million reasons to keep your attitude in check. And Kiffin seems to have finally settled into his life in Los Angeles. He recently bought a huge house in Manhattan Beach for $5.5 million (source - L.A. Times) - life seems less tumultuous.
So it would seem that Kiffin has learned lessons through all his controversies and come away as potentially a dynasty builder. Of course, at USC, there already is a dynasty so maybe it's more of his own legacy that he is crafting.
Kiffin has moved around the NCAA sanctions more deftly than could ever have been expected. He's recruited magnificently and again, although these are the Trojans and they do have a notoriety of producing professional football players, he is doing an incredible job of nabbing the best the country has to offer in prep stars.
Kiffin is more relaxed, self-assured and certain of where he and USC are going. But with success comes the challenge of winning championships. Can he keep his staff and team focused on the goal with all these raving preseason reviews? There's no lack of troubles players can get into and when you add that no school has the media that the men of Troy have - the spotlight is on all the time. Will depth be an issue? If indeed the Oregon Ducks and Trojans clash, it will likely be twice. Can anyone beat a team as good as the Ducks twice in one season? And of course Kiffin has to look ahead and find future stars after the current stars graduate.
There are much tougher places to work than beautiful Southern California but then again, there are few places with as many expectations as the storied program of the USC Trojans. There's still much to be done by Kiffin and many challenges lay ahead. Yes, people in the South, the Bay Area and elsewhere will never have anything good to say about Kiffin but that was a different person. The 2012 version of Lane Kiffin seems ready to tackle the monumental job of head coach of USC - then maybe he can join the elite names of Carroll, Robinson, McKay, Jones and Henderson.
Sources - USC, O.C. Register
Daryle lived in Los Angeles Ca. most of his life and has been a longtime fan of USC and the Pac-12, having closely followed the Trojans since he was just a youngster. Fight On!
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Lane Kiffin
- Monte Kiffin
- the Trojans