USC made headlines when deciding to fire much-maligned head coach Lane Kiffin early Sunday morning in the parking lot of Los Angeles International Airport following an embarrassing 62-41 loss to Arizona State. A search for Kiffin’s successor has already begun, and USC athletic director Pat Haden told ESPN’s Colin Cowherd that he intends to keep the search private.
“You can’t forget the current team. I don’t want to be talking publicly about searches for the next three months while we have eight games to play,” Haden told Cowherd on ESPN Radio.
Despite Haden’s intentions, at one of the most popular schools in the country, it won’t be easy for Haden keep the search private, especially after a very public firing.
Haden told Cowherd it took 45 minutes to relieve Kiffin of his duties after the Trojans returned home around 3 a.m.
"He battled me," Haden said. "… He really battled and made it very difficult. We had a very honest discussion for 45 minutes. At the end of the day, I felt the decision had to be made."
Rumors about potential candidates have already begun to swirl just a day after Kiffin’s removal. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, a USC alum and former head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, has emerged as a candidate.
"There isn't anything to say," Del Rio said after the Broncos-Philadelphia Eagles game Sunday. "It's all speculation at this point. I've got a job to do here. My focus is right there."
Broncos coach John Fox also disputed rumors that Del Rio was in Los Angeles Sunday evening and was, instead, at a Denver steakhouse.
John Fox on report last night Jack Del Rio was spotted at LAX: "He was not in LAX. He was actually at Del Frisco's when that came out.''
— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) September 30, 2013
“We’ll get it done. This happens every year in college football. We’ll do a search. We think we have a very attractive job and we’ll get the right person for our job,” Haden said. “But I’m not going to be talking about it a lot publicly because I don’t think that’s respectful and fair to our senior class.”
USC does have some recent success in making discreet hires. In fact, former USC AD Mike Garrett unexpectedly lured Kiffin to Los Angeles after just one year at Tennessee. So, despite the already-circulating rumors, a decision could be made out of the public eye.
And it could be someone no one is expecting, just like Kiffin.