Lane Kiffin’s No. 1 problem: explaining his coaches’ poll vote


USC Coach Lane Kiffin voted for the first time in the USA Today coaches’ poll but might have wished he hadn’t.

USA Today reported Thursday night that Kiffin voted USC No. 1 in its preseason poll, the news outlet releasing what is supposed to be a confidential vote because it said Kiffin volunteered false or misleading information about his vote in public.

USC was No. 3 behind top-ranked Louisiana State and Alabama in the USA Today preseason coaches’ poll released last week.

After practice on Tuesday, asked which team he voted No. 1, Kiffin declined to disclose his vote.

When a reporter said Arizona Coach Rich Rodriguez had voted USC No. 1, Kiffin said, “I would not vote USC No. 1, I can tell you that.”

But Kiffin did vote the Trojans No. 1, the USA Today report said.

“Each coach’s vote normally is kept confidential until the final vote of the regular season under an agreement between USA Today Sports and the American Football Coaches Assn.,” the report said. “However, when a voter volunteers false or misleading information about his vote in public, then USA Today Sports, in its oversight role as administrator of the poll, will set the record straight to protect the poll’s integrity.”

Kiffin could not be reached for comment after the report was published Thursday night.

This will be the first of three seasons that USC will have only 75 scholarship players — 10 fewer than the allowable maximum — because of NCAA sanctions.

Kiffin earlier told USA Today Sports that his comment did not misrepresent his vote, saying he meant he would not vote USC No. 1 if he were a coach of another team or media member voting in a poll.

“We have less players than everybody else,” Kiffin told USA Today. “So looking at it from the outside, I wouldn’t [vote USC No. 1]. Did I? Yeah, I did. That’s not based off of 75 vs. 85. That’s based off of [USC players] Matt Barkley, T.J. McDonald and Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. When everybody has the same record, I can’t go into a meeting with our players and have them say, ‘You put that team and that team ahead of us.’ That’s why I did that.”

The report said that Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches Assn., confirmed he sent Kiffin a letter about the matter after being told about it by USA Today Sports.

Tim Tessalone, athletic department spokesman for USC, said Kiffin had not received a letter or phone call from Teaff.

In a statement, Tessalone said USA Today sent a June 4 letter “to coaches who agreed to vote in its college football poll stating that, except for the final poll of the regular season, ‘votes for all other polls will be kept confidential by USA Today.’ ”

Tessalone continued, “The fact that the leadership of the American Football Coaches Assn., which tasks USA Today to administer its poll, joined with the poll administrators from USA Today to decide to breach that confidentiality by providing to a reporter a coach’s vote in its preseason poll is disappointing and attacks the integrity of the poll. Further, that the reporter who was given this information represents the very organization that conducts the poll is a conflict of journalistic interest.”

McKay Center theft reported

USC law enforcement officials are investigating a theft that occurred Wednesday at the new John McKay Center while the Trojans were practicing.

According to an entry on USC’s Department of Public Safety website, “A suspect entered multiple unsecured offices, and removed five laptop computers, four iPads, two cellular phones and a wallet.”

The theft occurred between 4:30 and 4:40 p.m. while the Trojans were practicing across the street at Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones Field.

USC has moved into the McKay Center, which will be dedicated Aug. 21, but parts of the facility remain under construction.

Quick hits

USC will scrimmage Friday at the Coliseum, though “We’ll throw a lot of young guys out there, leave them out there for a bunch of plays and see what happens,” Kiffin said Thursday. Receiver Nelson Agholor and defensive tackle Leonard Williams — both freshmen — and tailback Silas Redd, a transfer from Penn State, are among the new players who will get long looks.