USC fires Lane Kiffin as football coach

Lane Kiffin on the sidelines earlier this season against Utah State.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Lane Kiffin, who has coached USC’s football team since 2010, has been relieved of his duties, Athletic Director Pat Haden announced early Sunday.

Kiffin was fired hours after the Trojans lost to Arizona State, 62-41, at Tempe, Ariz. The loss dropped the Trojans’ record to 3-2 overall and 0-2 in the Pac-12 Conference.

Kiffin, who succeeded Pete Carroll as coach, had been under fire since the end of last season, when the Trojans fell from being ranked No. 1 to finishing with a 7-6 record. USC has lost seven of its last 11 games dating to last season.


Kiffin, 38, compiled a 28-15 record at USC. His best season came in 2011, when the Trojans finished 10-2.

The NCAA hit USC with some of the most severe penalties in college football history months after Kiffin was hired. The penalties were related to former Trojans running back Reggie Bush and included a two-year bowl ban and the loss of 30 scholarships over three years.

Haden recently appealed to the NCAA to restore some of the scholarships. The request was denied.

In a four-paragraph news release announcing the move, USC said Haden would hold a news conference Sunday afternoon. It was not known what time.

Kiffin’s firing comes during a break in the Trojans’ schedule. USC has an open date and does not play until Thursday, Oct. 10, against Arizona.

The timing also has recruiting ramifications because some top prospects in Southern California reportedly voiced concern about Kiffin’s status.


Haden’s action comes eight months after Kiffin’s father, Monte, resigned as defensive coordinator, and three months after Lane Kiffin announced that he would not give up play-calling duties.

Kiffin earned about $2.6 million in 2011, the most recent year for which salary figures are available.

Kiffin was an assistant coach at USC in the glory years when Pete Carroll was the head coach. He left USC after the 2007 season to become head coach of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, but was fired midway through the 2008 season. He was hired by Tennessee in 2009 but left the Volunteers after one season to take what he said was his “dream job” at USC in January 2010.

His biography on the USC football website noted Kiffin was “known for his high football IQ, as well as for being a master play-caller and a superb recruiter.”

USC has lost its only two Pac-12 games this season, having been upset by Washington State earlier in a performance that filled the Coliseum with boos and, late in the game, chants from fans to “fire Kiffin.”

The 62 points Arizona State scored Saturday night matched a high given up by the Trojans against Oregon last season.


Asked about pressure that would mount after the Arizona State loss, Kiffin said, “That’s the last thing I’m worried about. We have to find a way to coach better, to play better.”

Kiffin was hired by former Athletic Director Mike Garrett. He arrived at USC with a highly regarded staff that included his father as the top defensive assistant, and defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, who helped build USC into a recruiting power under Carroll before leaving to become head coach at Mississippi.

Kiffin inherited a program that had lost its recruiting edge in the final years under Carroll. But sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley and freshman receiver Robert Woods helped the Trojans finish 8-5 overall and 5-4 in conference play in Kiffin’s first season.

In 2011, the Trojans added freshman receiver Marqise Lee and USC put together a 10-2 season that included victories at Notre Dame and Oregon and finished with a 50-0 rout of rival UCLA. The Trojans finished first in the Pac-12 South Division but were ineligible to participate in the conference title game because of sanctions.

The 2011 season raised expectations and seemed to prove that USC could be successful despite the NCAA penalties.

Barkley decided to forego a chance to make himself available for the NFL draft, saying he and the Trojans had “unfinished business” to attend to in 2012.


The Trojans began the season ranked No. 1, but dropped to No. 2 after defeating Hawaii in their opener. Stanford defeated the Trojans, 21-14, in Palo Alto in the third game of the season but the Trojans were 6-1 when they traveled to play Arizona.

A 39-36 loss at Tucson, Ariz., started the Trojans on a spiral that saw them lose four of their last five regular-season games.

After a 38-28 loss to UCLA, Haden said he supported Kiffin “150%.”

With Barkley injured, the Trojans lost the regular-season finale against Notre Dame and then lost to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.

The season also was marked by several off-the-field distractions.

After being told that Arizona Coach Rich Rodriguez had voted the Trojans No. 1 in the USA Today coaches poll, Kiffin said he would not have done that. USA Today then revealed that Kiffin had voted the Trojans No. 1. Kiffin subsequently gave up his vote in the poll.

Kiffin also banned a reporter from practice for reporting that kicker Andre Heidari had undergone surgery. The reporter was reinstated when it was shown that he had not violated USC’s policy about reporting injuries that occurred during practice.

Kiffin and his staff came under scrutiny after quarterback Cody Kessler switched jerseys during a game against Colorado.


USC was later fined $25,000 after it was discovered that a student manager had deflated footballs against Oregon.

After the season-ending loss in the Sun Bowl, players reportedly argued in the locker room.

Kiffin closed practices to the media this season.


It’s a horror show in 62-41 loss to Arizona State

Photos: Sun Devils manhandle the Trojans in Arizona

Marqis Lee tops USC’s all-time receiving yardage list, is injured