USC Coach Lane Kiffin is fined; safety T.J. McDonald is suspended

USC Coach Lane Kiffin was reprimanded and fined $10,000 for critical comments about officiating, and Trojans safety T.J. McDonald was suspended for one half of the next game for making a illegal hit during a triple-overtime loss to Stanford, the Pacific 12 Conference announced Monday night.

Kiffin criticized game officials after the Cardinal’s 56-48 victory, and again on Sunday, saying they made a ruling that denied the Trojans an opportunity to attempt a potential game-winning field goal at the end of regulation. He also took issue with the spot of the ball after a Stanford penalty in the second overtime.

“The Pac-12 has specific rules that prohibit our coaches from making public comments about officiating, and this prohibition specifically includes comments that create doubts about the credibility of the Conference’s officiating program,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. “The Conference expects each Pac-12 coach to adhere to our standards of conduct and to conduct himself or herself in a manner which will reflect credit on the institution and the Conference.”

Kiffin did not apologize in a statement following the announcement of the reprimand and fine.

“After numerous conversations with the conference office, we have agreed to disagree,” Kiffin said. “As I have been saying the past two days, we have moved on from last week’s game and we are preparing for a very challenging conference game this Friday at Colorado.”


Kiffin, however, seemed to be inviting disciplinary action with his comments during the weekend.

Kiffin started the pot boiling Saturday night and then continued Sunday, saying that he had spoken with an unnamed Pac-12 official by phone from the locker room and told the person, “I was basically lied to.”

The final play of regulation began with nine seconds left. Receiver Robert Woods caught a screen pass and then ran across the field toward the Stanford sideline.

Kiffin said he had been calling for a timeout, and that during the replay review, he told the side judge to tell the referee so the Trojans would get a final play if one second remained.

“He went over there and then came back to me and said he communicated with him, and that if [Woods’] knee was down with a second left we’d get another play,” Kiffin said Sunday. “And unfortunately now [I find out] that never happened.”

Referee Mike Batlan has said that time had expired.

The spot in question happened after a holding penalty against Stanford, Kiffin joking Sunday that his 2-year-old son had figured out the correct yardage while the officials apparently could not.

Oregon Coach Chip Kelly and Arizona State Coach Dennis Erickson were reprimanded last season for comments about officiating and California Coach Jeff Tedford was reprimanded this season. None were fined.

McDonald, who had been called for three personal fouls in a game against Arizona State on Sept. 24, was suspended for his fourth-quarter hit on Stanford receiver Chris Owusu — “a defenseless opponent” the Pac-12 said. McDonald was called for a personal foul on the play, which helped fuel a Stanford drive that resulted in the tying touchdown in the final minute of regulation.

“Mr. McDonald had been previously warned about illegal hits above the shoulders on defenseless opponents,” Scott said. “In order to protect our student-athletes, it is imperative that we enforce these penalties for the safety of the game.”

McDonald said his hit was not intended to harm Owusu.

“I accept my penalty and I apologize to my teammates, to our Trojan fans and to the Stanford team,” McDonald said in a statement. “I’m disappointed that I can’t be on the field with my teammates during the first half of this Friday’s game, but I know they will do a great job without me.

“I was not purposefully trying to hurt the receiver. As I said after the game, I will figure out a way to play physically and still stay within the rules.”

Kiffin said “we respectfully disagree” with the suspension of McDonald.

“He made a bang-bang play and his intent was not to hurt the receiver or launch his body at the receiver or lead with his helmet,” Kiffin said. “If you watch the hit in real time, we feel it is impossible to competitively play that play any differently.

“T.J. is a tremendous player and leader for our team, and he has our full support. I know he felt badly about being penalized and the impact it had in the game.”