Times are tough for Lane Kiffin. In 2012, USC became the first team in nearly 50 years to end a season unranked after beginning ranked No. 1. Lane may-or-may not have fired his father, works for a boss that didn’t hire him, and has lost support of the Trojan fan base. When an entire stadium chants, in unison, for your termination, it’s safe to say you’re on the hot seat. Let’s take a look at USC’s potential candidate pool should the university and Kiffin part ways.
Chris Petersen—Head Coach, Boise State
Petersen gets linked to every top coaching vacancy in the country, yet he always rebuffs. He’s turned Boise State into a mid-level powerhouse and seems very content sticking on the smurf turf. USC has to call, but Petersen has no reason to pick up. The differences between Boise and Los Angeles are monumental.
Hugh Freeze—Head Coach, Ole Miss
He’s coaching his hometown team and may not be splashy enough for USC. However, Freeze has proved himself a dynamic recruiter. The Trojans have ventured into SEC territory to poach a good recruiting coach. However, that’s what put them in their current situation. It’s a stretch, but USC has a much higher ceiling than Ole Miss. Freeze could do some damage on the recruiting trail out in SoCal.
THE TROUBLED TRIO – WIN AT ALL COSTS
Jim Tressel—VP of Strategic Engagement, Akron University
As more and more unflattering reports about college football’s underbelly surface, Tressel’s misdeeds feel less severe. Heck, there are rumors that he may even become the President of Akron University. We’re not sure if Tressel ever leaves the state of Ohio, or if sweater vests fit the LA vibe, but we do know that Tressel can coach. The Senator would be a good replacement for a coach known for being childish.
Bobby Petrino—Head Coach, Western Kentucky
He’s shady as a willow, but there’s no question that Petrino is a winner. He had Arkansas on the cusp of a national championship before completely imploding. It would be a gutsy, unpopular hire by Pat Haden, but critics would stop complaining after Petrino returned USC to prominence.
Butch Davis—Advisor, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Considering that USC is just now crawling out from the Pete Carroll sanctions, this is a long shot. But hey, Butch resurrected a dormant Miami program and was on his way to national prominence with UNC. If he hadn’t burned Chapel Hill to the ground, Davis would be a top contender for this position.
HE’S SO HOT RIGHT NOW
Kevin Sumlin—Head Coach, Texas A&M
A coach’s stock cannot be any higher than Sumlin’s right now. He’s leading a dynamic offense, led by Heisman winner (and a coach’s dream/nightmare) Johnny Manziel. Even in defeat, Sumlin’s teams look good. He’d be the frontrunner for USC if there wasn’t another high-profile position potentially opening up in Austin.
Dabo Swinney—Head Coach, Clemson
Swinney gets the people going. He’s dynamic, knows how to rally a fan base, and, most importantly, wins games. Swinney has proved he can recruit, going toe-to-toe with in-state rival South Carolina. If Clemson makes a BCS bowl, Dabo could be tops on the Trojans’ list.
David Shaw—Head Coach, Stanford
Shaw is arguably the best college coach in California. He has built from Jim Harbaugh’s foundation and turned Stanford into a national powerhouse. Shaw wins even though he deals with the conference’s toughest academic regulations. With less red tape in LA, he could do some serious damage.
Greg Roman—Offensive Coordinator, San Francisco 49ers
When it’s firing on all cylinders, USC resembles an NFL factory. Greg Roman oversees one of the NFL’s most exciting offenses in San Francisco. His work with Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick proves he can develop players. Roman tops the list of hot NFL coordinators and will get some looks from pro teams. He has college experience, as offensive coordinator for Stanford, and would be a great hire for USC.
Jon/Jay Gruden—NFL Analyst/Offensive Coordinator, Cincinnati Bengals
Jon Gruden’s name comes up in any coaching discussion. He’s possibly the biggest name on the market. There’s no way he was going to Tennessee, but USC is a different beast. It’s NFL-light. Gruden may not want to handle all the recruiting responsibilities, so he brings in his brother, Jay. Jay has interviewed for a few NFL positions, so we know he has the bug. LA would love a splashy hire of the Gruden brothers as essentially co-head coaches. It’s a script fit for Hollywood.
Brian Schottenheimer—Offensive Coordinator, St. Louis Rams
Not as sexy as the Gruden brothers by any means, but Schottenheimer has the pedigree. His father was a great NFL head coach, his uncle was also an NFL coach, and Brian has worked all around the league. In college, Schottenheimer played (mainly assisting with signals) for Steve Spurrier’s juggernaut Florida teams, including the 1996 championship squad. He also spent a year coaching at USC in 2000. Schottenheimer has been passed around as a potential NFL candidate for a few years now. He’s young, has the experience, and could be a sound under-the-radar hire for the Men of Troy.
Al Golden—Head Coach, Miami (FL)
Golden’s stock is trending upward, and he’s perfectly positioned to jump to the west coast. He works for a traditional powerhouse in Miami and has rebuilt the Hurricanes in the wake of NCAA sanctions. Aside from working through sanctions, Golden has brought swagger back to a program that just couldn’t make the leap under Randy Shannon. USC is prepared to win now, and Golden can make a big splash. The stars are aligning for Al Golden to jump coasts and resurrect an even bigger powerhouse.