Five games into his fourth season at the helm of the USC Trojans, Lane Kiffin was fired by athletic director Pat Haden. The decision itself was made following the team’s 62-41 blowout loss at the hands of Arizona State, resulting in an 0-2 start to the Pac-12 season.
For now, USC fans have to be thrilled: They wanted the Kiffster out last season.
An interim coach will be named for the rest of this season, but the search for Kiffin’s long-term replacement began on Sunday morning. Haden can promise his next hire a great salary, some of the nation’s best recruiting opportunities and world-class facilities with which to turn his young men into champions.
Presumably, there will be plenty of coaches out there jumping at the chance to take this job, but Haden doesn’t want just anybody – and neither does the paying customer.
So, who should Haden be considering? Who should be the next head coach of the USC Trojans?
Scott Wolf, a staff writer for the Los Angeles Daily News, has already identified four candidates. Following last season, many within the USC athletic department were high on Vanderbilt’s James Franklin, and that has not changed. Current Rams coach Jeff Fisher was a part of USC’s 1978 national championship-winning season as a star defensive back. Fans would love to see him back in town.
Another alum and potential hire is current Denver Broncos defensive coordinator and former Jacksonville Jaguars coach Jack del Rio. He was an All-American linebacker at USC and was named the MVP of the 1985 Rose Bowl. Finally, Boise State’s Chris Petersen has rejected every offer from bigger schools during his tenure with the Broncos, but his name always comes up, and USC might just be too tempting to pass up.
Those four are the immediate favorites, but a gaggle of names will crop up through the search process. Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin are both bound to get looks. The two are young, fantastic recruiters who have proven they can compete against the big boys despite lesser talent on their respective sidelines. At USC, each would be the biggest fish in a smaller pond and could bring in every top player in the recruiting hotbed of Southern California.
Fans may call for Jon Gruden, but a guy like that would be tough to reel in. Bobby Petrino, in all likelihood, won’t be at Western Kentucky very long before taking on a bigger job – could USC be the place? The Trojans have already had to deal with Kiffin, after all. Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel might look good in an orange sweater vest.
San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart are two assistants that will have head coaching jobs somewhere soon.
That’s a lot of names. There is no guarantee USC even talks to any of these guys, or if the Torjans do, that they reciprocate the interest. However, this is a great starting point. USC is one of the top five coaching jobs in the nation (along with Texas, Alabama, Notre Dame and then perhaps Ohio State/Michigan/Florida). Haden should have his pick of at least a few of the top names in the nation.
So what do you think?