USC athletic director Pat Haden famously stated in November that there was a “150 percent” chance head coach Lane Kiffin would return in 2013. That percentage has dropped to “137.5” percent, Haden told the Los Angeles Times in an interview that was published Tuesday.
Kiffin has become one of the most convenient punching bags for national college football media, and Haden argues a chunk of the hostitlity lobbed at Kiffin is misplaced. For instance, Haden says, Kiffin had nothing to do with barring opponents from holding walk-throughs at the Los Angeles Coliseum on the Friday before games, or with the deflated footballs incident that arose after USC’s loss to Oregon.
However, Haden does have a few pieces of advice, call it constructive criticism, for Kiffin moving forward.
“Sometimes when you’re calling plays . . . you don’t sense maybe the whole team. So I think he has to really sense the whole team and feel and have the relationship with the whole team. . . . Secondly, ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff, Lane.’ Don’t worry about injury reporting at practice and whatever other things we kind of trip ourselves up on — jersey numbers and things,” said Haden. “Let’s just focus on ourselves and not focus on anything else but us getting better.”
While falling from preseason No. 1 to 7-6 is not anyone’s definition of success, Haden does have an incentive to be patient with Kiffin. After an investigation and appeals process that moved with the urgency of a turtle covered in molasses tugging a glacier, the Trojans are just now beginning to feel the effects of the NCAA infractions handed down from the Reggie Bush case. Bush, by the way, played his last game for USC more than seven years ago.
“I’m a paid optimist,” Haden concluded, “and I think we’ve got a great opportunity to rebound and have a terrific season next year.”