On Saturday, head coach Lane Kiffin started the day with a USC team that was 3-1. By the end of the day, he was out of a job.
After losing to Arizona State University by the lopsided score of 62-41, Kiffin was dismissed by USC athletic director Pat Haden.
The news couldn’t have come as a surprise to Kiffin. USC started last season with the preseason No. 1 ranking. Despite stumbling in a loss to Stanford, USC was 6-1 and still ranked in the top 25 in mid-October 2012.
However, they would go on to lose five of their last six games, including an embarrassing loss in the Hyundai Sun Bowl to Georgia Tech on New Year’s Eve.
Kiffin faced pressure from critics who clearly wanted someone to account for the failures of the 2012 season. But Haden wasn’t so quick to blame Kiffin for USC’s woes.
"Let's just see how this year plays out, OK?" Haden said. "I know everybody is anxious. Some people want to fire him; some people want to keep him. What's the rush? This is not the Bataan Death March. We're going to try to enjoy this football season."
Kiffin took over a program that was facing possible NCAA sanctions for violations committed under the watch of former USC coach Pete Carroll.
Sure enough, the NCAA slapped USC with severe penalties, in fact some of the harshest penalties ever doled out to a Division 1 program. USC lost 30 scholarships over three years, a bowl ban in 2010 and 2011, four years of probation and were forced to vacate a total of 14 wins between 2004 and 2005.
Kiffin, who had just taken over as head coach four months prior to the sanctions, was now dealing with issues that he himself had nothing to do with.
But Kiffin also came to the USC program with prior issues as well.
Kiffin was the head coach of the Oakland Raiders in the NFL for parts of two seasons. He guided the Raiders to a 4-12 record in 2007 and was fired by owner Al Davis after a 1-3 start to the 2008 season. But that dismissal was controversial in nature, with both Davis and Kiffin engaging in a war of words.
Less than three months after he was fired by the Raiders, Kiffin took over head coaching duties at the University of Tennessee, replacing fired head coach Phillip Fulmer.
Kiffin lasted just one year at Tennessee, guiding them to a 7-6 record in 2009. He left the Volunteers when USC came calling, preferring to return to the college program where he had worked as an assistant coach for six years.
While Kiffin faced a daunting task in trying to compete despite having only 56 players under scholarship, he was still ultimately held responsible for the team’s players. Last season’s second-half collapse and this year’s 0-2 start against PAC-12 Conference teams was what finally led Haden to call for a change at the top.
The question now remains—who will replace Kiffin as USC head coach?
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, a leading candidate could be current Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. Del Rio was the head coach for the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars from 2003 to 2011 and was an All-American linebacker at USC from 1981-1984.
Del Rio would be a great choice to lead the USC Trojans. The return of a player who starred in the program would undoubtedly be met with approval from USC boosters, and Del Rio’s coaching experience far outweighs that of Lane Kiffin.
The USC program is in need of stability at the top, a trait that Lane Kiffin sorely lacked. Bringing in Del Rio would help restore faith in a USC program that is in shambles.