Lane Kiffin was fired early Sunday morning, after Southern Cal’s 62-41 loss at Arizona State. But in reality, Kiffin was gone long before USC’s trip to Greater Phoenix.
Someone tweeted out a picture of USC’s sparse home crowd at the Los Angeles Coliseum, just before kickoff of the Sept. 14 game against Utah State. There couldn’t have been 30,000 fans there. At that point, Kiffin’s fate was sealed.
Fans can fire a coach any time they want. Just quit showing up and the decision is automatic. That’s what happened to Gary Gibbs at OU in 1994 and that’s what happened to Kiffin a few weeks ago.
But that doesn’t mean Kiffin had to walk the plank immediately. Universities’ increasing frequency of in-season firings is a stain upon college football. It goes against everything players are told.
Team. Commitment. Dedication.
If a coach needs to be replaced, most everyone understands. That’s part of the game. But why does that mean the coach has to be jettisoned in mid-season? If the announcement needs to be made public, OK. Make it and allow the coach to finish out the season.
No school fires a coach in hopes of salvaging a season. That happens in Major League Baseball dugouts and in NBA locker rooms, I suppose, but not on college campuses. Coaches are fired to make way for new blood starting with recruiting season. They want the message out there quickly to recruits. Things are changing.
I get that. That’s why Connecticut did the same with Paul Pasqualoni, fired Monday after an 0-4 start. Again, I understand. But why does that mean the team concept has to be blown to smithereens? Why can’t coaches be told they’re gone, but they can coach out the season? Don’t the players deserve that? Players are told that everyone should be all in for each other. Told that outside factors shouldn’t matter.
If a coach has a behavior problem, if he’s broken rules or mistreated people, that’s different. But if his crime is just not producing good enough football, then it’s dishonorable to blow up the team. Same as coaches who bolt a team before a bowl game to get on with their new job. They are dishonorable, too.
You see a trend, I suppose. Administrators often are dishonorable. Coaches often are dishonorable. But players almost always are steadfast. And if players grow dishonorable — if they are suspected of not coming back from injury quick enough, or suspected of not wanting to play in a bowl game to protect their NFL draft status, they are quickly vilified.
But such actions are no less counter to the team concept than coaches leaving teams early, either by choice or by command.
Players are told that team is paramount. But the actions of everyone else say differently.