To this day, former Raider great George Atkinson is one of my favorite people on the planet. George and I worked together many times during my San Francisco radio days, and many people would tell him that he should be coaching with the Raiders. George would always have the same, cool response. “Nawww, man. Coaches get fired, man!”
Well, Lane Kiffin got fired, man. Actually, that description still doesn’t seem to do it justice. Lane Kiffin got capped. The only man to be treated more rudely at an airport was Hyman Roth in Godfather II.
Could the circus known as the Lane Kiffin Era really have ended any other way? After being boatraced by the Sun Devils in the second half on Saturday night, Kiffin stepped off the plane from Tempe and was promptly told to hit the bricks. That’s cold. Yet, somehow, fitting.
I would have expected that kind of move from the myopic, volatile, and self-absorbed Mike Garrett. After all, that guy infamously fired John Robinson via voicemail in 1997. But for Pat Haden to fire his coach like that? Wow.
Kiffin’s firing was about 54 weeks in the making, and the only shock was how it was actually carried out. The Trojans started the 2012 season as preseason BCS title favorites. They ended the season by brawling each other after a brutal loss at the Sun Bowl. Along the way, Stanford beat them to a pulp and exposed them as frauds.
Worse, the Trojans just looked terrible on the field this year. You can be a lot of things in Los Angeles. But you can’t be unwatchable. Not in a town that was built on image and entertainment. That was Kiffin’s kiss of death.
Kiffin wasn’t the only coach to join the John Mackovic Club this week and lose his job before October. After suffering embarrassingly convincing losses to Towson and Buffalo, UConn finally came to its senses and fired Paul Pasqualoni. Meanwhile, Mack Brown appears to be holding on by a fingertip in Texas; and the angle is only getting steeper.
It’s all a sign of the times. In college football, the cost of coaching is going up, and the chance of coaching is going down.
This is the age we live in, where coaches are hired to be fired. This is the business they’ve chosen. (How many Hyman Roth references can I squeeze into this Corner?)
Jon Embree was given only two years to turn things around in Boulder after Dan Hawkins crashed and burned. When he was shown the door last year, many, including Embree himself, didn’t think he had received a fair shot. More than a few suggested it was because of Embree’s skin color, with Colorado coaching great Bill McCartney leading that contingent.
I don’t know whether race played a factor in Embree’s firing. I do know what definitely was a factor: the Pac-12 Network.
The Pac-12 gets a pretty good chunk of change from the cable providers that carry the network. (Thanks again to Comcast in Pittsburgh for being one of them!) Add the 12-year, $3 billion deal the conference already had in place with ESPN and FOX, and the Pac-12 can provide its schools a nice little revenue stream. Actually, revenue “flood” would be more appropriate. Colorado made a change not necessarily because they had to, but because they could afford to.
You can draw a direct line from the conference’s lucrative broadcasting deals to the paychecks the head football coach is receiving. How else was Washington State able to pony up the cash to upgrade from Paul Wulff to Mike Leach? Wulff’s base salary was $600,000 in his final season as the Cougs’ head coach. Leach’s salary upon arrival in Pullman? $2.25 million. That is not a coincidence.
As long as the money is what it is, schools will be willing to spend more—much more—for a coach and his staff. But, with more money comes more expectations. Accordingly, the schools are also going to demand more—much more—from that new coach as well. And if that new coach doesn’t get the program into a big bowl in two years, he may need to start watching his back.
Fortunately, despite some of the near-hysterical criticisms I saw after the Arizona State game, David Shaw doesn’t need to watch his back. Actually, if you believe the reports from the college football insiders, the only thing he needs to watch is his cell phone for all of the potential job offers he gets.
But there will likely come a day when the Cardinal have a down season or two. Hopefully that day doesn’t come within the next three or four decades, but let’s be honest here: Stanford won’t be a Rose Bowl contender forever. When that happens, how will Stanford react? Especially if the college football bubble doesn’t burst and the school can afford to burn money on a new head coach? I don’t suspect Stanford would change their usual approach to finding new head coaches, but money makes people do strange things.
While Pat Haden strikes me as much more stable, rational, and prudent than his predecessor, he still has the ability to make a splash with this hire. He is still, after all, the athletic director at the University of Southern California, a school where football is the unquestioned king of the hill. Only Notre Dame has a deeper, richer football tradition. The stadium is still a dump, but the football facility is much, much better.
U$C is a desirable job with desirable resources in a desirable part of the country. Despite their comical stumbles of late, there is still little to suggest that Trojan football will be irrelevant in the foreseeable future. U$C will be fine. You know it. I know it. Pat Haden knows it. The Trojans’ next coach knows it, too.
The Trojans’ next coach also knows that he probably has until the 2015 season to put U$C back in a Rose Bowl. If that doesn’t happen, Lane Kiffin, Paul Pasqualoni, and John Mackovic may need to make room for a new member of the club.
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RANDOM PAC-12 THOUGHTS
If Ron Burgundy had been watching that third quarter, he would have said, “Boy. That escalated quickly. I mean, that got out of hand fast!”…
I think Trent Murphy threw a trident at Connor Halliday…
Who had a worse night on Saturday? Lane Kiffin or the clock operator at CenturyLink?
I like Washington State’s defense. They are sound, they can tackle well, and they have a couple of hard hitters. That said, they were no match for Stanford’s speed. That was the difference…
It’s nice to see Barry Sanders finally blow up, but let’s not anoint the kid yet. I’ve seen other young running backs turn in highlight-reel performances against overmatched competition, only to disappear completely from view afterwards. See: Lacey, Juan Carlos…
Not that I really thought the Bears ever had a chance against the Ducks, but I knew it was going to be a really long night for cal when I saw Pac-12 Network cameras catch Jared Goff fumbling warm-up snaps before the game…
I kinda dig Washington’s helmets, even if they do remind me of C-3PO. Arizona’s road uniforms, meanwhile? Meh. The color scheme reminds me of the old Circle K logo…
Here’s our first-ever Facebook Status of the Week, from former Stanford lineman Greg Schindler, who “thinks the government shutdown still doesn't anger America more than last year's NFL replacement refs”…
Not a Pac-12 thought, but… big news from Austin, as DeLoss Dodds is retiring as
Big 12 commissioner Texas athletic director…
Not a Pac-12 thought, but… is Richard Sherman officially the best corner in the NFL?
Not a Pac-12 thought, but… why do I keep hearing Baltimore Ravens players complaining about the blackout at Super Bowl XLVII? Correct me if I’m wrong, but they won that game, didn’t they?…
Not a Pac-12 thought, but… it still boggles my mind that no player has ever been a unanimous selection for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Not Nolan Ryan. Not Willie Mays. Not Hank Aaron. Not one. So in five years, which imbecile is going to say, “Mariano Rivera? Naaah!”…
Not a Pac-12 thought, but… could former Stanford catcher A.J. Hinch be the next manager of the Chicago Cubs? I certainly hope so. We former Stanford and Midwest City High School alums have to stick together, you know. And hopefully he has a better chance to win there than he did in Arizona…
Not a Pac-12 thought, but… my friends who are San Francisco Giants fans don’t like it when I say this, but there is no better ballpark in the big leagues than Pittsburgh’s PNC Park. Glad to see it finally get showcased in a big way on Tuesday night…
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UCLA @ Utah. (Thursday) It’s not easy to play in Salt Lake City if you’re the road team. But it’s also not easy to stop UCLA. The Utes are in for a more difficult time, I think. I like UCLA by 16.
Washington State @ cal. I have actually seen the Coug defense tackle people (unlike the Bears), so I like Washington State by 4. By the way, I am setting the over-under on both teams’ rushing attempts in this game at 10 ½.
Oregon @ Colorado. In a word, no. I like Oregon by 41.
Last week: 4-0 (straight-up), 3-1 (ATS).
This year: 4-2 (straight-up), 4-2 (ATS).
Last year: 36-9 (straight-up), 25-20 (ATS).
Troy Clardy is in his 21st year of following the Cardinal as a columnist, broadcaster, and announcer. In its 12th season of Cardinal commentary, Clardy’s Corner appears Wednesdays during the college football regular season on TheBootleg.com. You can also check him out online at TroyClardy.com, hear him on Pittsburgh’s Sportsradio 93-7 The Fan, or e-mail him at email@example.com.
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