Is Lane Kiffin the only one to blame?

After one of the most embarrassing losses in school history USC fired long embattled coach Lane Kiffin.

Although Kiffin isn’t blameless in the downfall of the Trojans he isn’t the only one that is responsible.

First off, I think that the expectations for USC were much too high in the last few years.  Let’s face it, it doesn’t take much to raise the expectations of die-hard fans, so it not hard to see how a part of that belongs to totally unnecessary pre-season rankings.  USC was the preseason number 1 team in the nation last year and look how that turned out.  That without a doubt inflates what fans and even athletic department personnel think will happen in the season to come.  When you throw in a good recruiting grade then some fans just go through the roof with excitement.  All that means is if you get off to a slow start then fans go crazy because they were made to believe that this was supposed to be the year.

It’s important to keep in mind that Kiffin had a record of 3-2 this year and has a total record of 28-15 since taking over in 2010.  Although not spectacular, there are plenty of schools that would find that good enough to let him finish out the remainder of the season.  Let’s remember that it’s only been just over a decade since SC was struggling to get to .500 under coaches like Paul Hackett, John Robinson and even Larry Smith at the end of his tenure.

Another thing that is very much to blame is the sanctions put in place because of the Reggie Bush scandal.  The NCAA threw the book at USC for something that very much seems to be not a significant violation.  That is when you compare it to all the other things that have happened to other big time programs lately.  If USC still had its full complement of scholarships then none of this would have ever been an issue.  Even during his first season Kiffin didn’t have all 85 scholarship players because juniors and seniors were allowed to leave without penalty when the sanctions were levied.  In fact ever year that Kiffin spent as the head coach was under NCAA penalties of which he had no part.

Clearly the NCAA isn’t the only one to blame in the Bush scandal however.  Pete Carroll conveniently walked away from USC before they were delivered the punishment.  Was he responsible for what happened? No, but he definitely wasn’t in the kind of control over his program that the NCAA expected him to be.

It’s also important to note that the cupboard wasn’t totally full when Carroll left even before the defections.  In his last season at USC, Pete Carroll lost four games.  Including in those were two brutal blowouts to Oregon and Stanford.  The Trojans finished 2009 with a record of 9-4 and a 22nd ranking.  Not very impressive.

Injuries have also been a huge problem at USC.  When that happens at most schools it doesn’t have a massive effect but because the Trojans have had scholarship sanctions it has hit them especially hard.  Depth is of huge value in college football especially with how the speed of the game has changed.  If you aren’t two and three deep at just about every position you will get exposed.

Something else to keep in mind is that Kiffin doesn’t coach the defense.  His offense scored 41 points last night and still lost by three touchdowns.

One thing you can blame on Kiffin is not having a quarterback ready to go.  Part of that is coaching and the other part is recruiting and he definitely is responsible for both.  A lot of that has to do with the fact that Kiffin couldn’t make a decision on who his starter should be and it left both guys behind.  Cody Kessler clearly needed more work in fall camp to be where he needed to be, but wasn’t afforded that luxury because he split time with max Wittek.

That is not the only thing that Lane Kiffin did wrong but there is no doubt in my mind that the blame for everything can’t be put solely on him.  I’m sure you are now wondering if I feel bad for Lane Kiffin.  The answer to that is absolutely not.  That is the nature of the business and he knows that.  Plus he made a truck load of money in the process.  I can’t feel bad about that.

With that being said, I hope that Ed Orgeron can turn things around this year because college football is much better when USC is really good.

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