Published October 03, 2013
| Sports Network
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - In the end, it doesn't matter who you are or who you know. In the end, it comes down to whether you win or lose.
On Sunday morning, Southern California athletic director Pat Haden finally dismissed head coach Lane Kiffin in a move that seemed to be inevitable for just that reason.
Under Kiffin's care, the proud Trojans were 28-15. That included a collapse from a No. 1 national ranking a year ago and an 0-2 start to Pac-12 play this season. Those types of results simply don't stand up to the long history of overwhelming success at USC.
"This has been brewing for a while. We realize that our history has been great and we need it to be great again," Haden said in a press conference the day after he fired Kiffin outside of the team bus just hours after a 62-41 loss to Arizona State.
Now the story shifts to who will replace Kiffin, who has now had messy endings at every head coaching stop he has had.
The immediate solution has been the insertion of assistant Ed Orgeron, who began the season as defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator, into the head coaching vacancy on an interim basis. In his comments after letting Kiffin go, Haden was adamant that this is not a lost season and the search for the next head coach will not interfere with the team.
"We are going to try to find the best coach that we can possibly find for USC. It's not fair to our team to start talking about the search now." Haden said.
Whether it is fair or not, what will intrigue most people about USC going forward will not be its effort on the field, but that search. Already rumors are flying from all corners of the country as to who will be stepping in to clean up Kiffin's mess.
The early front-runner for the job is Jack Del Rio. The current defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos has roots at USC, as he was an All- American linebacker for the Trojans in the 1980s. However, Del Rio, who played professionally for 11 seasons, has not had any experience heading a college program. He has coached for five different NFL teams, including a nine-year stint as the Jacksonville Jaguars' head coach. He was 68-71 and made two playoff appearances in those nine seasons.
Del Rio would certainly fit in well with the current Trojans because they have been one of the better defensive squads in the Pac-12 this season. However, turning around an offense that has struggled could be tougher. While with Jacksonville, Del Rio only had one season when his team ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in total offense, while four of his squads were among the 10 worst teams in the league in turnovers.
There are some other coaches from the NFL ranks who have had their names mentioned for the USC job as well. The main candidates have been coordinators, such as Greg Roman, who currently serves as the offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers, and Pep Hamilton, who leads the offense for the Indianapolis Colts. Each has plenty of familiarity with the Pac-12 as they each served as coordinators at Stanford in recent years.
Dipping into the college ranks also yields some interesting possibilities.
Whenever a big-time BCS program has a coaching vacancy, Chris Petersen's name is going to come up. Just about anyone in the country knows Boise State and its blue turf, and Petersen has been the major reason why. Since taking over for Dan Hawkins, who left the Broncos to take a job at a BCS program himself (Colorado), Petersen has led Boise State to an 87-10 record, making him the winningest active coach in the college ranks.
Petersen hasn't just led the Broncos to wins over pipsqueaks. His Broncos have made it to two BCS bowls and come out on top each time. If Petersen could elevate a team without much football history, and the type of alumni support that goes with it, it stands to reason he could find even more success at a place like USC.
However, this isn't the first time Petersen's name has surfaced during a coaching search for a major program. Jobs at Ohio State, Florida and UCLA have sprouted up in recent memory and Petersen has stayed firm in his loyalty to Boise State. It remains to be seen if USC can break that allegiance.
Then there are a couple of coaches at mid-level BCS programs who might be looking to make the jump to the college football elite. Pat Fitzgerald has turned Northwestern into a real threat in the Big Ten in the past two seasons, while James Franklin has picked Vanderbilt up from being a doormat. Each coach is young and hungry and could bring a fresh energy to the job.
The Trojans could even try dipping into their own conference, hoping to lure coaches to the bright lights, and bigger paychecks, of a media market like Los Angeles.
That could certainly be an appealing prospect for Steve Sarkisian, the Washington head coach. Sarkisian was the quarterbacks coach for USC from 2001-2003 and then again from 2005-2008 before taking the job with the Huskies.
Sarkisian took over an even more distressed program in Seattle. The Huskies were 0-12 the year before he was hired. Since then, Sarkisian has been to three bowl games in four seasons and currently has the squad sitting higher in the national rankings than it has been in more than 10 years.
Some other fellow Pac-12 coaches who might be interested include Oregon State's Mike Riley, though he has been fervent in his dedication to the Beavers as the longest-tenured coach in the conference, and even Stanford's David Shaw.
Of course, there is always the chance the Trojans go with some homegrown prospects. Orgeron may be taking over as head coach on an interim basis, but, if the Trojans do well, this could turn out to be just an extended job interview. Or perhaps defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast could be promoted at year's end. After all, he is heading the Pac-12's second-best defense right now.
Finally there are the long-shot names, like Jon Gruden and Herm Edwards, who are more fun to talk about than they are real contenders.
No matter what, it is obvious what will be expected of whoever signs the dotted line. No excuses, just wins.