Less than six hours after losing 62-41 at Arizona State, coach Lane Kiffin was fired by USC athletic director Pat Haden early Sunday morning. The school posted the announcement on its website. The vacancy created immediate speculation about the Trojans’ interest in Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian, a Los Angeles native who coached under Pete Carroll when both were at USC.
Haden was to hold a press conference at USC Sunday afternoon. No word was available on an interim coach for the rest of the season.
The Trojans have lost their first two Pac-12 Conference games, including a 10-7 home loss to Washington State, this season and seven of the past 11 under Kiffin.
Th Los Angeles Daily News reported that Haden met with advisers during a 28-0 run by the Sun Devils in the third quarter and made the decision to fire.
Kiffin was pulled off the team bus in a parking lot at Los Angeles International Airport by Haden for a brief meeting with the AD and several other school administrators and was told he was fired, the Daily News reported.
A former USC star linebacker, Jack Del Rio, the Denver Broncos’ offensive coordinater, was floated by ESPN as a potential successor.
I just spoke to Pete Carroll about Kiffin firing: “It’s very unfortunate. It’s been a rough time for the Trojan family. Never a good thing.”
— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) September 29, 2013
USC was hit by heavy NCAA sanctions centering on the recruitment of former star running back Reggie Bush during Carroll’s time at USC, where Kiffin was also an assistant. Late last week Haden appealed for reduced sanctions, but was denied by the NCAA infractions committee. The sanctions came a few months after Kiffin began his job. USC played Arizona State with 56 scholarship players.
The Trojans began the 2012 season No. 1 but finished unranked, the first team in 50 years to flop so egregiously.
Sarkisian and Kiffin have been friends since their days together at USC, and both regularly talk and text with Carroll. After three successive 7-6 seasons, Sarkisian has the Huskies off to a 4-0 start for the first time since 2001.
Hired in 2009, Sarkisian’s contract was extended two years in 2011 through 2015, when his salary reaches $2.85 million. He is the state’s highest paid employee.
Kiffin was believed to be making around $4 million, although private school doesn’t release salary figures. When he was at Oregon, Chip Kelly had a six-year deal paying $20.5 million.
In the redone deal, if Sarkisian leaves UW before the contract expires, he would owe $2.5 million if he left in year one or two, $1.5 million if he left in year three and $1 million if he left in year four or five.