LOS ANGELES -- Less than 12 hours after he fired Lane Kiffin as USC’s head football coach, Trojans athletic director Pat Haden talked to the media on Sunday at an afternoon press conference to discuss his decision, while also announcing that assistant Ed Orgeron will take over as the team’s interim coach.
Haden made his final decision regarding Kiffin’s future during the Trojans’ 62-41 loss to Arizona State on Saturday night in Tempe, Ariz., a defeat that dropped the Trojans to 3-2 overall, 0-2 in Pac-12 play, but revealed that it’s actually been “brewing for a while.”
“I haven’t felt particularly good even from the Hawaii game,” Haden said. “I just felt like we haven’t been the consistent team that we need to be at USC. We’ve played 125 years of some pretty dog-gone good football here at USC. We’re just all a piece of the continuum. We’re going to be playing football 125 years from now. I was just a tiny little piece of it, Lane was, Pete Carroll was, and we all add up into this continuum of USC football, and we just realized that our history has been great, and we need to be great again.”
Kiffin, who was hired in 2010, compiled a record of 28-15 during his time in charge, and the Trojans have lost seven of their last 11 games dating back to last season.
Haden and Kiffin met for approximately 45 minutes in a private room at Los Angeles International Airport following the team’s flight home from Arizona at around 3 a.m. Sunday morning. Despite some battling on the part of the embattled coach, Haden stuck with his decision.
"He's a recruiter," Haden said. "He really, really tried to keep his job, and I respect him for that."
In his place, Haden said that the energetic Orgeron, the team’s defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator, will now step in as head coach for the remaining eight games of the 2013 season.
“Ed has been here for 11 years in different terms in some very successful runs,” Haden said of Orgeron, who also served as head coach at Ole Miss from 2005-07, where he amassed a 10-25 record. “This is supposed to be a game of fun and joy, and I think one of the things that we’re looking for from Ed is to bring that fun and joy back into the game of college football.”
When asked about the search for a possible permanent replacement, Haden said that it was still too soon, explaining, “This is not the right time,” while also noting of Orgeron, “He’ll be evaluated just like any other candidate.”
Orgeron, who said that offensive coordinator Clay Helton would take over Kiffin’s play-calling duties, met with the rest of the coaching staff, as well as the Trojans players, Sunday morning.
"I want to tell you we're here as a staff to answer the bell,” Orgeron said at the press conference. “We're all accountable for what happened as a staff and as players. Us Trojans know how to do it."
Orgeron takes over at a somewhat opportune time, with the Trojans currently in the midst of a bye week. USC will next play at home against Arizona on Oct. 10.