USC athletic director Pat Hayden was so motivated that he met former Trojans coach Lane Kiffin at the LAX airport upon the teams’ arrival early Sunday morning to break the news that he was no longer steering the Trojans’ ship. This was no doubt after Hayden’s phone was blown up from disgruntled USC boosters and former players that give lots and lots of money to Troy and can stop those checks any time they want.
Does Hayden sound like a guy who wants to go back to those boosters and sell them on yet another SEC bottom-feeding coach regardless of how good he is? The short answer is no. Athletic Directors are judged by their football and basketball hires these days. Typically when a new AD comes into a program, football and basketball changes occur more often than not.
Let’s be clear: Kiffin was not Hayden’s hire. He inherited him Trojans legend and former AD Mike Garrett.
Kiffin’s tenure has been a disaster for the USC brand. The reasons really don’t matter matter. Hayden has to come up with a name hire that will appease the irate and fickle Trojans fans and someone who can restore the once-proud legacy that is in shambles at this point. Make no mistake that Haden’s job is on the line with this hire as well.
The reports of James Franklin coming to Tinsel Town are abundant. Do you really think Haden can sell Vanderbilt’s coach to the USC people? Franklin has done a great job at Vanderbilt and will move up from there, but another SEC bottom-feeder hire is not going to sit well in California.
A former SEC guy with a proven track record is former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, who is currently at Western Kentucky.Petrino is paying his penance with the Hilltoppers, but has NFL experience and put Arkansas and Louisville among the nation’s elite. Petrino does have some baggage, but this is Los Angeles and all can be forgiven if you simply win.
Kevin Sumlin would b a very interesting choice for the Trojans given his success with both Johnny Manziel and the SEC. Sumlin has recruiting ties in Texas that are strong. If he were to keep an Ed Orgeron on staff, the Trojans would immediately be tied into the recruiting bases in California.
For Sumlin, knowing that Johnny Football is likely to bail after this season, this timing of this job would be perfect. Texas A&M has the most dynamic playmaker in college football in Manziel. His off-field escapades aside, Sumlin has done a tremendous job with his relationship and his management of Manziel.
The relationship with players is an enormous part of collegiate football, and is something that Sumlin and company obviously do very well.
Outside the SEC, Chip Kelly comes to mind. Like Nick Saban and Petrino before him, the NFL experience has not been exactly pleasant. Kelly is someone the Trojans and Hayden can get behind, and there would be a great deal of support. Whether it is USC or another high-profile program, look for Kelly to be back in the NCAA sooner rather than later.
I believe that if Hayden goes to the SEC, he will go after one of the elite coaches. At this point there are a handful out there, but only a couple of resumes fit the Hollywood lifestyle.
Nick Saban at Alabama would be another choice, but I am convinced he will be in the hill country of Texas come this spring. However, USC is certainly a plum job in need of rescue. This is something Saban has a knack for doing, and the Longhorns took a collective gulp as they know Troy can certainly get into the Saban sweepstakes right along with them.
Hayden has a short list of candidates in his pool, and has had a list for longer than he would admit. Kiffin was drowning and it was simply a matter of time. In opening the job early, Hayden got the jump on others, namely Texas, and can pursue coaches at the highest level both on and off the record. Look for a splash.