The Skinny: Notes and Info On The Kiffin Hire

*Sports Agent Gary Uberstine was extremely influential throughout this coaching search. Uberstine is the agent for Pete Carroll, Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian and Ed Orgeron. He was also indirectly involved in the Jack Del Rio negotiations even though he doesn’t directly represent him. Once negotiations broke down with Del Rio Monday evening, Uberstine and his coaching clientele were USC’s fall back option.

Uberstine immediately went to work on both Kiffin and Sarkisian with the caveat from the powers that be at USC that a top tier staff be assembled around whoever gets the job. Kiffin was the logical choice due to the type of staff he could assemble and his tireless attitude regarding recruiting.

*Orgeron/Chow on board before Head Coach hired?: Over the weekend, Ed Orgeron pretty much knew he would be back at USC. Whoever was named the head coach was told that Orgeron would be on the staff.

The minute Pete Carroll resigned from USC, Norm Chow’s son (his agent) contacted USC and told them that Norm was interested in coming back. He really enjoyed the culture at USC and didn’t know if UCLA would be able to afford him now that the Tennessee Titans no longer have to pay the majority of his contract. USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett is a big fan of Chow and was always frustrated by the rift that developed between Carroll and Chow.

A strong mutual interest exists in having Chow back at USC. In fact, Norm Chow felt confident enough to tell UCLA Head Coach Rick Neuheisal this weekend that he would be moving on.

It is very plausible that USC already had handshake agreements with both Chow and Orgeron before the Kiffin announcement.

*More on Chow, Recruiting and Kiffin after the jump…

*More on Chow: Though Chow likes USC and would love to work with the weapons currently on the roster, he is approaching the current situation with hesitancy. He did not have a great working relationship with Kiffin when they were both at USC and is not fond of Kiffin’s arrogant attitude.

Unless the relationship has been repaired behind the scenes, a serious meeting between Kiffin and Chow will have to take place before Chow would come on board. Until an official announcement is made, don’t buy into the talk that Chow is on board.

*Skeptical hire for a program under heavy NCAA watch: I understand USC wanted a Pete Carroll disciple if they couldn’t get Riley, Fisher, Del Rio or Gruden. However, did they look at the whole picture or rush into this decision just to stabilize a recruiting class? This is a true head scratcher.
USC is handing the keys to one of the most prestigious football programs in the country to a 34 year old who is brash, controversial and willing to push limits in terms of recruiting. Is this the right hire considering the circumstances of the football program? Is this the face you want for the USC football program?

Kiffin is smart enough to surround himself with great coaches and he deserves a lot of credit for that. However, this is a very dicey choice that shows that USC is more concerned about recruiting classes than the NCAA and its image. The keys to the Bentley have essentially been given to an 18 year old on Sunset Blvd. . .Hopefully it works out. . .

*Staff Upgrade: USC fans and administrators have been griping for awhile that Carroll did not surround himself with top tier coaches in recent years. USC will now have the staff but the staff can only go as far as its leader. Currently that leader has a 12-21 career record as a head coach and is coming off a blow out loss to Virginia Tech in the Chik-Fil-A Bowl.

*Recruiting Athletes won’t be a problem: Kiffin and Orgeron will consistently bring in top 7 recruiting classes as long as USC is not under the veil of NCAA sanctions. I don’t know how much character the recruits will have (3 players in Kiffin’s first class at Tennessee were arrested and two were kicked off the team) but athleticism and talent evaluation will not be a problem.

Despite the loss of Carroll and Ken Norton, look for USC to possibly even bolster its current recruiting class. Tennessee had essentially locked up a top 5 recruiting class and some of those players could end up defecting to USC. Don’t expect USC to lose many of its recruits especially if Chow is added to the staff.

The one caveat though is whether players that currently have offers were turned off by the fact that Orgeron was calling Tennessee recruits and offering them scholarships before calling them. If that was the case, this could blow up in USC’s face. . .

*Kiffin and recruiting Part II: Kiffin can flat out close on the recruiting trail and as his wife said last year in a Sports Illustrated article “”When Lane sets his mind on something, he gets it,” Layla says. “He can coerce you into anything. And he can charm anybody. This man … trust me when I tell you this, he can get you to jump off a cliff.”

I wouldn’t send my kid to play for someone whose own wife says he can “coerce you into anything. . .he can get you to jump off a cliff.” However, his ability to recruit shows that most eager players and parents have no problems with the coercion as well as Mike Garrett.

*Need an experienced offensive mind: If Kiffin does not get Norm Chow, he needs to bring in another experienced play-caller. Many coaches have quipped that Kiffin always follows his tendencies in tight games and is easy to figure out by the 4th quarter. The gawdy numbers he put up as USC’s offensive coordinator were due to extremely superior talent against a mediocre Pac-10.

*Finally…Despite strong reservations concerning Lane Kiffin, if USC avoids a post-season ban and off the field issues, USC should in the national title hunt the next two years due to the experienced talent and strength of the staff provided Chow is on board.


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