USC's Lane Kiffin brings a crazy side to Pac-10
New USC coach Lane Kiffin, 35, is like Rick Neuheisel as the Colorado coach in the mid-1990s — a sound bite waiting to happen.
Seattle Times colleges reporter
PASADENA, Calif. — Once, the writers went around to the schools to preview Pac-10 football. Now the coaches go to the media. They landed here Thursday at the Rose Bowl, fresh from a junket to New York and ESPN, trumpeting a new era for football in the conference.
Suddenly, the Pac-10 is a hot ticket. You could tell by the sweat dripping from the chins of creaking sports writers, the sun screen passed around by Pac-10 staffers, and — true story — the offer to stand in front of a misting machine.
That's because the league, under uber-promoter/commissioner Larry Scott, this year moved media day from the austere setting of an L.A. airport hotel ballroom to the floor of the Rose Bowl. One small step for aesthetics, one giant leap for sun burns.
A year ago at this event, Scott talked about all sorts of racy initiatives and the scribes looked at him quizzically, it not skeptically. Now Utah and Colorado are coming aboard soon, Scott has revamped the league's staff, and any day now, he might announce that the conference office has been moved to a satellite station just west of Mercury.
You wouldn't think anything could upstage Scott and his splashy new domain, but Lane Kiffin just might.
The USC football coach was the center of attention here, ringed by maybe 25 media folks itching to find out who he might offend next.
It's what he does, after all.
But I had 27 minutes of Kiffin tape, and he really didn't blunder into anything incendiary, not by his standards, anyway. Kiffin and USC, of course, are the object of a fresh lawsuit filed by the Tennessee Titans for spiriting away assistant coach Kennedy Pola under questionable protocol.
Kiffin says he thinks that's been smoothed over with Titans coach Jeff Fisher. That allowed him to drift into other subjects only moderately eyebrow-raising, like the slippage at USC late in the tenure of Pete Carroll, now with the Seahawks.
Referring to a team that had 90 penalties a year ago, Kiffin said, "One of our first meetings, we made a (video) cutup. Some of the things you saw last year, the late hits, personal fouls, hits on the sidelines, we said, 'This isn't how we're going to do it.' "
Regarding Matt Barkley, Carroll's wunder-quarterback, Kiffin said, "When we first got here, he had a bunch of baby fat on him. In workouts, he wasn't at the front of the lines. We completely changed his workout plan, changed his diet. He's really bought into it."
Had Carroll known his program was so flawed, just think, he might have done better than 97-19 in nine years.
Kiffin is radioactive. He'd be controversial making a contribution to Make-a-Wish. This is the guy who, in his one-year flyover at Tennessee, mistakenly accused Florida's Urban Meyer of cheating by calling a recruit while he was on a visit to the Vols. A recruit sought by South Carolina said Kiffin told him he'd be pumping gas for the rest of his life if he chose the Gamecocks, a statement Kiffin denied.
Kiffin, 35, is like Rick Neuheisel as the Colorado coach in the mid-1990s — a sound bite waiting to happen. Oh, speaking of Neuheisel, now the UCLA coach, here's what Kiffin had to say shortly after he had signed his first class at USC back in February:
"We know within the first 10 minutes whether they're the type of guys that want to play here or there," Kiffin told reporters, referencing USC and UCLA. "We want guys who want to come here to be great. ... We don't want the guys who come in and ask, 'How much am I going to get to play?' "
Kiffin's latest mini-crusade is the one that has the USC ship listing at sea. With the two-year bowl ban, juniors and seniors can transfer without sitting out a year. Kiffin fears that in mid-fall camp, a player's commitment might waver because, say, he's second-team.
"And he says, 'I'm leaving because school A, B and C has been calling me all week,' " Kiffin postulated.
"We created free agency in college football."
Imagine, Kiffin thinks schools would call a player already in another program.
Welcome to Lane's world. Like the new and improved Pac-10, it will be interesting.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or email@example.com
About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-10.
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