Ed Orgeron (34060)

USC fired football coach Lane Kiffin in the middle of the night, and today announced that longtime assistant coach Ed Orgeron would step in as interim head coach.

Athletic Director Pat Haden informed Kiffin of his firing upon the team’s charter plane arrival at Los Angeles International Airport early today, according to a four-paragraph statement released shortly after 4:30 a.m. The firing was in the parking lot, just hours after ASU had beaten USC, 62-41, in Tempe, Ariz.

Haden said at an afternoon news conference the firing was the result of “a combination of things over the last 2-1/2 years.”

Haden said he had not heard any complaints from players or assistant coaches about Kiffin.

The only clue Haden gave as to who he is considering as a permanent successor is that “all the people I’m looking at are living.”

Saturday’s loss in Tempe was the Trojans’ seventh in their past 11 games. The 62 points they allowed to ASU matched the school record, set in a 62-51 loss to Oregon Nov. 3.

The 38-year-old Kiffin was 28-15 in three-plus seasons as USC’s coach, including a 3-2 record this season. But he was 0-2 in the Pac-12 this year.

The Trojans will next play Oct. 10, facing Arizona in an unusual Thursday night game in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Orgeron is in the fourth season of his second stint at USC. He was Mississippi’s coach from 2005-2007, guiding the Rebels to a 10-25 record.

Orgeron was the defensive line coach for the NFL’s New Orleans Saints in 2008. He was Tennessee’s assistant head coach, recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach under Kiffin in 2009.

Orgeron said the offense “won’t look dramatically different” than it did under Kiffin.

“I totally trust we’ll be put a great product on the field,” said Orgeron, USC’s defensive line coach from 1998 to 2004.

In what would become Kiffin’s final game, the Trojans led 21-20 at 46 seconds into the second half. But they allowed ASU to score the next 28 points in what Kiffin described afterwards as a “disastrous third quarter.”

Kiffin had become a target of anger from USC fans, with some chanting “Fire Kiffin” as the 10-7 upset loss to Washington State Sept. 7 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

When asked Saturday night about the pressure he faced, Kiffin responded, “I’m fine with that. I have been dealing with that for 12 months. That’s fine. That’s the last thing I’m worried about. We have to find a way to coach better and play better and get our backups ready.”

Haden had long backed Kiffin, who had been hired by previous Athletic Director Mike Garrett. When speculation surfaced that Kiffin would be fired following a 38-28 loss to rival UCLA Nov. 17, Haden told Los Angeles Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke “Lane is my head coach, 150 percent, now and hopefully for a long time. I see the future. I see the potential. I know what he’s been fighting through and I like what he’s done.”

In a video released in July in connection with the Pacific-12 Conference’s football media day, Haden said, “I’m behind Lane Kiffin 100 percent.”

Haden said today he supported Kiffin “100 percent” until Saturday’s game.

Factors in Haden’s support included the scholarship limitations USC was under because of NCAA penalties because of violations committed under Kiffin’s predecessor Pete Carroll.

“He wasn’t given a fair hand in a number of ways,” Haden said.

NCAA rules allow Division I football teams to have 85 players on scholarships and give scholarships to 25 new players each season. USC is limited to 75 scholarship players, and giving 15 new scholarships each season.

Four of USC’s scholarships went to seniors who previously did not have scholarships, two are for players who are sidelined for the rest of the season with injuries and one is for a player who is sitting out the season under NCAA rules after transferring, according to Sports Information Director Tim Tessalone said.

Kiffin illustrated the Trojans lack of depth by citing the use of Robby Kolanz as a receiver in Saturday night’s game in Tempe. Kolanz, who was an All-CIF Northern Division first team selection as a senior at Palos Verdes High in 2011, was working in the Sports Information office of USC’s Athletic Department last year, then resumed his football career this spring.

Pacific-12 Conference rules allow visiting teams to have 70 players in uniform. On Saturday night, USC had 55 recruited scholarship players in uniform, Tessalone said.

Kiffin was hired in 2010, succeeding Carroll, who became the coach of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.

“I’m confident he and his staff will keep USC football performing at the high level we expect,” then-athletic director Mike Garrett said upon hiring Kiffin. “He is familiar with the Trojan landscape and will be a great representative of our university.”

Kiffin was described in the team’s media guide as being “regarded as one of the game’s brightest young coaches” and “known for his high football IQ, as well as for being a master playcaller and a superb recruiter.”

The Trojans were 8-5 in Kiffin’s first season as coach, including two losses on field goals as time expired. USC was 10-2 in 2011, but for a second consecutive year were ineligible for a bowl because of NCAA penalties.

The Trojans began the 2012 season ranked first in The Associated Press poll and won six of their first seven games, then lost six of their final seven.

Kiffin was hired by USC after posting a 7-6 record in his lone season as Tennessee’s coach. Kiffin had a 5-15 record as coach of the Oakland Raiders in 2007 and 2008.

Kiffin had been an assistant coach at USC from 2001-2006. He had also been an assistant coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2000 and Colorado State in 1999 and a student assistant at his alma mater, Fresno State, in 1997 and 1998.

Steven Herbert | City News Service