LOS ANGELES — Southern California fired Lane Kiffin early Sunday morning, ending the coach’s tumultuous tenure a few hours after the Trojans lost 62-41 at Arizona State.
USC posted a short news release on its sports website saying athletic director Pat Haden informed Kiffin of the decision “upon the team charter’s arrival back in Los Angeles” after the ugly defeat. The Trojans (3-2, 0-2 Pac-12) matched the most points allowed in school history in their seventh loss in 11 games.
USC spokesman Tim Tessalone declined to confirm ESPN’s report that Ed Orgeron, Kiffin’s assistant head coach and the former Mississippi head coach, would take over in an interim role. Orgeron didn’t return a message from the AP.
After Saturday’s loss, Kiffin said of his job security, “That’s the last thing I’m worried about.”
Now USC must finish an already disappointing season without Kiffin while looking for another coach to reboot its proud program. The Trojans have a bye this week before returning Oct. 10 at the Coliseum against Arizona.
Kiffin went 28-15 in parts of four seasons in his self-described dream job, but USC is 0-2 in conference play for the first time since 2001 after losses to Arizona State and Washington State.
The firing comes less than five months after Haden said Kiffin had “been as good as he can be” in the face of USC’s sanctions. Before this season began, Haden said he was “100 percent” behind the embattled Kiffin.
But like the precocious coach’s other two head coaching jobs, his USC tenure had a quick, messy exit.
Kiffin faced enormous expectations at USC — especially last season, when the Trojans started out ranked No. 1 in the country with quarterback Matt Barkley and star receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee.
USC wound up falling out of the top 10 by mid-September, and out of the poll entirely by November — ending the season as the first team in nearly a half-century to open No. 1 and finish unranked. USC lost five of its last six games, including the Sun Bowl, and Kiffin parted ways with his father, defensive guru Monte Kiffin.
Kiffin largely stayed out of NCAA trouble at USC. But while everybody realized the challenges facing Kiffin and his staff, he didn’t help his navigation of the Trojans’ troubles with his standoffish personality and several strange ethical decisions.
Last year, USC was reprimanded by the Pac-12 for underinflating footballs before a loss to Oregon. Kiffin also was criticized for switching jersey numbers on players in an attempt to deceive the Trojans’ opponents.
The offense has been largely terrible this season, but Kiffin was finally undone by another dreadful game by his defense, which had been solid under new coordinator Clancy Pendergast until Arizona State piled up 612 yards.