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.
Ed Orgeron was picked as USC’s interim head coach by athletic director Pat Haden, who dismissed Kiffin at the airport following the Trojans’ flight home. USC (3-2, 0-2 Pac-12) has eight games left under Orgeron, Kiffin’s assistant head coach and the former Mississippi head coach.
“It’s never the perfect time to do these things, but I thought it was the right time,” Haden said.
Haden fired Kiffin in a 3 a.m. meeting at the Trojans’ private airport terminal, but not before a 45-minute chat in which Kiffin tried to change Haden’s mind.
Haden didn’t hire Kiffin, but had been firmly behind the coach until Saturday, when the Trojans matched the most points allowed in school history. The loss was the seventh in 11 games for a high-profile program still struggling under the cumulative effect of NCAA sanctions.
“He did a lot of things well under some very difficult circumstances here,” Haden said. “No one could have worked harder. He did a lot of the things we asked. Graduated players, never had compliance issues ... and he really worked under some very difficult NCAA sanctions, there’s no doubt about it.”
USC must finish an already disappointing season without Kiffin while looking for another coach to reboot its proud program. The Trojans are off 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 — and the record only partly captures the discontent of USC’s fans and alumni.
The Trojans were unimpressive on offense even in their three victories this season, stoking discontent around a school with sky-high expectations despite the tail end of heavy NCAA penalties stemming from coach Pete Carroll’s tenure.