Wiedmer: Perhaps karma canned Kiffin

Wiedmer: Perhaps karma canned Kiffin

September 30th, 2013 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

Former Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin looks on during a 2009 game against Western Kentucky in Knoxville, Tenn.

Former Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin looks on...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

And so it was written that at least three bad things would come to an end Sunday.

The climatic conclusion to the delightfully disturbing television series "Breaking Bad" had been anticipated for weeks. So, too (at least in all corners of the universe not brainwashed by pinstripes), the end of the perceived playoff birthright of the New York Yankees, who will miss baseball's postseason for only the second time in the last 19 autumns.

But Sunday morning's news that former Tennessee head football coach Lane Kiffin had been fired at Southern Cal following Saturday night's 62-41 tire fire at Arizona State was almost certainly the most shocking development of the day, even though it surely elated the fan bases of both the Trojans and Vols.

Befitting LaLa Land, USC athletic director Pat Haden reportedly delivered the pink slip in true Hollywood fashion, informing Kiffin of his dismissal on an airport tarmac at the predawn hour of 5 a.m. PDT as the Men of Troy returned from the desert.

Volniacs can feverishly envision how it might have played out. Greeting the soon-to-be-canned coach with a triple chai latte and Sunday's LA Times, Haden hands Kiffin the Classified Section after circling the Help Wanted ads.

"Thanks for the last three seasons and five games," the AD says. "And best of luck finding a new job that pays you $2.6 million a year to lose by 21 points to unranked foes (ASU did join the Associated Press poll Sunday afternoon at No. 22)."

Kiffin then climbs into a limo (presumably black) muttering that he should never have left UT and how much he wishes his ring tone still played "Rocky Top."

As the news swiftly spreads East, rumors of seismic tremors disrupting Richter scales from Malibu to Morristown clog the Internet, the joyous foot-stomping of both the Trojan and Big Orange Nations shaking the earth to its core. UT fans add Toby Keith's "How Do You Like Me Now?" as theme music for their celebrations.

Or perhaps they joined former Chattanooga resident and current Atlanta Braves security guard Michael Smith in levitating above terra firma.

A lifelong Tennessee football fan, Smith said from his post inside the Turner Field press box Sunday morning: "My feet haven't touched the ground for two hours. That man [Kiffin] did more damage to that program than anyone who's ever coached there."

And Kiffin oversaw the Vols for all of one season, 2009, a brittle bridge between Phillip Fulmer's 16-year career and Derek Dooley's three-season run of ineptness. Or as Breaking Bad's Walter White might have described it, "I'm in the program demolition business."

Then there was movie director Steven Spielberg's real-life blockbuster dig at Kiffin a week before he was fired. Speaking to group of USC film students, the man who gave us "E.T.", "Shindler's List" and "The Color Purple" was asked his favorite disaster film. "The Washington State game," he said, referring to the Trojans' 10-7 loss earlier this month.

Yet much as it may be highly enjoyable to celebrate Kiffin's collapse, it isn't entirely his fault, however much many wish it to be. As ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski pointed out Sunday, NCAA penalties in the Reggie Bush case have left the Trojans with just 55 scholarship players after wideout Marquise Lee's injury this past weekend. They won't be allowed to return to the 85-scholarship limit until 2015, nearly two years from now.

In all the urgency to crush Kiffin, it's easy to forget he went 10-2 in 2011 and began 2012 ranked No. 1 before a 1-5 finish erased a 6-1 start. In many ways, however much it hurts the Big Orange Nation to hear this, UT and USC are living in parallel universes, the sins of their past punishing their presents.

Nor is it likely to get better anytime soon for the Trojans. At least not as long as the scholarship reductions hold. So regardless of whom Haden hires next -- current St. Louis Rams coach and Trojan alum Jeff Fisher, Denver Broncos defensive coordinator and fellow USC alum Jack Del Rio, Washington Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian (a former USC assistant), Boise State coach Chris Petersen (a California native) or Vanderbilt's James Franklin (knows how to succeed at a high-priced private university) -- that coach's task will be a titanic one.

As for Kiffin, what kind of karma would it be for him to join his father Monte as an assistant on the Dallas Cowboy staff, where he might work shoulder to shoulder with Dooley?

Possible conversation between Dooley and Kiffin:

Dooley: "Thanks a lot for that mess you left me."

Kiffin: "Don't mention it. Don't mention that $5 million buyout you got, either."

Yet regardless of what ultimately happens to the Lane Train, Sunday was a cherished chance for USC and UT supporters to join forces in tenaciously trashing the shared target of their discontent.

"I think we all needed this," said the Braves' Smith. "I think this puts a bad chapter in UT football to rest."

Yet Hollywood being Hollywood, it wouldn't be a great surprise to see Kiffin now turn to acting, something along the lines of the lead role in Breaking Bad II: When Life Imitates Art.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.