For those disillusioned USC fans who were hoping Lane Kiffin was on he hot seat, athletic director Pat Haden has some bad news for you:
Kiffin’s not going anywhere.
In an extensive interview with the L.A. Times, Haden told reporter Gary Klein that he thought Kiffin was the right coach to get USC back to national prominence.
"I understand people disagree with me,” Haden told the Times. “But in my judgment, and I get paid to make the best decisions I can for USC, there's no reason that Lane Kiffin shouldn't be our coach."
But Haden was not shy about his criticisms toward the disappointing 7-6 campaign.
[Senior Bowl report: QBs look to set themselves apart]
He noted that USC "played horribly a couple times," "got shredded on defense a couple times” and the team "turned the ball over way too much." But he also saw the bright side.
"These are things that all can be fixed," he said. “They all can be fixed by Lane Kiffin."
USC started the season as AP’s preseason No. 1 with a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback. By the end of the year, quarterback Matt Barkley was sidelined with an injury and the Trojans became the first time to start the year No. 1 and finish out of the poll. Fans were so disenchanted by their team’s performance that many were calling for Kiffin’s head.
But Haden defended his coach saying that several of the Trojans’ problems weren’t necessarily Kiffin’s fault.
"He's anti-Teflon," Haden said of Kiffin. "I mean, stuff sticks to him that doesn't even belong on him."
These are Haden’s words today – Jan. 22, 2013 – and could easily change if the Trojans get off to a bad start to the 2013 season. There are several questions to be answered, including who will start at quarterback. Max Wittek started the final two games for Barkley, but looked lost, especially against Georgia Tech. Max Browne, an incoming freshman, is definitely the hot name right now and USC fans will be clamoring to see him compete for the starting role.
In the end, Haden thinks every problem the Trojans endured a year ago is one that will make them a better team in 2013.
"I'm a paid optimist," Haden said. "And I think we've got a great opportunity to rebound and have a terrific season next year."
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