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Steinberg: Times changing at USC

October 05, 2013|By Leigh Steinberg

Old Trojans don't die, they just move to Newport Beach.

Wealthy alums here venerate a winning USC football tradition. Houses hang USC banners and flags, cardinal and gold colors are everywhere. I am grudgingly tolerated as a Cal-Berkeley alum. A whole lifestyle revolves around SC football in Southern California.

The alums here were furious at the performance of the team this year and the direction they felt the program. Alums here make major gifts to the athletic department, and the disgust felt with Lane Kiffin made it certain that his days as head coach were about to end.

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Athletic Director Pat Haden was a major star at quarterback for the football team back in the 1970s. He epitomizes the spirit of Troy. He was successful as a pro player, as an attorney/investor, as a television analyst. He is whip smart and as he watched the team get blown out at Arizona State, a defense that gave up 61 points. It was the final straw. And he pulled the plug mid-season.

USC has always benefited from its location in Southern California when it comes to recruiting. 14 million people live within a couple hours of the campus and enough football talent plays at the high-school level here to stock multiple programs at the highest level.

Recruiting had fallen off this year, and as the disasters piled up it was likely that recruits would shy away and pick other schools. Kiffin did not create the restrictions on depth, which came from prior NCAA sanctions. Watching wide receiver Marquise Lee, their best player, participate on special teams showed how thin that depth really was.

SC has virtually unmatched tradition, a wonderful campus, state-of-the-art facilities, great weather, and when they can't recruit well it doesn't make sense.

Lane Kiffin appeared to lose the confidence of the players. He could not decide on a starting quarterback all summer. That is a position that requires the most learning and reps possible. He insisted on calling plays and the offense was conservative and unproductive. This is much of the same team that was rated No. 1 in preseason polls in 2012.

SC has had a long tradition of halftime adjustments that allowed them to dominate in the second half. But this year they seemed to play worse as the game went on. This is the school that produced Heisman quarterbacks Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer, and should have a reservoir of talent at the position waiting their turn to start.

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