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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Comparing the Lane Kiffin firing to the John Robinson botched firing

Lane KiffinUSC made some major waves in the college football world by firing Lane Kiffin hours after the team got swatted by Arizona State 62-41 on the road. The firing made all sorts of news for a number of reasons. One, Kiffin is a despised figure in the sports world, so many were happy to see him served a dose of karma. Two, few saw the firing coming since athletic director Pat Haden continuously stood by his football coach. And three, the manner in which they terminated Kiffin was something to behold. Kiffin was called off the team bus and fired at a terminal in LAX upon returning to LA. Deadspin said the firing was done in “the most cold-blooded way.” Few would disagree with their phrasing.

But the thing is USC has been in a similar situation before when it came to a firing. That was when they fired John Robinson in 1997.

First, let’s rehash exactly what happened with Kiffin, because the story is sublime.

Haden reportedly met with his advisers and decided during the Sun Devils’ 28-0 run in the third quarter that they were going to terminate Kiffin.

So what’d Haden do? He pulled Kiffin off the team bus upon arriving at LAX airport and told the coach he was done. USC administrators even told the bus driver to take the players back to campus, and Kiffin’s bag was still on the bus because he had no idea he was about to lose his job.

Does anything say “you’re a disgrace to the football program” quite like yanking someone off the bus after a 62-41 loss to Arizona State and telling them “you’re fired”? I mean that is HARSH.

So to compare history, this is not the first time USC had a memorable firing of a football coach. John Robinson got some poor treatment when he was axed following his second stint at the school.

Robinson coached the Trojans from 1976-1982 before leaving for the Los Angeles Rams. He won three Rose Bowls and a national championship during his first tenure, so the school brought him back in 1993 to turn things around. After three good seasons, Robinson’s Trojans had a pair of 6-win seasons, so the program replaced him with Paul Hackett. But the funny thing was they announced the hiring of Hackett before speaking with Robinson over the phone, and without having Hackett around to introduce the new coach.

Here’s the Los Angeles Times recalling the story on Dec. 18 1997:

The storied USC football program endured one of the most bizarre days in its history Wednesday when the Trojans fired Coach John Robinson without speaking to him, hired Kansas City Chiefs assistant coach Paul Hackett without producing him at a news conference, then wondered why Robinson hadn’t accepted an invitation to attend the announcement.

USC folks wouldn’t even say that Robinson had been fired, because they wanted to keep him associated with the program in some other capacity.

“I don’t think Mike (Garrett) used that word,” USC President Steven B. Sample said. “From my perspective, to say John Robinson has been fired, I wouldn’t use that word. . . . I personally hope very much John will continue on our staff.”

Garrett left a message on Robinson’s answering machine to notify the coach of the decision. They never even spoke over the phone.

USC has the bank vault open for a new coach because they need to get the program back on top.

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