Ex-USC coach Kennedy Polamalu hired by UCLA

Kennedy PolamaluUCLA has raised the stakes in the rivalry with USC. The Bruins on Wednesday hired ex-Trojans fullback and coach Kennedy Polamalu to join the staff.

Polamalu played fullback for the Trojans from 1982-1985. He then went to UCLA as a graduate assistant and had stints as a coach with San Diego State and Colorado before returning to USC as their running backs and special teams coach from 2000-2003.

Polamalu was known as a great recruiter and coach beloved by his players. He left USC after the 2003 season after asking Pete Carroll whether he would become the team’s offensive coordinator. Carroll told him that position would go to Lane Kiffin, so Kennedy left for the NFL.

Polamalu spent 2005-2009 as the running backs coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was hired by the Tennessee Titans, however, he never coached a season with them because USC hired him back.

There was actually an issue over USC hiring Polamalu; Titans coach Jeff Fisher (a former USC player) accused Kiffin of not following proper protocol of asking for permission when making the hire. The Los Angeles Times’ Bill Plaschke reported in 2010 that it was athletic director Pat Haden who made the Polamalu hire, not Kiffin.

Tension possibly dating back to their time as assistants under Carroll may have loomed between Kiffin and Polamalu. You may recall that the two got into a fight before the Sun Bowl and that Polamalu was let go in February, shortly after signing day. If he has any bitterness towards the Trojans program, he’ll have his chance to get even now that he’s part of UCLA’s staff. His hire was first reported by Bruin Sports Online.

Kennedy Polamalu and Lane Kiffin reportedly got into fight before bowl game

Kennedy PolamaluThe recent firing of running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu by USC head coach Lane Kiffin came as a surprise to most people. Kennedy was the only former Trojan player on staff, and he was considered to be a top recruiter. Though his job title listed him as offensive coordinator, that position was held mostly in name since Kiffin called the plays. But it sounds like Polamalu clashed with Kiffin, leading to his dismissal.

The Daily News’ Scott Wolf reported late Friday evening that the two had a “heated argument” on Dec. 29, two days before the team’s 21-7 Sun Bowl loss to Georgia Tech. Wolf described the incident as a “fallout.”

Kiffin kept Polamalu on staff through national signing day Feb. 6, but he was fired two days later. Wolf says Polamalu learned of his firing by reading the news on the Internet, and that Kiffin never called him. Wolf quotes a source who says that Kiffin may have felt threatened by Polamalu’s outspoken nature.

Since we do not know what happened between the two, it’s hard to say whether the firing was justified. Based on his recruiting success — Polamalu was instrumental in USC offering a scholarship to star wide receiver Marqise Lee — it seems strange that he would be fired. It also feels wrong that Polamalu read about his firing and still hasn’t heard from Kiffin.

Photo via USC athletics