Nobody was quite sure when Lane Kiffin received the overhead projector treatment courtesy of Al Davis if he could coach or not.
It was no more clear when he surfaced at Tennessee, where things remained muddled with a 7-6 record after a single season before leaving for what he called his “dream job” at USC.
After winning 12 of 33 games as a head coach in the NFL and the Southeastern Conference, Kiffin has a chance to go well beyond his words and prove himself.
If he keeps USC afloat with the loss of 30 scholarships over the next three years and survives the two years of bowl exile to return the Trojans to their rightful place atop the whatever-they’re-going-to-call-it conference, there will be no more doubting young Lance.
(To review, because I’ve received this question a time or three, Davis called him `Lance’ at his introductory press conference, and to Davis-watchers and Raider-watchers everywhere, he’ll never be known as anything else)
Former USC coach Pete Carroll, Kiffin’s coaching mentor other than his father, said he is shocked by the sanctions imposed by the NCAA. Kiffin did his best Sgt. Schulz routine before the media, saying he saw nothing and knew nothing regarding any improprieties.
Never mind that Kiffin started coaching at USC in 2001, became recruiting coordinator in 2004, and that the recruiting coordinator knows everything that has gone on in their program well before they take over the role.
And disregard the fact that Kiffin had issues with the NCAA during his short-lived stay in Tennessee.
Who knows, he may be longing for the days where the worst that could happen was losing a couple of OTAs for working the guys too hard.
They’re probably wondering at 1220 Harbor Bay Parkway and in Knoxville if Kiffin will be once again on the move, leaving wreckage in his wake.
What if the Trojans can Mike Garrett and bring in an A.D. who thinks all vestiges of the Carroll era _ of which Kiffin was a major player _ should be erased?
Early indications are the Trojans will appeal and stand their ground, with Kiffin shrugging his shoulders and separating himself as much as possible from a fate he likely helped create.
That may not be enough to satisfy Davis or the Knoxville hordes, but at least we’ll find out if Kiffin can coach.