Was USC Football “swindled like a hayseed”?

Bill Plaschke (LA Times)  —  Kliff Kingsbury said the USC job was “calling my name.”

He said the USC job “is where I wanted to be.”

Asked whether he was at USC to stay, he said, “That’s the plan.”

Asked about the NFL, he said, “I haven’t even thought about it, honestly.”

Kingsbury said these things about two weeks ago in an interview with ESPN’s Shelley Smith. Their conversation took place about two weeks after he was hired as USC’s offensive coordinator and the team’s most important offseason acquisition.

That Kingsbury bolted Heritage Hall after one month and accepted the head coaching job with the Arizona Cardinals on Wednesday makes him look like a con man.

But, perhaps worse, it makes the USC athletic department look like fools.

In their third coaching fumble since the departure of Pete Carroll — they haven’t gotten it right since — the Trojans were swindled like a hayseed sitting at a street corner shell game, and they have nobody to blame but themselves.

An experienced athletic director would never have hired someone with Kingsbury’s celebrated cachet without some contractual assurances he would stay.

Lynn Swann has shown again he is not an experienced athletic director.

A savvy college administrator would have understood that without those contractual assurances, Kingsbury would be vulnerable to the several head coaching openings that pop up in the NFL every January. He would have known that everyone would be looking for Sean McVay clones like Kingsbury, and he would have waited until Black Monday cleared up before trying to hire him.

Swann, while a seasoned politician, is anything but a savvy college administrator.

A tough and decisive leader of USC’s most visible department would have made certain this was never an issue by simply hiring quarterback guru Kingsbury to replace Clay Helton as head coach.

But Swann didn’t want to get his hands dirty, and now the place is really a mess.

Instead of firing Helton, which would have been the merciful move and one that was endorsed by most of Trojan Nation, Swann figured he could quiet critics by bringing in the hottest coaching candidate on the market, but he didn’t think it through, and now he has just made the problem worse.

Last month, the Trojans won that moment, but now, once again, they’ve lost the day.

Now, not only does Helton seem like a lame duck, but he’s a lame duck running an offense his bosses have proven they don’t trust.

Now, knowing that USC cannot hire and keep a top coach for even a month, recruits have to wonder whether the entire staff is one lame duck.

Have you checked out their schedule next season? Their first six games? They are against Fresno State, Stanford, at Brigham Young, Utah, at Washington and at Notre Dame.

Looking at how those teams finished this season, the Trojans could reasonably start 1-5, and, with Helton on the hot seat, and no heir apparent, what happens next?

The support of their wonder-boy quarterback JT Daniels will also be more fragile after Kingsbury declared the job would be open during spring football. Now that Kingsbury is gone, even if Daniels is reinstated as the permanent starter, folks will point to the guru’s observations and wonder.

Stepping back from this smoking wreckage, nothing is more tenuous here than the continued contributions of USC’s generous football donors. Some are surely looking at Swann and wondering how much money they want to keep pouring into a program, especially the ongoing Coliseum renovation, for a team that has again fallen into chaos under his leadership.

His one job — face it, his only job — is to hire and handle the USC football coach. He didn’t do his job when he failed to act on Helton. Then he did an even worse job when he tried to use Kingsbury’s hire to sugarcoat his failings.

As for Kingsbury, give the con man credit. He played his mark like a pro. Remember, before he joined the Trojans, he was out of work. Texas Tech had fired him. He probably realized he would have more contract leverage if he were employed, so he grabbed the Trojans job.

It would be one thing if Kingsbury really intended to stay at USC and was surprised by the NFL offer and felt compelled to jump at it. That’s understandable. But considering NFL rumors were swirling around him even before he arrived, and considering he worked for the Trojans for only a month, the only reasonable conclusion is that he used USC for all it was worth.

And what did it cost him? A reported buyout of only $150,000? The Trojans walked away from that shell game not only without their wallet, but without their pants.

There is shame on Kingsbury, certainly, but that’s apparently who he is. A bigger shame falls to USC and Swann, who has turned a smart, sophisticated and historic football program into a trending punchline.

They should be better than that. They must be better than that.

latimes.com

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Steveg
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Dang, if Tennessee can steal the OC from Georgia, why can’t USC get a good one from somebody too.

Steveg
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So Lynn and Clay Hayseed standing there with nothing. No coach, no program, possibly losing 5 * recruits, no idea what to do next, and to top it all off still to arrogant to face the press and tell the story. Not only can they not do the job, they are disgusting in the way they fail doing it.

TrojanRJJ
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Swann has, IMO, only two options: OPTION 1: Let his decision stand and instruct Clay Helton to choose his OC and let Clay be the HC and face of the Program. OPTION 2: Admit he made a mistake, fire Helton, clean house and let the new HC hire the staff and try to do his best to recover. Under Option 1, in 2019, SC most likely goes 3-9 or 4-8, opening probably with 1-5 with 0-6 being as likely as 2-4. This option will confirm the disaster all expected and will cost SC a minimum of $30,000,000, with three times… Read more »

Rock2112
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Let’s assume Swann wants to go with Option 2 (goodbye CH). Not only is there TREMENDOUS egg on his face after initially making himself so “clear” that CH was to stay, but there is a distinct possibility that he will need the BOT to see the Kingsbury debacle as an embarrassment. Honestly, not only is there zero chance that Swann is bold enough to take the heat for a reversal, but if the BOT did not find last season embarrassing enough to compel (or even permit) Swann to make a coaching change, I doubt they are even dialed in enough… Read more »

Steveg
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The BoT has their heads so far up their asses I doubt they even realize USC still has a football program.

TrojanRJJ
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Rock, I think my two options are the only realistic alternatives. Swann has left himself two awful options. Just horrid management. He can take option 1 and hope Clay can avoid disaster. Based on past history, there is little hope in it, but if he wants to play it that way, so be it. He is the one calling the shots. Swann has to ask himself: what happens if the 2019 team opens 1-5 with blow out losses to say ND and UW. There is at least a 50% chance of that. He has created this mess; he needs to… Read more »

Rock2112
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AZ’s Bidwell has told the media that KK had to resign at USC before he talked to AZ. USC never makes a statement at all, but Ryan Abraham suggested he had heard otherwise from USC’s athletic dept. This is exactly the kind of crap I am sick of. Swann, be a man, face the media, tell us how you handled that, and get USC’s position clear once and for all. I believe Bidwell until someone from USC stands up and accounts for this. By the way, Swann, your protection against losing KK was not refusing permission fo rhim to talk… Read more »

John Weld
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If what Bill Bidwell says is true then it most likely us true that Swann never game permission to KK to interview with NFL teams because all that the NFL rule requires is permission from the candidates current employer.

Rock2112
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I think the sequence that occurred was that Swann refused permission to the Jets and Cardinals, so KK resigned and thus permission was then no longer required. In other words, KK had already resigned while he was interviewing but USC didn’t care to tell anyone that.

RodGarnay
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What’s with all the ads?

RodGarnay
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When I first read the article I thought Plaschke should stay out of it. I generally hate his high-and-mighty opinions about USC. Unfortunately, in this case it’s hard to find much in his article that isn’t true. I guess I just didn’t want to hear it.

SAS
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I’m not a trojan in the sense of being an alumn and having went to the university. I’ve been a fan since i can remember and my first memories were Rodney Peete and Junior Seau leading the way for those teams, but the coliseum and the band blasting drums was the day I felt like i was part of the Trojan nation and it’s something I’m passing down to my son. It’s a cool experience to have that bond like my dad had with me and my older brothers. And to see the way this program and school has suddenly… Read more »

Rock2112
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It might be time for the program’s biggest boosters to go public with their threats to withdraw financial support until the leadership in our program is revamped from the top to the bottom. There comes a time when that is not inappropriate, and we have pretty much reached it as SAS eloquently states. Financial pressure needs to be brought to bear to snap us out of this nightmare.

SAS
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👍

Paul_Muad_dib
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I usually think Plaschke is a tool, but he’s spot on with this article.

trojan92
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I concur

Scipio
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Usually when you can’t shoot the messenger like Plaschke is you know the message is undeniable.

LawyerJohn
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I guess Plaschke won’t be having beers with Swann anytime soon. And blaming Swann is a bit over the top. The con man was available at the time and so Swann took a chance, nothing more, nothing less. The charade only lasted a month, so no great damage. As they say, ‘forget the past and get started now on making a better future.’

RodGarnay
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As always Plaschke is the epitome of a soapbox writer but I agree with a lot of what he says.

Jamaica
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Enough of this circus of the “blind leading the blind” in the football program now a total mess and reading one article after another putting the program down….. bring back MG as AD! Even if the NCAA hates him, so what, could it get any worse than watching beevus & butthead turn USC football into the laughing stock of all of CFB? At least MG would keep firing unsuccessful coaches soon enough until the next PC was found. Isn’t that what we really want above all?

Eastern Ave.
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That’s the best comment ever! grin

Linkster
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As much as I hate to agree with anything the LAT writes, this is spot on. As I posted yesterday, Swann, the supposed mature and savvy AD, was played by a Texas hick with a here now gone tomorrow rep. Good Lord, will USC ever dig out from the Nikias/Haden/Swann/Helton fiasco?

trojandn
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Dude C’mon – it’s only football. Yes what KK did was shady and who knows what he said to Lynn during the interview process. Can’t worry about that now – we need to get a new OC who wants to be here and knows what he’s doing.

Jamaica
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And who will that be given Helton’s history of finding inept position coaches who will work for him and suffering through it another probable losing season with 4&5 star athletes losing to programs having 2& 3star athletes. Is that what the fan base wants to see?

alfa1
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Plaschke surely has a way with words…..Ouch !

Texas Hicks – 2
USC BOT – 0

Swann, with his Elitist attitude of being above questioning is systemic at USC.

Old_Trojans_never_die
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It is even better than that. Thinking about his moves KK knew the coaching carousel was coming around so he grabbed the first horse he could. But he also knew going in he couldn’t produce the goods at the level he was expected to produce. If he got lucky and some the kids drank the kool aid he might have outlasted his boss. Because like Helton he could ride the talent for a few years if the kids did what asked. Now, however he has a team with built in excuses. He can go out and lose as long as… Read more »

junekid
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Who’s to say that if Helton were fired, and Kingsbury hired at HC, that he still wouldn’t have bolted for the more prestigious NFL HC position? Not a fair statement in my opinion. I do think that the buyout should have been
in the millions to help avoid this type of deception. No respect left for Kingsbury. As my daughter pointed out, he must have commitment issues….that’s why he’s single.

Jamaica
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It is more common in putting a nasty penalty fee to hire away a HC than a OC. If Swann knew what he was doing, he would have better protected USC’s interest and not show the program and himself as ignorant.

UtahTrojan
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Couldn’t have said it better. I am not happy with KK, but more upset at Swann. Now all we can do is wait to see what Swann will do next. My expectations are very low at this point.

RodGarnay
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Swann got played by a far-from-honest person, so they’re both at fault.

Kingsbury is kidding himself if he doesn’t think this will leave a stain on his resume. I don’t think “because we all do it” is going to look too good in his next interview. Surely he will not be offered a paltry buyout clause as with Swann.