Subterfuge In Play

It was an ignominious start to the Lane Kiffin Era at USC as assistant coach Ed Orgeron is already embroiled in a recruiting controversey. 

For the record, I don’t think the Orgeron affair amounts to much of anything and it appears no NCAA rules were broken.  But this isn’t exactly the smoothest way to get going on the PR side of things, is it?  Nor does it paint USC in a good light as its coaches try to poach Volunteer recruits while they prepare to enroll in school.  Heck, by these actions, you would think USC has a talent deficit or something.  In reality, the Trojans could bring in zero recruits this signing period and still boast enough talent to field two 9-3 teams.

What’s even more interesting, however, is how the Norm Chow-to-USC deal has fallen apart.  When this whole Kiffin-as-head-coach scheme was introduced, the idea of a ‘Dream Team’ of coaches that included Chow, Orgeron and Monte Kiffin was used as sweetener to cushion the proposal that Kiffin, Jr., take over for Pete Carroll.  By itself, the idea of Kiffin as USC coach would’ve been laughed away as a major joke.  But with that All-Star staff, it was deemed okay. 

But now Chow is gone, no doubt because of Kiffin’s reluctance to give up control of the USC offense.  When asked at his press conference who would call plays, Kiffin in essence said that he would call the plays.

Those quotes, which were seen on television by millions (I presume), are nowhere to be found in the official press conference transcript.  Soviet historians would be proud.

It’s clear that Kiffin never intended to make Chow the USC offensive coordinator.  Nevertheless, the promise of Chow’s return was used as an enticement to soothe Trojan fans who, like Volunteer fans before them, ended up buying a bill of goods.

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Chris Huston, A.K.A. ‘The Heisman Pundit‘, is a Heisman voter and the creator and publisher of, a site dedicated to analysis of the Heisman Trophy and college football. Dubbed “the foremost authority on the Heisman” by Sports Illustrated, HP is regularly quoted or cited during football season in newspapers across the country. He is also a regular contributor on sports talk radio and television.

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25 Responses to Subterfuge In Play

  1. Kicker77 January 15, 2010 at 12:32 am #

    STOP!! For goodness sake, you run without doubt one of the best blogs around and have more insight to the heisman trophy than anybody, and yet you continue to chip away at your good name with your one man crusade against Lane Kiffin. What on earth did he do to you???? There has to be an inside scoop here that your not tellin people, because to this point, all you’ve been sayin “well who did something to HIM??” or “he has the problem, not me”, all the while you continue to take jabs at him with every opportunity. It is really clouding your credibility. Last year, you deemed him a joke and then watched as he went 7-5 with near misses at Bama and Florida, and now your saying USC is committing suicide and will suffer for this. Let. It. Go.

  2. Bucknut January 15, 2010 at 12:45 am #

    HP is entitled to have an opinion like anybody else. He is a Trojan fan, but I can see where’s he coming from. If he (Kiffin) came to Buckeye Country, I would be picketing outside the Shoe as we speak. The guy has done NOTHING on the field. He is the most overrated, overpaid coach I’ve ever heard of. And two 9-3 seasons ain’t gonna be enough for Trojan fans. This isn’t like RichRod taking over the Wolverines. USC sets the bar alot higher.

  3. Dawgy January 15, 2010 at 5:21 am #

    I actually think that this coaching staff will be very successful at winning at USC.

    There just won’t be a lot of integrity. Maybe that’s par for course though?

  4. SEC January 15, 2010 at 6:34 am #

    Oh, I’m sure that Lane will win and win big at USC. After all, it’s only the Pac 10, the team should more or less coach itself.

  5. Anonymous January 15, 2010 at 8:26 am #

    HP – Still think you should lable this blog the “PAC 10 Pundit” as the PAC 10 truly is what you want to write about more than anything. When are you going to write about your erroneous assertion (made frequently this year) that the PAC 10 was the best conference? That would be more interesting than three articles in a row about USC coaching. Three in a row about USC coaching…what kind of blog does that? A PAC 10 blog! If you want to write about the PAC 10 so badly, why not write about the 2-5 bowl season as verifying what many people thought about the PAC 10…over-rated because of weak defenses.

  6. Heyberto January 15, 2010 at 9:01 am #

    Kudos to HP for not bowing down to a bad choice just in the name of supporting the school. So many of my Tennessee friends were questioning Kiffin as the season went on and his inexperience and lack of tact were digging their school into bigger holes and they were worried. Despite feeling slighted, him leaving was what was best for UT. Now he’s USC’s problem. It’s one thing to support your school, it’s another to do so blindly. At least Tennessee didn’t know what he might get them into prior to hiring him as he’d never been a college head coach. USC’s officials had to know, and if they ignored that, then they’re just idiots. No offense. but I really feel for USC fans, I bear them no ill will and feel its too good of a program to resort to this kind of hire.

  7. HP January 15, 2010 at 10:49 am #

    thanks for the suggestions, anonymous, but I will write about whatever I deem worthy. This story is less about USC and more about Kiffin and I feel I am in a good position to shed some light on it.

    I wrote about five articles on the subject when Kiffin was hired at Tennessee, so this is not a USC thing.

    As for the Pac-10, why would I write about its 2-5 bowl record as being proof that it wasn’t the best conference? the Pac-10 went 5-0 the year before and I did not write about the Pac-10 being the best. The Big East had a great bowl record this year, but that did not make it the best, did it? My point is that I have never seen bowl records as the prime indicator of conference strength.

    Kicker77–I do not think I am chipping away at my good name by writing about Kiffin in this manner. It’s not like Kiffin is a media darling and I am the only one doing it.

  8. Bucknut January 15, 2010 at 11:14 am #

    My point is that I have never seen bowl records as the prime indicator of conference strength.

    You might not see that but America(society), and especially the media do. Big 10 went 1-6 last year and was the joke of the CFB world. Now it’s the Pac 10’s turn. HP, I’ve seen you blog before about the Big 10 being physical, but SLOW. They’re not as slow as everyone thought. And somebody please explain these Sagarin Ratings. How can the ACC be above the Big Ten rankings? Wisky over Miami, Iowa over Georgia Tech. I could take the ACC’s cream of the crop and the Big Ten’s and the result’s would be the same. It’s funny how 77% picked the Ducks over the Bucks. Look who’s eating crow now. All due respect to Oregon. They have an opportunity to run the table this year. I will say it’s funny that the SEC fielded 10 teams in the bowls. If the SEC is so dominant why didn’t they go 9-1 or 8-2 int the bowls. Alabama and Florida are great teams but the rest are crap.

  9. starkweather January 15, 2010 at 12:27 pm #

    HP can write anything he wants. You come here for his viewpoint, right? That and informed prognosticating on the Heisman Trophy. As long as one doesn’t interfere with the other I’ll keep coming back. I honestly didn’t realize there was a Trojan bias on the site (obviously I didn’t miss the Pac-10 thing). There’s validity to both sides of the (argument?) discussion on Lane Kiffin and it’s all speculation until the games start, anyway. Yo, HP, when’s your next Heisman-related post? Is Garrett Gilbert now in the picture? How about Bernard Pierce?

  10. HP January 15, 2010 at 3:07 pm #

    Bucknut, I challenge you to find ANYWHERE where I’ve called the Big Ten slow. If anything, I’ve always ripped on the stereotype of SEC speed.

    As for the bowl argument, someone asked why I myself didn’t take bowl records into account. I think i am being consistent: I didn’t tout the Pac-10 last year when it went 5-0 and I won’t bash it this year when it went 2-5 because I think bowls are necessarily a goog gauge of a conference’s strength.

    stark, wanted to wait before all the juniors declared before I started to break down the Heisman again. More coming soon.

  11. Orange James January 15, 2010 at 4:10 pm #

    I’m a Tennessean living in SoCal. When I often read what you said about Kiffin going to TN, I used to laugh and say “just sour grapes”. Now I know everything that you, and Al Davis, said it true.

    No greater sh@#bag ever existed than Lane Kiffin. He is completely devoid of honor or ethics.

    I’m glad now that TN has removed it’s cancer. Now Kiffin is your problem, thank God. It is painful for TN now, but we can move on. You have to deal with Kiffin.

  12. Anonymous January 15, 2010 at 9:52 pm #

    HP – that’s fine if you want to downplay bowl records and good that you’re being consistent on that. So then, what’s the story with Sagarin ratings? Or what about Sagarins final SOS measures? Don’t tell me you didn’t use those to attempt to show that the PAC 10 was the best conference on a number of occasions…and guess what, those same sources now strongly indicate that the PAC 10 wasn’t the best conference this year.

    It seems like you miss the point on this whole discussion…you annoy many people who have few options for Heisman info by routinely promoting the PAC 10 (usually at the expense of the SEC). All I and numerous others that I’ve seen are asking is that you be consistent and try to suppress you bias. We’re asking you to be the Heisman Pundit, not the PAC 10 Pundit.

  13. Anonymous January 15, 2010 at 9:58 pm #

    Hey Bucknut – the SEC beat the #2, #4 and #19 team in the country and had a better bowl win % than the Big 10 with more teams playing.

    Congrats to the Big 10 for a good bowl campaign, but only someone who looks at the world with Big 10 colored glasses would say they had a better bowl season. Also, your problem with Sagarin is that its not based on a few games, its based on the whole season…sorry you don’t like that result but the problem isn’t Sagarin, its the Big 10 teams cumulative on the field performance.

  14. Anonymous January 15, 2010 at 10:14 pm #

    Starkweather – you’re right, but there’s hope that one of the few Heisman blogs can be less biased toward a particular conference. If you don’t see the bias, stick around for a couple of years. This is my second and last year reading HP and I bet you will see the bias before long – unless you’re a PAC 10 fan, then you might have a harder time seeing it. I’ve seen Big 12, Big 10 and SEC fans comment about this on the site and several stop reading it in frustration. At one point this season, HP was getting so much flack for it that he defiantly wrote something very close to you can call me a “PAC 10 homer,” but… I didn’t start to notice it until earlier this year…HP has dogged the SEC hard this year with frequent cheap shots and won’t admit he was DEAD wrong even by the standards he was trying to use to promote his conference (chiefly Sagarin). He even had a premautre article dogging the SECs 10 bowl teams because 3 of them had cheap 6th victories to make them bowl eligible – that was until USCe and UGA upset Clemson and GT, and of course he didn’t admit he was wrong.

    My last hope before giving up the site is that HP will write some article addressing his bias and/or admitting he was wrong this year about the PAC 10. My tentative conclusion is that he lacks the integrity to do that. That’s life…and I’ll go back to reading only the more reputable sites with larger followings – followings that dwindle win they sniff an obstinate inability to admit bias and error driven by that bias.

  15. Anonymous January 15, 2010 at 10:26 pm #

    HP – I’m not saying that bowl records are the end all measure of conference strength, but that all your assertions this year that the PAC 10 was the best conference have to be wrong with a 2-5 bowl record and especially with the two wins being against BC and Temple.

    Still curious why you don’t write about conference strength using things like Sagarin at the end of the season when you referenced them a lot through out the year. Is there any other answer other than you’re unwilling to admit you were wrong about the PAC 10?

  16. Anonymous January 15, 2010 at 10:40 pm #

    As it relates to UT and Kiffin, don’t forget UT recruited well (on average) before Kiffin. Before the poor class of 2008, they had the #5 class in 2007, #20 in 2006, #4 in 2005, #11 in 2004, #18 in 2003, and #2 in 2002 (using highest of ESPN and Rivals to get these numbers). That’s an average of #10 over 6 years, which is pretty good considering the small state of Tennessee and the large number of competitive programs in the vicinity. In other words, Kiffin recruited well at a school with a tradition of recruiting well…and he did that with the highest paid coaching staff in the country (I believe), which was brought on with this in mind.

  17. mosdog January 16, 2010 at 7:57 am #

    In Soviet Union we don’t have press conferences like the decadent capitalistic west we instead have one newspaper that tells us all the news we need to know, and unlike capitalistic nationation we need to know very little very very damn little.

  18. sandymex January 16, 2010 at 11:25 am #

    Newsflash: Lane Kiffin leaves USC for the New York Giants coaching job! Here’s a partial transcript:

    “This was not an easy decision… something that happened very quick. The support at USC has been great and we have so many people to thank for making us feel welcome. I know I can say this… I’ve been here for 4 days and there’s not one day that I didn’t give everything I had to the USC football program. I know we’re leaving USC with a better program than it was 4 days ago.”

  19. Heismanpundit January 16, 2010 at 9:36 pm #

    anonymous, your obsession over my belief that–this year–the Pac-10 was the best conference and your demand that I write a column ‘admitting’ I was wrong due to the Pac-10 having a bad bowl season just illustrates my ENTIRE POINT when it comes to the conference discussion.

    I don’t post the Sagarin rankings to ‘prove’ anything other than the FACT that ANY KIND OF EVIDENCE to the contrary that the SEC is the best conference at any point in the season is ALWAYS ignored. My gripe has nothing to do with the reality of the situation–determining the best conference depends on what you look for in a league and is subjective–but rather the media perception out there that automatically makes the SEC the best while never taking any contrary data into account. The fact that a little ol’ blogger thought the Pac-10 was the best conference this year and you think I need to re-establish my integrity by admitting I was wrong just shows the intolerance of fans out there who refuse to allow any diversity of opinion in the conference debate.

    BTW, I was so biased, I had the SEC first in my preseason conference rankings:

    Maybe I should apologize for THAT ranking. Anyway, you want me to go with the rest of the crowd and annoint the SEC as the best without any question. Sorry, you won’t see that happen here. I will call it as I see it. And I will continue to dog closed-minded college football fans like yourself who refuse to consider the possibility that SEC football isn’t always the best in the country. Sometimes it is, but sometimes it isn’t. Deal with it.

  20. Solon January 17, 2010 at 3:18 am #

    HP: Obviously, agreed on the idea that the SEC is not always the best conference in the country (see 2004 season for rather clear details of this fact).

    But you are surely taking the piss if you are still going to hold to the notion that the Pac 10 was the best conference in the nation this season. It was tentative enough as was at the end of the regular season, but after the bowls the Pac’s record against BCS teams for the season fell to 9-10, and, even worse, only three of those wins were against BCS teams with winning records. I mean, let’s face it, the only real quality win the conference had was USC against Ohio State–who came back and beat conference champ Oregon in the Rose Bowl. After that, the only win Pac 10 had to get excited about at all was UCLA’s win over Tennessee–which was nice, of course, but it was just one 7-6 team beating another. If that’s your conference’s second best scalp your season was shit.

    And those wins were offset by some bad losses. Stanford v. Wake was the poster child, but Arizona v. Nebraska and BYU v. Oregon St–both non-competitive blowouts where the Pac 10 team was favored going in–were the killers. Certainly, those two games should have shown you that the supposed depth near the top of the Pac 10 was a bit soft.

    Now, then, beyond that, if you don’t want to proclaim the SEC the best conference in the land, that’s your right, certainly. But whether you like it or not, the SEC has had a tremendous run of success the last 4 seasons–one that, quite frankly, seems to have lasted a little too long, given the typically cyclical nature of CFB, so much so that I think it is almost certainly coming to an end, as indicated by the SEC’s mediocre bowl performance this season (which, of course, still wasn’t all that bad).

    Over the last 4 seasons, the SEC has gone 53-35 (.602) against other BCS teams, and managed to amass a 25-11 (.694) record in bowls–despite sending two teams to the BCS each year, disadvantaging their bowl matchups farther down the line. And, furthermore, they’ve gone 7-1 in those BCS games, and had the national champ each of those four seasons–with 3 different teams. Outside of the Big East (ironically), no other BCS conference has even come close to matching this level of accomplishment (and, of course, the Big East hasn’t had a serious national title contender during the last four seasons, outside of 2009’s Cincy…who were not competitive in their bowl against the 2nd best SEC team this season).

    Look, the SEC had the national champion, arguably had the two best teams in the nation this season, and went 15-8 against other BCS teams (as for the other BCS conferences, the Big East went 11-9; Pac 10 9-10; ACC 12-15; Big 12 8-10; Big 10 9-12). The schedule wasn’t soft, either–there were 15 out-of-conference wins by BCS teams against BCS teams with 9 or more wins, and the SEC had 7 of them.

    Not acknowledging that the SEC was the best conference in college football this season–or claiming that the Pac 10 was–doesn’t make for hard-hitting analysis; it just suggests you are unable to assess the evidence.

  21. Bucknut January 17, 2010 at 11:59 pm #

    Sorry HP. Maybe you had a blog about the Big Ten being slow because that was the general consensus, not yours. Anyways I’ve enjoyed reading your blogs since 2005.

  22. Bucknut January 18, 2010 at 1:55 am #

    HP, I’m just wondering where you would put Terrelle Pryor at on your short list of Heisman candidates.

  23. kran February 13, 2010 at 10:24 am #

    !!!111 adin adin


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