When Lane Kiffin returned to USC as its head coach following a short stint in the NFL as well as one at the University of Tennessee, he was hit with NCAA sanctions. It all stemmed from a four-year investigation into whether former Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush and his family accepted financial benefits while he was a student at USC. The sanctions included a two-year bowl ban, 30 lost scholarships over three years and a number of wins being vacated. That is not exactly the way Kiffin wanted to get his dream job started. However, through all the sanctions he has found a way to keep players in SC and stay near the top of the Pac 12.
Now the sanctions are a thing of the past. Kiffin’s Trojans are eligible for postseason play for the first time since he took over as head coach and in his third year, USC has a legitimate shot at a National Championship. The voters agree. The Trojans are led by Matt Barkley who persevered through all the adversity and bypassed a shot at the NFL to return to Southern Cal to take care of unfinished business. With the pieces that Kiffin has been able to bring to Southern Cal, the Trojans look to be a prime contended to finally end the SEC’s run of dominance in college football.
Lane Kiffin joined XX Sports Radio in San Diego to talk about how he feels being ranked number one in the preseason poll, whether Silas Redd needed to be convinced to come to USC after the Penn State sanctions, how tough it was to deal with all the sanctions, whether he felt all along that Matt Barkley would return to USC for his senior year, how involved he is in recruiting and whether he lets himself think about a championship.
How he feels about being ranked number one in the preseason:
“We didn’t make very much of it within our team. We don’t talk about it really. It’s got nothing to do with whether we’re going to be any good or whether we’re going to win games. Nobody is going to roll over because of where you’re ranked. On the other side of things, outside of our team, I think for our fans and for our University it’s very exciting, especially with what they went through and having so much taken away from them and so many people thought SC was over for so long, ten years or whatever the articles were. To have the media put your program as what they see as the number one program in the country right now I do think it means a lot to our fans and our University.”
Whether Silas Redd needed to be swayed to go to USC:
“No he needed to be swayed. Just really the right word is he needed to be informed. He didn’t know enough and he had not visited where as somebody that when he came out of high school was recruited here where he came down for an official visit and all of those things so it was just a matter of spending a lot of time with him, with our staff, with the family and then him coming out here to LA. Then it all became very clear.”
How tough it is to deal with sanctions like USC had to deal with and like Penn State will be facing:
“It’s not an easy situation. You basically have to re-recruit your players already on your roster and we had just gotten here much like Penn State is going through so we didn’t know all kids. We hadn’t recruited the kids here and we got hit with sanctions and had to basically re-recruit them which is what Penn State has to go through too.”
If he felt Matt Barkley was going to return to USC:
“I had a feeling. He was having so much fun and was part of such a special team. With a bunch of those guys coming back especially on offense for him I think that he was swaying that way. He went back and forth.”
How involved he is in recruiting:
“I would say that I’m very heavily involved in it. I don’t know any other way to do it. I think as a head coach you better get to know everybody around the situation because you’re the head coach. At the end of the day they’re coming to play for you so I would consider myself very hands on.”
Whether the team talks about the chance to win a championship:
“We don’t talk about championships or what bowl game or any of that stuff because that doesn’t do any good. We have a long ways to go so we simply talk about preparing well every day and then once we get to games playing extremely well in that game, on that day.”