Who’s unethical: USC Trojans coach Lane Kiffin or the Washington Post?

When the newspaper says you’re a cheater, a womanizer, and only got your job because of your father’s influence you must be a pretty bad person, right? Well, maybe not if it’s the Washington Post making the accusations.

The Post’s Norman Chad wrote these things last Sunday, in a piece headed “USC’s Kiffin and Carroll are the best – at circumventing the rules.”

It’s true that last year, as head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers, Kiffin broke some rules that the NCAA called secondary violations with no penalties, mainly speaking disparagingly of Southeastern Conference rivals. It’s also true that the USC football program was sanctioned by the NCAA because star running back Reggie Bush’s parents accepted gifts from an agent looking to buy influence with Reggie. No suggestion, however, was made by the NCAA investigation that coach Pete Carroll had even a hint of the payoffs—the charge was that the school’s policing of the rules was inadequate.

The Post calls USC football a rogue program. Far from it: to make up for its failure to learn about the Bush pere payola, USC has hired a new athletic director, the squeaky-clean Pat Haden, and appointed a university vice president for compliance. An example of USC’s dedication to compliance: the Trojans’ suspended their hot-shot running back, freshman Dillon Baxter, for the Oregon State game (which the Trojans lost) for accepting a campus ride on a golf cart that was driven by a student who—unknown to Baxter—was a part-time sports agent. Baxter was reinstated only after making a donation to charity of five dollars—the imputed value of the illicit ride.

There’s no reason to think that either Kiffin or Carroll is a cheater. This column has been very critical of Carroll for teaching unsportsmanlike conduct, especially taunting, excessive on-field celebrations after key plays, and running up the score against beaten opponents. But never a hint of cheating.

Kiffin deserves praise for putting an end to the taunting and celebrating. It’s refreshing to see—over and over—Trojan players who are on an emotional high for just having scored a touchdown, gently handing the ball to the nearest official. Typical was the answer that freshman receiver Robert Woods gave when asked after scoring his first TD why he did that: “Coach says to do it that way.”

As far as Kiffin getting the head coaching job because of his father, the Post has it just backwards. When Lane was hired to coach the Oakland Raiders, and then the Tennessee Volunteers, his father was defensive coordinator for the Tampa bay Bucaneers. When Lane went to Tennessee he hired his father  as an assistant, not vice versa.

Perhaps the ugliest Post accusation about Kiffin was this: “He specializes in high-scoring offensive schemes and high-scoring recruiting hostesses; the man is equally adept at judging a strong throwing arm and a nice set of legs.” That may have derived from stories about the photo at the top of this article. It was the subject of lots of blogs about Kiffin (in the white shirt) hanging with coeds. Eventually the blond “coed” was identified: she’s Layla Kiffin, the coach’s wife. Searching the internet for more substantiation, there was nothing in any legitimate media, only a bunch of blogs that seemed to get their information from this post:

“Wow…there is a ton of shit out there on the message boards. Not saying that any of this is true, but here are some of the things I’ve seen going around:
“Cocaine (Lane and Ed O), DUIs, hot tubs, recruiting hostesses, multiple affairs by Lane, multiple affairs by Layla, a drunken car wreck with co-eds in the vehicle and Hamilton coming and picking him up, coverups by KCPD, coverups by KCAG, TMZ in Knoxvegas collecting dirt

“As I said, no idea if any of this is true. Just spreading internet rumors because it’s fun…”

Maybe that’s what the Washington Post is up to: Just spreading internet rumors because it’s fun…

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