It couldn’t be ignored.
Most of the time, when the home team suffers an upset loss, they say you can hear a pin drop in the stands because the crowd is in such stunned silence.
When the clock struck zero on Saturday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, however, this was not the case. If a pin did in fact drop, no one heard it. No one could hear much of anything, really, except for the deafening chant:
“Fire Kiffin! Fire Kiffin!”
It rang throughout the entire stadium as Lane Kiffin’s Trojans stunningly, embarrassingly and, for the most part, lifelessly fell at the hands of Washington State. People outside the stadium could hear it. Those watching on television or listening on the radio could hear it. USC players heard it.
And Kiffin himself definitely heard it.
After the loss, Kiffin joked that the chants and the boos were beneficial in that they helped his team get used to playing on the road. Could you blame him if the sound of 70,000 people passionately voicing their disapproval of his job performance didn’t quite feel like home?
Or how about the fact that the morning after the loss, the USC campus was plastered with fliers that read “No Parking: Fire Lane”? And that those fliers even made their way onto Tommy Trojan, the most sacred of all USC landmarks?
Would that feel like home to you?
Kiffin and his team, particularly his offense, which performed woefully against a less-than-stellar Cougars defense, have a lot to answer for and even more to improve upon. I find it extremely unlikely that USC can win a game, much less keep a game close for that matter, if the offense fails as miserably as it did on Saturday night again this season.
Kiffin’s playcalling was questionable, and who knows if his reluctance to pick a starting quarterback and stick with him factored into the offense’s ineptitude.
But that’s a discussion for another time.
What’s so disheartening about the chants and the fliers is that, to some degree at least, USC students are responsible for them. I am not saying that students started the chants or posted the fliers, because I do not know that to be true. But some students, at least, participated in the chants. And it would take much more of a commitment to print out hundreds of copies of fliers at home and drive to USC than it would to stroll out of your dorm room and make copies at Doheny.
Nevertheless, however many students were behind the #FireKiffin movement, it’s too many.
As Trojans, we’re easy targets. Either we go to the University of Spoiled Children, have a condom brand as our mascot or we have the most corrupt athletic program in the history of college sports. When it comes to insults, we’ve heard ‘em all.
But through all the taunts, we keep our heads up. We explain that, no, we’re not holding up two fingers because we’re second best, or because we’re part of a Vietnam War protest. We do it as a “V” for victory. Because, when adversity hits, we Fight On.
Or at least we’re supposed to.
With all the vitriol being launched Kiffin’s way, though, I’m starting to wonder if “Fight On” is actually our credo or just something we say or put on a T-shirt. For better or worse, Lane Kiffin is our head coach. He is a Trojan. Even if he were the worst playcaller in the history of college football, nobody deserves that kind of treatment, and certainly not from his own team’s fans.
I like to think of myself as a positive person, but even I had nothing good to say after Saturday’s game. That’s how bad the Trojans were, and that is a reflection of the head coach. Losing to Washington State at home is unacceptable, and I understand the students’ and fans’ frustrations. Those who believe he should be fired are absolutely entitled to think that way.
But no one deserves to be called out, literally, the way Kiffin has been these past few days. And I realize that I’ve said some pretty sappy things in this column (“When adversity hits, we Fight On”? Come on), but seeing “Fire Lane” fliers defacing Tommy Trojan and hearing the Coliseum crowd turn on its team’s leader just really gets under my skin.
Saturday’s game was my first time as a student not watching a home game from the student section. As the team took the field for the first time, I watched from the press box and wished I could transport myself to Section 25 and be a part of the rowdy group.
As the game ended, though, and the chants began, for once I was thankful to be clear on the other side of the stadium.
“Inside the 20s” runs on Tuesdays. To comment on this story, email Nick at email@example.com or visit dailytrojan.com.