“Fire Lane” movement brings out fans’ worst

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.

Poor taste · Flyers advocating for USC head coach Lane Kiffin’s dismissal paint an unflattering picture of fans’ and students’ loyalty. - Nick Selbe | Daily Trojan

Poor taste · Flyers advocating for USC head coach Lane Kiffin’s dismissal paint an unflattering picture of fans’ and students’ loyalty. – Nick Selbe | Daily Trojan

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 nselbe@usc.edu or visit dailytrojan.com.

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13 replies
  1. Bill
    Bill says:

    I’m sorry, but those who disdain booing can only be part of the “everyone gets a trophy” crowd. Not everyone wins – ask the team – and coaches are hired – and fired – for winning, plain and simple

  2. Mark
    Mark says:

    Couldn’t agree less. Kiffin hasn’t been doing his job, and needs to get sacked.

    This situation would be very different if we didn’t have the talent. The season thus far could then be explained as the unfortunate result of a small pool to pick from. That’s not the reality of it, though. We’ve got Marqise Lee, Silas Redd, Su’a Cravens, Nelson Agholor, etc. Kessler was ranked as the second best pro-style quarterback recruit in his class by Rivals.com, and many of the other players boast similar national rankings. Come on.

    Fact of the matter is, Kiffin isn’t doing the job he’s getting paid a lot of money to do ($2,400,000 annually). Sure – losses are expected to some degree – but to Washington State? Please.

    Fire Kiffin, Fight On.

  3. Bill N
    Bill N says:

    Agree with you. I’m embarrassed to be a USC fan due to the booing and Fire Lane chants. I have been a fan for over 50 years and have 2 degrees from USC. I have seen lots of good and some bad from USC football teams over the years, but I have always supported the players and coaches and will continue to do so. I do believe these negative public messages are not helping either the team or recruiting process. The only person that can do something about the fans displeasure with the coaching is Pat Haden and his email is well known. It would seem to make a lot more sense to let him know what you think then embarrassing the team at a home game.

    Fight On!

  4. FTFOAlum
    FTFOAlum says:

    Maybe we should clap the fans off the field tell Lane better luck next time and oh shucks thats sports! Well that’s not how the Trojans I know respond! Messages need to be sent we are talking about the national representation of the university and millions of dollars at stake. The only one who should be embarrassed by this is the AD, the coach, and the team.

  5. FTFOAlum
    FTFOAlum says:

    I could not disagree more. The actions of Lane Kiffin since he has been head coach have hardly reflected the glorious respected and feared nature of the Trojan program. Whether it is deflating balls, not responding to the media, poor play calling, or not picking a QB he has not even come close to representing the university, alumni, students, or its’ heritage. You people need to realize that this is USC football this is what this school prides itself on, and a message needs to be sent to Pat Haden. If you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen, Kiffin has had his hand held through all of this excuses constantly made and he has been baby-ed. If this doesn’t light a fire on his ass and rebound whatever this season can come to then nothing will good riddens. Again this is USC football this is what he signed up for what he gets paid millions of dollars for, he doesn’t need any more excuses he needs to be pressed and then thrown out. I’m surprised he isn’t getting shelled with food and drink as he leaves the stadium this is embarrassing. This isn’t going too far its a bunch of signs and booing it could be way worse and if this were and SEC school you wouldn’t think twice about this behavior… Football is a tough sport tough crap if his feelings were hurt or it was disrespectful how do you think all USC fans feel- disrespected, embarrassed, having loyalty issues with their AD and coach?

  6. 17 NCs
    17 NCs says:

    I don’t condone booing or the chanting at a game, but we all have the right to our opinions sorry if that doesn’t jive with your’s, but then again I played football so I know how it feels to lose.
    I’ve never booed or chanted negatively at a game, but I sure as hell got angry, especially when you consider or program’s proud history.

  7. Luke Phillips
    Luke Phillips says:

    Nick, I’m with you completely on this one. Those calling for Lane’s exit think themselves righteous, and in their self-righteous display they degrade themselves to baboons unworthy of their title. It may be time for the university to install bread-showers in the Coliseum. Certainly the time of responsible fandom and true Trojan Pride appears to be, at best, in retreat.

  8. Linda Smith
    Linda Smith says:

    Actually, YOU don’t get it! Did Lane leave with the sanctions? I can’t think of another coach including Saint Pete that could have managed this NCAA debacle. We are all entitled to our opinions but the players and recruits on the sidelines don’t know WHO you all are booing. They feel they have let us all down and I know for a fact that three players didn’t want to go to class on Monday not knowing what they would face. GET A GRIP. Do not embarass this university in public. Do not embarass yourself in public. Everyone else loves when we feed upon ourselves. If you think this is such a plum prime job opportunity, you are delusional. We will be rebuilding for another 2 years. Support our players. They are warriors.

  9. 17 NCs
    17 NCs says:

    You are wrong on two counts; he is not a Trojan, he never played for us. He is a Yankee traitor.
    And most importantly, it is not his team.
    It is the team of the alumni and the students.
    And if they want a new coach, they have the glorious right as Trojans, to ask for one.

  10. FightOn
    FightOn says:

    No, Nick doesn’t get it, Russell. He doesn’t get people like you; fair weather fans. As long as he is our head of coach, he deserves your loyalty. Period. Anyone can be loyal when things are going well, but that’s not when loyalty is tested. The true test of a man’s character is how he acts in the face of adversity. It’s those who show resilience in the most hopeless of times who ultimately come out on top. It’s moments like this that put Fight On to the test. This is what Fight On is all about. A well written article–one that all Trojans could benefit from reading in this trying time.

  11. Skylarr
    Skylarr says:

    It is okay to ask or demand for the coach to be fired but NOT booing and doing the stupid chants AT the coliseum WHILE the team are playing.

    Think about the young athletes laying their hearts out on the field. They could use our support.

    Think about the recruits on the sideline. They need to know we are with them through thick and thin.

    Create and sign a petition, buy a billboard, held a meeting with Pat Haden, do whatever you feel are needed but please don’t add to the problem by not giving our team a chance to win while the team is playing at the Coliseum.

    Be a first-class fan. Be a Trojan!

  12. Russell
    Russell says:

    Wow does Nick not get it.

    As a proud alumni I’ve never been embarrassed by anything about USC. I wear Trojan pride on my sleeve. Some of my earliest memories are watching Rose Bowls in the early 1970s with my parents.

    Rolling over for the NCAA wounded me. When the FBI finds no evidence of wrong doing you fight.

    But never till a championship was tossed and talent wasted did I ever question our athletic heritage. Lst season changed that. I remember Ted Tollner, I went to school during the Larry Smith years (and bad as they were Smith took his first three Trojan team to the Rose Bowl). Kiffin changed that, he is the problem, not the sanctions, not players that are arguably in the top 3 in the sport. In 2013 and were tops in 2012.

    With options from Jon Gruden to Jeff Fisher to Jack Del Rio and others, and one of the 4 top jobs in all of college athletics ere is no excuse to settle for mediocrity let alone awful. The chants started to late, Pat Hayden is ignoring his own heritage and needs to act or he needs to go to.

    I say let the chants continue, let them be so loud that Max steps in if the AD won’t. Wear bags over your heads for this weeks impending loss to Boston College.

    Let USC reclaim its rightful place as the sports premier program and end the SEC/NCAA $ driven hegemony.

    The problem isn’t the chant it’s that it took so long and is still far to quiet.


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