Lane Kiffin: 'I can relate' to Clay Helton firing at USC
Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin has a soft spot for USC head coach Clay Helton’s situation. After all, he was once in an eerily similar position.
“I feel for Clay,” Kiffin said during Wednesday’s SEC coaches teleconference. “Clay’s a great person, I think everybody knows that. I can relate to getting fired early in the year, both from there and just in general. For him to be fired after two games, it’s a long season to sit around. So I feel for him. That’s about all I’ve got on that.”
In September 2013, Kiffin was infamously fired from the head coaching job at USC at a private airport in Los Angeles returning from a 62-41 loss to Arizona State.
The incident is now referred to as the “tarmac firing” among college football fans, although Kiffin has said he was not actually on the tarmac when then-USC athletic director Pat Haden ended his time at the helm.
Kiffin played college football at Fresno State and had said before that USC was his dream job. When they let him go, USC was 3-2 to start Kiffin’s fourth season.
In his first two years from 2010-2011, the Trojans went 18-7 but were banned from the postseason for NCAA violations under previous head coach Pete Carroll. In 2012, USC entered the season ranked No. 1 in the nation and went 7-6 with a Sun Bowl loss.
Helton’s .657 winning percentage at USC was just barely above Kiffin’s .651, proving that the USC job is one of the most difficult in the country to keep. Helton went 46-24 there, and the Trojans entered their Saturday night game ranked No. 15 in the country. What a stark difference 48 hours can make.
Kiffin has had one of the more intriguing head coaching paths
Lane Kiffin’s first head coaching job was not at the college level.
After 10 years as an assistant coach with Fresno State, Colorado State, the Jacksonville Jaguars and USC, 31-year-old Lane Kiffin became the head coach of the Oakland Raiders in 2007. He was the youngest head coach in the “modern era” of the NFL dating back to 1946.
After he went 4-12 in his first season, Raiders owner Al Davis reportedly asked him to resign but to no avail. Kiffin was fired early in the 2008 season.
A few months later, Kiffin was hired as the head coach at
. He went 7-6 in one year, and left for USC following the announcement that Carroll would go to the Seattle Seahawks.
After his USC tenure, Kiffin headed Alabama to work under Nick Saban as offensive coordinator in 2014, and helped win a national championship with the team in 2015.
In December 2016, Kiffin accepted an offer to become the next head coach at Florida Atlantic. He was going to stay and coach Alabama in the national championship game, but he was let go early over a reported disagreement.
Kiffin went 27-13 in three years in Boca Raton and moved over to Ole Miss in 2020. He went 5-5 in his first year with Ole Miss against an all-SEC schedule, and he produced one of the nation’s best offenses.