Auburn’s Cam Newton might be guilty of something – most likely, trying to earn a somewhat honest living from his athletic skills – but it reminds me that folks like Pete Carroll and Lane Kiffin are guilty of a lot more.
How can one begrudge Newton’s family the chance – maybe their only chance – to cash in on a system that brings in millions exploiting their son? Meanwhile, those in charge, like Carroll and Kiffin, drive off with carloads of cash supervising the perpetual sham.
I bring up Carroll and Kiffin because they are lawlessly linked at USC, which – looking at its history of running a rogue program – essentially is a Southeastern Conference school in disguise.
(The SEC operates by a single canon: Win at all costs, but don’t get caught. SEC coaches go deer hunting in the morning and call it sport, then they pay running backs under the table in the afternoon and call it amateur sport.)
College football is a maze of impropriety, symbolized best by the roads to and from USC taken by Carroll and Kiffin.
They know rules are being broken – they might be bad rules, but you’re supposed to play by them – and they keep taking the money and running to the bank, sometimes a first down or two ahead of NCAA enforcers.
Carroll is a see-no-evil/hear-no-evil devil of a coach. From high atop his gold-plated ivory tower at Southern Cal, it was all roses and no thorns. Heck, he barely knew Reggie Bush (or O.J. Mayo) was on campus.
At USC, Carroll lorded over a renegade operation. He left Los Angeles steps beyond the long, crooked arm of the NCAA law, off to a purer form of professional football, where he likely will fail for a third time.
(Carroll’s pretty much of a .500 coach in the NFL and an .800 coach in college, where he didn’t have to worry about the salary cap.)
Out went Carroll, in came Kiffin, who believes in swagger and swag.
Who is Lane Kiffin? He’s just a guy with a loud whistle and a sassy strut.
Kiffin is basically Kato Kaelin with a headset; if his coaching father didn’t gift him the keys to a football life, he’d be living in someone’s guesthouse.
At age 31, Kiffin somehow became an NFL head coach, going 5-15 with the Oakland Raiders. That success led Tennessee to scoop him up, where, in one season, he went 7-6 with several NCAA violations. So, naturally, he now is head coach at Southern Cal, perhaps the nation’s leading institution of higher football.
Kiffin, of course – like so many non-educators before him – has no business on college grounds. His only business is winning football games; he couldn’t find the campus library if you put it in his playbook. Lane Kiffin and higher learning are mutually exclusive; on the other hand, Lane Kiffin and higher earning are fast friends – USC is paying him $4 million to run the show and his father, Monte, $2 million to run the defense.
(That’s a father-and-son combo bringing home six large a year. Not a bad family business, considering the CEO has little experience running anything other than his mouth.)
Kiffin has a bachelor’s degree from Fresno State in leisure service management, which qualifies him to stick the umbrella in the Mai Tais at Club Med.
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.
On his best days, he lies; on his worst days, he cheats. He’s good at both.
If Kiffin were a parking valet, I wouldn’t trust him with the keys to my car.
Kiffin – Carroll’s one-time assistant at USC – appropriately now has to bear the burden of Carroll’s wink-wink tenure. The Trojans are banned from bowl games for two seasons and have lost 30 scholarships over three years.
But Kiffin might survive, even thrive. Earlier this year, a 13-year-old quarterback from Bear, Del. – a seventh-grader – verbally committed to Kiffin to attend USC. Frankly, I hope the kid got a better deal than Cam Newton.
Ask The Slouch
Q. Rupert Murdoch, Adnan Khashoggi, Craig McCaw, Michael Jordan, Charles Edgar Fipke, Neil Diamond, Harrison Ford, Greg Norman and Tiger Woods all had divorce agreements exceeding $100 million. Was it your long-term strategy to avoid such huge settlements by dividing your wealth across as many participants as possible? (Randy McDaniel; Vienna, Va.)
A. Shirley, let’s start running a security check on readers before we let them into the column area.
Q. Is it true the American people sent Barack Obama to Washington so the Redskins’ Daniel Snyder wasn’t the only one there spending money foolishly? (Randy Palmer; Random Lake, Wis.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
Q. Is it true Jerry Jones is taking out a reverse mortgage on Cowboys Stadium? (C.J. Erdman; Naples, Fla.)
A. I believe Wade Phillips is now in charge of that.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.