Hang him by his thumbs! | ParkRecord.com

Hang him by his thumbs!

Jay Meehan, Park Record columnist

In a way, when it comes to my favorite sports teams, I’m a forgiving sort, and, to a point, relatively patient. My axiom has always been: If I like the coach or manager of a team I follow, I can put up with the team’s various underachievements. But if I don’t like the guy running the outfit, I don’t cut him much slack.

A couple of current examples are the University of Utah and University of Southern California football programs, each a member of the Southern Division of the Pac-12 conference. Being a big fan of both, I very much looked forward to the start of this season. I figured they would battle it out for division title.

Alas! It was not to be! Utah faltered early, but the Trojans’ fall from grace seemed much more precipitous. They had been anointed No. 1 in the land going into the season, but none of their longtime fans truly believed the hype. As they had so often done in the past, we sensed they would find a way to come up short.

Their problem is, other than serving out a probation mandating 10 fewer scholarships per year than their peers, that they’re dumber than a bag of hammers. Given the option, they continually choose untimely turnovers and penalties in lieu of focused execution of the playbook.

Over this troubled season, they’ve gone from being a feared opponent to one whom others can’t wait to take on. And whether or not it has any solid validity behind it, I lay the entire blame on the doorstep of head coach Lane Kiffin. The buck stops there. If we didn’t know it before last Saturday, we certainly got a good grip on the situation then.

Even worse than experiencing a drubbing at the hands of hated rival UCLA was the one-word post-game comment by Athletic Director Pat Haden. The only silver lining USC fans could take away from the embarrassing loss related to the fact that the resident coach just had to lose his job over his handling of this latest fiasco.

But, when asked if he’d be back coaching the Trojans next year, Lane assured the sportswriter making the inquiry that indeed he would be at the helm of the good ship Pitiful come 2013. The reporter couldn’t believe his ears of course, expecting that if Kiffin wouldn’t fall on a knife of his own volition, then certainly Pat Haden, who had been brought onboard to clean up the program, would administer the hemlock.

But no! Kiffin went so far as to cite Haden as the source of his confidence. Apparently the dimwit had been assured that his tenure with the team did not relate to its win-loss record. The reporter tweeted the A.D. and asked point blank whether this astonishing set of circumstances could possibly be true, then awaited Haden’s refutation of what had to be another one of Kiffin’s fairytales.

The reply was both instantaneous and heartbreaking to the vast majority of Trojan nation. "Absolutely," it screamed! This one-word haiku proved devastating to those of us who have wanted Kiffin’s head on a platter going back to a call he made from the booth as offensive coordinator for USC during the BCS championship game of 2006.

Facing a 4th-down and 2-yards-to-go situation against the Texas Longhorns, Kiffen called for a run straight up the gut by burly Trojan running back Lendale White.

Now that call might have been OK had our boy Lane had just given the Texas defensive coordinator something else to chew on when running through his defensive options. But no! With Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush on the sideline, where he couldn’t even be used as a decoy, Kiffin sent White into the valley of death where he confronted a wall of humanity not unlike that faced by Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg the proverbial "immoveable object," as it were.

Ol’ Lendale had about as much chance at success as a snowball in hell. They stuffed him into the ground short of the virtual first-down line on the TV screen and that was all she wrote. Texas quarterback Vince Young made it look easy from there on, sailing into the end zone on his own 4th-down play before the clock ran out.

Say it ain’t so, Joe! What’s up with the alumni? Can’t they put a little pressure on Haden to change his mind and send Kiffin packing by withholding sufficient shekels from the good-ol’-boy slush fund? Money has never had a problem getting its way in those hallowed halls previously. Maybe we can get the FBI to investigate his emails.

What about the Utah Utes coach, you ask? Well, I like him. A lot. Kyle Whittingham is my kind of guy. I don’t want him to go anywhere. He’ll have some pressure on him to right the ship, all right, but he can do it. First of all, he ain’t dumber than a bag of hammers.

Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.