With Pac-12 Media Day on Friday, USC athletic director Pat Haden answered the question he knows will be on everybody's minds before anybody could ask it: Lane Kiffin is not on the hot seat.
Haden appears in a video released Thursday night by USC Athletics on YouTube, starting out by discussing the school's plans to renovate the LA Coliseum, and praising the team's running back depth and the coaching staff's ability to work with inexperienced quarterbacks.
But after the rah-rah pep talk, he gets to the hot topic: Lane Kiffin's job status.
"In closing, I anticipate the media will ask me if our football coach is on the hot seat this year. Here is my answer and will be my answer whenever I am asked: He is not. I am behind Lane Kiffin 100 percent. I have great confidence in him. He's a very hard-working, detail-oriented coach. He's a dynamic play-caller in my estimation, and he's an exceptional recruiter. He knows USC and he knows what it takes to be successful this year ...
I understand that many people will judge a coach by the win-loss record. But as athletic director, I must look not only at that, but at a lot of other things that are important to us at USC. There are many factors, including academics, NCAA compliance, community engagement, the character of his players and off-field issues. Lane Kiffin gets high marks in all of those areas. All of those things, including winning, are important to us."
Haden proceeded to say that although the sanctions limiting USC to 70 scholarships were a burden, they weren't an excuse, and cited his disappointment with the finish of last season. But he closed by saying he was impressed with Kiffin's 25 wins across three years, and that he believes this year's team can compete for a Pac-12 South title.
Here's the full video:
The one-time USC quarterback has been firm with his support of Kiffin: last November, he said that Kiffin would be USC's coach "hopefully for a long time," and in January, he said that "the sky was not falling" with regard to USC football. But his Friday statement was his broadest and most firm endorsement of the job Kiffin has done at USC, although he might reconsider if Kiffin's 2013 season is once again below USC standards.