Kiffin understands his image is tied directly to his record.
"Winning hides a lot of problems and losing creates a lot of problems," he said. "Somebody was saying to me, man this year you really had a lot of screw ups. Seems like you really matured two years ago and then you regressed and fell back.
"I said 'No, I didn't all of sudden regress.' I said we went 10-2, but nobody wrote at the end of the year about the fact that I got fined in the middle of year $10,000 from the commissioner for complaining about officials. We beat UCLA 50-0 to end the season, nobody ever wrote about Kiffin's screw ups during the season, what a baby he is complaining about officials.
"But (when) you lose this year, now all of sudden — the balls being deflated, which I knew nothing about at all, that's still being written about. People still bring it up about what a bad season I had, and how I regressed. But if we would have won all the games, won 11, 12, 13 games, it wouldn't have come up later or been written about my immaturity. When you lose things get magnified like that."
Kiffin said he often wonders how his career would have played out if it had taken a more typical trajectory. If he had endured his growing pains without so many people watching.
The result is a coaching career that can be measured in dog years. It's as if Kiffin has already coached a lifetime. So if and when the end comes at USC, he's ready.
"Whether they fire me tomorrow or if I'm here 15 years," he said with a smile, "I'm retiring either way."
Follow Ralph D. Russo at Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
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