USC football coach Lane Kiffin got fired — on a Sunday, even. No one was shocked, I suppose. Well, Kiffin might’ve been.
I’ve got some experience here, being fired anyway.
I work in Utah Valley’s telemarketing industry and have been since I got out of the Army in 1990. No one lasts more than a week in telemarketing. I’ve been escorted so many times, I bring a packing box to training just in case.
Worse than being fired over the phone, Kiffin got fired during the commute. USC doesn’t have the patience of old rotary-phone call centers that don’t invest in computers, just phone books.
Billy Witz of the New York Times writes: “Kiffin was called off the team bus that was preparing to head to campus from Los Angeles International Airport and taken to a small room inside the terminal where Haden told Kiffin he was being dismissed.” "Being dismissed" is code for "you're fired." Kiffin was in the parking lot when the security thugs showed up with cardboard boxes. Sounds a little unethical.
It isn’t, if your sports program is as ethical as a 1990s long-distance sales-center selling AT&T, MCI and Sprint by the same people in the same building repeating the same list over and over.
USC isn’t even this ethical.
After Pete Carroll “departed,” USC’s football program didn’t change all that much, even after losing 30 scholarships. Bill Plaschke at the Los Angeles Times lists “deflated footballs, switched jersey numbers, rotating quarterbacks” and gobs of other trite coaching behavior. For USC Athletic Director Pat Haden, this was just too much. That, and USC wasn’t winning enough.
Honestly, I want to help. I’ve been fired enough I know what to do next. Accept what happened. Kiffin, you just got fired.
The second thing to do is leave the shame of being fired behind. I’m good at it. There really is no shame in being fired from a call center. The same is true for football coaches. Even if you should have coached badminton instead.
Not everything is Kiffin’s fault. Some stuff is Kiffin's fault: traffic on I-10 in L.A.; Jeremy Clarkson’s hair; the missing Hanukkah decorations at Hobby Lobby, and the seemingly paused global warming. Even though not all the world’s problems are Kiffin’s, knowing why one is fired is important. His biggest problem is hubris in a zero-sum industry.
The most important metric in the Pac-12 is winning. Because USC has traditionally been at the top of the conference, it has to beat all its rivals. Losing to Arizona State is not allowed.
Kiffin’s 28-15 four-year record would be fine in another conference, like the WAC or the Mountain West Conference. Kiffin could have cheated on the same scale as Carroll and USC would not have fired him — until the NCAA forced them to — if he were winning.
The next point in the job search is to be honest during the job interview. Kiffin should not try being dishonest. A future employer just might do some investigating. Telemarketing companies would have fired Kiffin. Telemarketers don’t mind ego. Telemarketers simply want all their metrics met: good customer service, good sales numbers and honesty.
Michael Rosenberg at Sports Illustrated says dishonesty is the reason the Oakland Raiders fired Kiffin on top of bad customer service skills, poor ticket sales and by being rude to just about everyone.
Kiffin should consider changing industries, because football is not a good match. Fortunately, he doesn’t live in Provo where the only available jobs are in telephone sales. I have heard there are a few multi-level marketing firms here, however.
Kiffin can shift into other industries. He lives in Southern California. Ego and good-looks go a long way down there. He could be a movie director, an actor or a real estate agent. He could run for Congress. Hubris, arrogance, creative-honesty and poor PR seems to work in Washington.
Kiffin could make the natural jump and move to television. The problem is he will end up at Fox or maybe ESPN. The last thing college football needs is another television coach who doesn’t know what he is talking about. The good news is no one likes him. The media loves kicking him around. He’ll probably make his move, however, after Texas football coach Mack Brown gets fired sometime next month.
Kiffin will find work again. The bad news is it most likely be in football.
Again. Kiffin might even find work as a head coach. No matter how many times telemarketing fires me, I always find another call center job. Like college football, there is a lot of turnover in the call center industry. The only requirement in call center employment is breathing. College football has a one or two more requirements. Unfortunately, there will be some team someplace that will hire him. Maybe the EFL's Belfast Trojans are looking for a new coach. He could then keep the hat.
Aaron Guile lives in Provo and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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