The end for Lane Kiffin came in the middle of the night at the airport, as his team sped off into the darkness without him.
There's little sentiment left anywhere in college football, but give USC athletic director Pat Haden some credit. At least he didn't offer Kiffin a blindfold and one last cigarette before disposing of him like yesterday's trash.
Not that anyone in Southern California is feeling terribly sorry for Kiffin, who never seemed able to connect in any meaningful way with the alumni who were calling for his firing or the media who were simply trying to cover a football team. Football coaches are paranoid by nature, but Kiffin took it to new levels as his team collapsed around him.
He was supposed to not only be Pete Carroll's successor but his match as a coach and big-time recruiter, someone who would keep the Trojans a national powerhouse. He turned out to be neither, but it's not as if USC didn't have a warning.
This was a guy so eager to get to USC that he fled Tennessee after 1 year, prompting students to burn t-shirts with his name and angering players, who screamed at him that he was a traitor. The same guy, you might remember, who thought he could teach the late Al Davis a thing or two about football when hired by the Oakland Raiders as the youngest head coach in the NFL's modern era.
Somehow, USC was fooled into thinking he really was a coaching Boy Wonder. Instead, all the school got for its millions was Boy Blunder.
Kiffin should have been gone after last season, which the Trojans opened as the No. 1 team in the country only to stumble to a 7-6 season. He had to go early Sunday morning after USC and its once vaunted defense were pushed around the field in an embarrassing 62-41 loss at Arizona State.
Give Haden credit for finally recognizing that, even if Kiffin had to be told his fate at 3 in the morning in a small room at Los Angeles International Airport. Haden said Sunday he saw things beginning to go bad early in the season, but withheld judgment until the debacle in Arizona convinced him things were not going to magically get better.
"I fully supported Lane Kiffin 100 percent until last night," said Haden, who assumed his job from Mike Garrett, the man who hired Kiffin in 2010.
Haden said Kiffin pleaded with him for 45 minutes to keep his job, but to no avail. Fitting justice, Tennessee fans surely believe, for a coach that thought so little of his job there that he paid $800,000 to get out of his contract after only 1 year to return to USC, where he got his start as tight ends coach under Carroll.