Yesterday afternoon's much-hyped grudge match between USC and UCLA went in the Bruins' favor immediately, and for good; the score was 24-0 midway through the second quarter, and, despite a spirited comeback to bring the Trojans within three, UCLA won by 10. The Bruins have the better record in the Pac-12 South, and will at the end of the regular season no matter what happens next week.
At a school with as rich a football history as USC, any high-profile and highly paid coach is going to have to do some explaining when their crosstown little brother thumps them in a late-season match-up. So it was especially galling for Trojan fans when tweets started coming out of L.A. saying that Kiffin ducked the media and left through the visitor's locker room emergency exit last night. (We even saw one saying he'd set off alarms in the process, but it's been deleted.) It fit perfectly into the well-established narrative that Kiffin lacks the dynamism to coach such a storied program, the integrity to lead young men, and the perspective to learn from defeat. From what we can tell, this is the report that got things rolling:
Lane Kiffin escaped the road locker room after the loss to UCLA through an emergency exit, school employees said— Pedro Moura (@PedroMoura) November 18, 2012
From that point on, there was no reasoning with the mob:
All class. RT @pedromoura: Lane Kiffin escaped the road lockerroom after loss to UCLA through emergency exit.— Eleven Warriors (@11W) November 18, 2012
What a... RT @pedromoura: Lane Kiffin escaped the road locker room after the loss to UCLA through an emergency exit, school employees said— Taylor Zarzour (@TaylorZRadio) November 18, 2012
"Lane Kiffin escaped the road locker room after the loss to UCLA through an emergency exit, school employees said”....What a pussy #manup— Scott hitchcock (@OMGItsScott) November 18, 2012
Heard Lane Kiffin escaped media through an emergency exit at Rose Bowl today. I'm willing to bet he gets canned. Worst-coached team in NCAA— David Lombardi (@davidmlombardi) November 18, 2012
Lane = Arrogant RT @ben_jones88: Lane Kiffin ran out an emergency exit to avoid reporters? I guess he hasn't fixed that deflation problem.— Ryan Lance (@rlance7) November 18, 2012
Bill Snyder after loss "I accept the responsibility." Lane Kiffin after loss: snuck out emergency exit in locker room.— WagerMinds (@WagerMinds) November 18, 2012
Lane Kiffin went through an emergency door to duck the media. He is a first class do do head wussy.— Jim Adams (@mojorizn1) November 18, 2012
Les Miles gives you a must see speech, Lane Kiffin ducks out a side door after loss # 4. That's why each is viewed the way he is.— Scott Van Pelt (@notthefakeSVP) November 18, 2012
There's a lot more like that out there; the Scott Van Pelt summation has been retweeted 869 times as of this writing, the original Pedro Moura report 252 times. And yet, here's Lane Kiffin's post-game presser, suggesting that he did, in fact, talk to the media:
He takes blame, and gives credit to his opposition and his players. It's not masterpiece theater, but he had just lost. Pedro Moura later clarified his original report, but the clarification still used words like "retreat," and "abnormal" to describe the way Kiffin left after the game, and hardly anyone retweeted those.
Who cares which exit he took? What do we learn from this? Nothing. It's just meant to confirm previously formed opinions and fit expectations. There's generally little reason to defend Lane Kiffin, who is demonstrably a lot of the bad things people say about him. This, however, is a relative of the basest types of media manipulation, stoking already burning fires with tricky phrasing and the selective use of facts. Lane Kiffin couldn't face the media last night! What a chickenshit! Except for the seven minutes right after the game, when he answered tough questions, calmly and professionally.
It would have been a great story if he fled the way it sounded like he had—so symbolic, so perfectly Kiffin—but sometimes facts get in the way. Oh well. It should soothe everyone who revels in Kiffin's defeats that he's coming back to coach the Trojans next year.