Nov 16, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans coach Ed Orgeron celebrates with fans at the end of the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC defeated Stanford 20-17. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Orgeron Not Long-Term Solution At USC


USC’s upset win over Stanford did more than shake up the Pac-12 conference championship picture.

It sparked a revolution on the Southern Cal campus.

The primary mission: Get the “interim” tag removed from Ed Orgeron’s coaching status.

Doing so, though, would be trying to turn a summer fling with someone from far out of town into something more.

Fans and media alike seem to join the movement on a daily basis. It’s easy to see why.

Orgeron represented a new day when he took over for Lane Kiffin early this season. “New” doesn’t always mean “better.” In replacing the insufferable Kiffin, however, it absolutely meant better.

Since USC AD Pat Haden made the decision to fire Kiffin following a humiliating blowout loss at Arizona State, the Trojans have bounced back to win five of six. They even enter the final two weeks of the regular season with a chance to win the Pac-12 South – something thought to be impossible earlier.

USC returning to its customary winning ways alone hasn’t made Orgeron a hit with players, fans and media alike. The Cajun coach with a nearly incomprehensible accent connects with people on a fascinating level. He exudes a level of energy that players try to match. He speaks with such pride as the Trojans coach, which is a refreshing trait for a fan base that grew accustomed to Kiffin’s spoiled-brat antics.

There are other factors making Orgeron an easy person to cheer. Just this week, Orgeron hand-wrote letters to every member of the USC band, thanking them for what they do.

With rumors circling on who Haden covets on his candidate list and how much he’s willing to pay the right person, the groundswell to hand the full-time job to Orgeron rages forward.

So much support for Orgeron begs some sobering reminders, though.

First and foremost, Orgeron has a track record as a head coach. In three seasons at Ole Miss, he guided the Rebels to a 10-25 overall record. They managed just a 3-21 mark in league play.

Yes, Orgeron – a master recruiter – loaded the cupboards for Houston Nutt to take Ole Miss to consecutive Cotton Bowl appearances. However, the win-loss record shouldn’t be ignored completely.

The two most recent high-profile examples in Orgeron’s situation don’t help his cause either.

Larry Coker took over a Miami program that Butch Davis set up with unbelievable amounts of talent. He led the Hurricanes to a national championship in his first season and to within an overtime stop of back-to-back titles.

However, when Davis’ talent ran out, so too did Coker’s success. By Year 4, Miami had fallen to a Peach Bowl-level team. Two years later, the ’Canes barely qualified for the MPC Computers Bowl – and Coker was out of a job.

A similar situation unfolded at West Virginia at the end of the 2006 season when Bill Stewart took over. Stewart replaced Rich Rodriguez, who jilted the Mountaineers for Michigan.

The outrage against Rodriguez – a native son who turned his back on his alma mater – united the WVU fan base. When Stewart led the Mountaineers to an upset win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, fans and an administration split between two leading candidates agreed on Stewart being the logical choice to become the next head coach at West Virginia.

Stewart took a program that went 32-5 over the previous three seasons and turned in three consecutive 9-4 campaigns, failing to win the conference outright once.

This arrangement, like a summer fling, was never meant to be anything more than what it is – a short-term solution.

It’s not fair to say Orgeron would automatically fail long-term at USC because of those two examples.

However, all three situations are worth discussing when evaluating whether Orgeron should take over as the head coach at USC – one of the top jobs in America.

In an interview with USA Today, Orgeron said the biggest change between his stint as the Ole Miss coach and now is that he has infused his parenting style into his coaching.

Orgeron would absolutely be a great head-coaching hire for someone.

Just not for USC.

For the Trojans and Haden, Orgeron represents an unnecessary risk. USC doesn’t need to hire a speculative coach. It needs to hire a proven one.

Especially in light of Kiffin, the Trojans can’t afford to take Mr. Right Now. It needs to take Mr. Right.

If Haden is willing to pay his next coach $6 million per season, as has been reported, it should go get a superstar – whether that person is Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin or some other blue-chip commodity.

What Orgeron has done – aside from putting the Trojans back in the title hunt in 2013 – is put himself on the map as a tremendous candidate for a head-coaching job.

If athletic directors are looking around for someone to infuse energy and passion into their program, they should look to Southern Cal.

Teams like Illinois, Indiana, Virginia and West Virginia would be well-advised to consider Orgeron to quickly stockpile talent and change the energy level in their respective programs.

It has certainly worked at USC.

But like all summer flings, this one must come to an end.

No matter how much both sides might be enjoying the good times, this was never meant to be a long-term relationship.

That doesn’t make the memories any less enjoyable. It just means both sides should cherish all the best moments along the way.

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Tags: PAC-12 USC Trojans

  • steveg

    Man, I totally disagree with you. Orgeron has not only turned around a team, he has electrified the entire university. He has already stated he would love to stay at USC whether or not he is hired as HC. His style obviously works with motivating young men. If Gruden were to be hired I am sure he would want coach O to stay, as would Haden require it of the new coach. What you don’t understand is that Orgeron and USC belong together. What he did elsewhere is history, not where he is now. I think he would just get better in time.

  • Michael R

    Hell, everybody was a virgin at one time; practice makes perfect. With Ole Miss, Coach O didn’t know foreplay, but now the man’s a stud. USC would be foolish not to hire him permanently.

  • driz

    It’s about chemistry. The team PLAYS for Coach O. The fans LOVE Coach O. He’s part of Trojan lore and family.

    Look, if E.O. can bring in wins against CU and UCLA, he has -earned- another year as head coach. Plenty of time to find a permanent solution if he doesn’t deliver 2014-15.

  • Luke Brietzke

    I hear what you guys are saying. I simply think USC is a top-10, if not top-5 job in the nation. Do you really think, after half a season, Orgeron is deserving of a top-5 job in the nation?

    If another coach comes in and keeps Orgeron, that’s obviously the best of both worlds. If not, though, I would rather bet on a huge-name, blue-chip coach than I would on Orgeron.

    I think Orgeron absolutely deserves another HC job. I just don’t think USC should be the program (at least right now) to give him said job.

    • Ben Factor

      Luke, please give me a few answers:

      1. Two names whom you would hire WHO WOULD ACCEPT THE JOB.

      2. Three concrete weaknesses in the way each coaches, recruits, etc., and why and how each would overcome those weaknesses.

      3. Three concrete weaknesses of Orgeron in the way he coaches, recruits, etc., and why and how he is less likely to overcome them.

      Your article is sort of vague. It’s a crapshoot, unless timing smiles on the hiring university.

      • Luke Brietzke

        Ben, Not sure I can give you all the answers you seek. But here’s a start:

        1) I don’t have immediate names for you. But I also know that if I was USC, I would shoot for the moon. If I miss over and over and over again, then I know I have a pretty nice final option in Orgeron. I would still press hard for Kevin Sumlin, for sure. I would go hard after some NFL coaches, such as both 49ers coordinators. You already know Jack Del Rio will get serious consideration.

        2) Who is “each” coaches? The guys I just mentioned? Every coach has weaknesses. No question.

        3) Orgeron has no apparent weaknesses in the way he recruits. Even Ole Miss will grant that. But in “how he coaches?” Take a look at three years at Ole Miss.