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It's hard to notice the job Lane Kiffin's doing at USC

While UCLA grabs the headlines for its poor play, Kiffin has kept the Trojans going during a probation season.

November 09, 2010|T.J. Simers

I am so tired of all the attention UCLA is getting around here.

It's ridiculous. You cannot open the newspaper in the morning without reading something about UCLA's crummy football team on Page 2.

It's like some kind of personal vendetta, a poor school like USC which has shown such courage recently, almost being ignored.

Two weeks have nearly gone by and not a single word of congratulations in the newspaper to Coach Lane Kiffin and USC for digging deep to keep No. 1 Oregon from hitting its average of 55 points a game.

People are so right when they say a newspaper never points out the positive.

"Thank you," replied Kiffin, yet humble and reluctant to take all the credit. "We did have a bye to get us ready."

You could spend all day asking Rick Neuheisel a question like that and never get an answer worth writing down, and yet Page 2 insists on always quoting Neuheisel.

That seems so mean.

Maybe instead of the same old same old, how about using Page 2 to thank Coach Kiffin and USC for making Trojans football so entertaining to the end of the game?

"The score got to be 29-14 last week and I know there was some concern folks might switch channels or go read a book to their kids," Kiffin said. "So we told four of our guys to miss tackles so the other team could run the ball all the way back."

Now that's entertainment. But if you read Sunday's paper, you got another column on how lucky UCLA was to win with Gallagher's help, and Plaschke writing about hockey as if he really cares. A hockey player with one leg, well that would be a different story.

But it's no wonder newspapers are dying, the good old days when The Times could be counted on to be a USC publication seemingly gone.

Attention from the media or not, Kiffin says, he will continue to do what he can to entertain fans.

"Why do you think we run those two-point plays?" Kiffin said. "You kick an extra point and everyone goes to the fridge."

UCLA almost never has to worry about people going to the fridge, so what accounts for all the attention given to Norm Chow?

UCLA is averaging 20 points a game, USC 36 and yet it's always Norm Chow this, and Frank McCourt that in the newspaper. It's certainly space that could be used for yet another Lakers story.

We know every school can't be as successful as USC, a Heisman Trophy taken away, but plenty left behind in its place.

But come on, why such hatred for UCLA? Why such bias and opinions from a columnist?

Why not a pat on the back, as former Trojan Curtis Conway suggested on 710, to the players for playing hard to the very end of the game a week after playing Oregon?

If only it hadn't happened 90 minutes after deadline, and it wasn't something you would expect them to do in every game.

UCLA almost never loses beyond deadline. If UCLA wasn't so crummy, thereby drawing early time slots, we probably wouldn't have to read about the Bruins' failures so much.

Unfortunately, the Bruins still have time-friendly games against Washington and Arizona State. Hold the presses. They also remain in contention for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, as if anyone needs another reason to lose their appetite while reading the morning newspaper.

Maybe all this would be received differently if there was some attempt at humor in mocking the Bruins, but what's so funny about UCLA losing by an average of 25 points a loss?

Sports is a serious business, as so many fans believe, and as Kiffin said in a radio interview Tuesday.

"They burned mattresses down [in the Southeastern Conference] when someone was leaving," he said.

Asked what a burning mattress smelled like, Kiffin said, "I don't know. I was hiding."

Maybe if Kiffin had really messed up like everyone said he was going to do when he came here, we wouldn't have to be reading so much about UCLA and its underachieving program.

But unfortunately Kiffin has done a terrific job.

The Trojans have not only been competitive and entertaining during these probation times, but Kiffin has yet to give Athletic Director Pat Haden any reason to apologize for something he has said or done.

How boring is that?

There was a time when Kiffin would have popped off to get attention here, the "old Kiffin" as he now refers to himself, but he seems to understand why everyone wants to write about UCLA.

"I've watched UCLA play," he said, and while it didn't need to be said, he added, "but not a whole game."

Who could, except maybe those paid to do so and then write about it. From what I can gather — a thankless job.

THE BRUINS defeated Oregon State on Saturday with the help of Gallagher, the unseen replay official in the booth upstairs, who put a second on the clock allowing UCLA time to kick a winning field goal.

At the time I wrote, "Wait until Oregon State learns a comedian had the last laugh in this one."

Tonight Gallagher will appear at Club Nokia LA Live. It will be interesting to see whether he wears a UCLA jersey or his referee's shirt.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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