USC defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin runs to his position during practice. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
Monte Kiffin, who resigned as USC's assistant head coach for defense, said neither Coach Lane Kiffin nor USC officials pressured him to step down.
"It was not forced upon me or anything like that," Monte Kiffin said in a telephone interview.
USC announced last week that Monte Kiffin would pursue NFL opportunities but coach through the Trojans' bowl game. USC will learn its bowl destination Sunday.
USC began the season ranked No. 1 in several polls, but finished with a 7-5 record after losing four of its last five games.
Kiffin, the father of Lane Kiffin, said he made his decision, "out of respect for the head coach and the athletic director... . It wasn't a hard decision for me."
Kiffin, 72, said he had opportunities to return to the NFL after the 2011 season. The Trojans finished 10-2, with a victory at Oregon and a 50-0 season-ending rout of UCLA.
But he said the decisions by quarterback Matt Barkley and safety T.J. McDonald to return for a final season, and his recruitment of Florida prospects Leonard Williams and Nelson Agholor factored into his decision to stay.
"I was still truly excited about coming back," he said. "But then when things didn't go as well as you would have liked this year, I decided to go ahead," and step down, adding "I just thought it was the right thing to do."
Kiffin said, "I take all the responsibility" for a defense that performed well below expectations. He cited a 39-36 loss at Arizona and a 62-51 loss to Oregon.
"When we scored a lot of points ... you're expected to win,” he said.
Kiffin coached under his son for one season at Tennessee and three at USC. He described the relationship as "unique" but "always professional," so he did not hesitate to step down.
"I went to him -- it wasn’t hard to do -- because I felt responsible for it," he said. "I don't care who the head coach is ... I care about USC."
Kiffin said he would always remember the joy of being with the players in the USC locker room after victories on the road at Notre Dame and Oregon.
"There’s no feeling like that," he said. "It's why I love coaching. ... Golly Moses, to see all the players sing the fight song, especially after big wins on the road, it's worth all the hard work."
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