Southern California fired Lane Kiffin early Sunday morning, ending the coach’s tumultuous tenure a few hours after the Trojans lost, 62-41, at Arizona State.
Ed Orgeron was picked as USC’s interim head coach by athletic director Pat Haden, who dismissed Kiffin at the airport in Los Angeles following the Trojans’ flight home. USC (3-2, 0-2 Pac-12) has eight games left under Orgeron, Kiffin’s assistant head coach and the former Mississippi head coach.
‘‘It’s never the perfect time to do these things, but I thought it was the right time,’’ Haden said.
Haden fired Kiffin in a 3 a.m. meeting at the Trojans’ private airport terminal, but not before a 45-minute chat in which Kiffin tried to change Haden’s mind.
Haden didn’t hire Kiffin, but had been firmly behind the coach until Saturday, when the Trojans matched the most points allowed in school history. The loss was the seventh in 11 games for a high-profile program still struggling under the cumulative effect of NCAA sanctions.
‘‘He did a lot of things well under some very difficult circumstances here,’’ Haden said. ‘‘No one could have worked harder. He did a lot of the things we asked. Graduated players, never had compliance issues, and he really worked under some very difficult NCAA sanctions, there’s no doubt about it.’’
USC must finish an already disappointing season without Kiffin while looking for another coach to reboot its proud program. The Trojans are off this week before returning Oct. 10 at the Coliseum against Arizona.
Kiffin went 28-15 in parts of four seasons in his self-described dream job, but USC is 0-2 in conference play for the first time since 2001 after losses to Arizona State and Washington State — and the record only partly captures the discontent of USC’s fans and alumni.
The Trojans were unimpressive on offense even in their three victories this season, stoking discontent around a school with sky-high expectations despite the tail end of heavy NCAA penalties stemming from coach Pete Carroll’s tenure.
Kiffin received withering criticism for persisting in calling the Trojans’ offensive plays himself well into the school’s second straight poor offensive season. The Trojans lost their home opener, 10-7, to the unheralded Cougars earlier this month, and Coliseum fans serenaded USC repeatedly with chants of ‘‘Fire Kiffin!’’
USC has been in a slow tailspin since going 10-2 and beating Oregon in 2011, the last year of its bowl ban. After starting as the preseason No. 1 last year, the Trojans finished 7-6 and out of the rankings, followed by this season’s disappointments.
The 52-year-old Orgeron went 10-25 in three seasons at Ole Miss, but that failed tenure did little to diminish his stature as a bulldog recruiter and defensive line coach. He coached alongside Kiffin at Tennessee before following his friend back to USC.
Shaw out 2-3 weeks
South Carolina starting quarterback Connor Shaw sprained his right, throwing shoulder against Central Florida Saturday and will be out 2-3 weeks. Backup tailback Brandon Wilds dislocated an elbow in the game and could be out up to a month. Dylan Thompson, who completed 15 of 32 passes for 261 yards, will take over for Shaw as he did a season ago. Coach Steve Spurrier said Brendan Nosovitch will back up Thompson and walk-on Perry Orth would be third on the depth chart. Spurrier said he will work with defensive backs this week to prepare for Kentucky this Saturday. The No. 13 Gamecocks (3-1, 1-1 SEC) squandered nearly all of an 18-point lead and escaped UCF with a 28-25 victory. Spurrier said he’ll make sure South Carolina’s safeties and cornerbacks keep the ball in front of them and don’t allow the big plays they did against the Knights . . . Nebraska’s home game against Illinois was changed to 11 a.m. Saturday. ESPNU will air the game.
Irish get boot
Notre Dame dropped out of the Associated Press Top 25 poll after losing its second game of the season, and Arizona State moved in after routing USC. Alabama remained No. 1 as the top five held their spots for the third consecutive week. The Crimson Tide received 55 of 60 first-place votes, and No. 2 Oregon got the rest from the media panel, one more than last week. Clemson is third, followed by Ohio State and Stanford. Georgia moved up to No. 6 after its 44-41 victory against LSU, which slipped four spots to 10th. Notre Dame (3-2), coming off a loss in the BCS championship game, began the season No. 14 but is now unranked after losing, 35-21, at home to Oklahoma, which moved up three spots to 11th. Maryland moved into the poll at No. 25 — its first regular-season appearance since 2008 — and Wisconsin fell out.
No. 2 Oregon rolls on
In late games Saturday night, Marcus Mariota threw for two touchdowns and ran for another and No. 2 Oregon defeated California, 55-16, in the rain-drenched Pac-12 opener for both teams in Eugene, Ore. Bralon Addison returned two punts for touchdowns for the Ducks (4-0, 1-0) . . . Kevin Hogan picked apart Washington State, throwing for 286 yards and three touchdowns, and No. 5 Stanford (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) won its 12th straight with a 55-17 thrashing of the host Cougars . . . Derek Carr passed for 324 yards and two touchdowns — both to Josh Harper — and Marteze Waller added two rushing scores to help No. 25 Fresno State (4-0, 2-0 Mountain West) build a big lead and hold on for a 42-37 victory over Hawaii in Honolulu.