Kiffin ran a competent program despite the loss of 30 scholarships over a three-season stretch that ends in 2015. But even Kiffin acknowledged he wasn't winning enough in the last two seasons at a school with USC's pedigree, and he also created off-the-field troubles ranging from ethically questionable tactics to pointless squabbles with media.
"Lane did negotiate some of these things remarkably well," Haden said. "I have supported Lane with my heart and soul for 3½ years and gave him every opportunity. He wasn't given a fair hand in a lot of ways. I said all along, we graded on the curve, but we failed on the curve, too."
The Trojans are off this week before returning Oct. 10 at the Coliseum against Arizona, giving Orgeron time to evaluate what can be done to salvage the season with the toughest matchups on USC's schedule still looming.
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 unease around a school with sky-high expectations even at the tail end of crippling 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 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 — the first preseason No. 1 in nearly a half-century to fall so far — followed by this season's disappointments.