Dismissal of USC assistant coach Kennedy Polamalu has left Trojan family stunned
There's nothing unusual about a football coach firing his assistants, especially after a 7-6 season. So the staff purge started by USC coach Lane Kiffin didn't exactly raise eyebrows even when one of those to depart was his father, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.
But last week's firing of running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu sparked outrage because few anticipated or understood it. Polamalu was the only former USC player on the staff and a highly respected assistant coach. His players revered him and his dismissal angered current and former Trojans.
They wanted to know why Kiffin fired him. That was the big question left unanswered as Kiffin waited two days to release a terse statement.
"As we continue to evaluate all facets of our program, including the organization of our staff, we made the decision to go in a different direction at this coaching position," Kiffin said. "Kennedy Polamalu is a good coach, a good person and a good Trojan. We wish him and his family the best."
Kiffin's comment offered no insight into why Polamalu was fired. But several sources inside the football program said Kiffin and Polamalu's fallout occurred two days before the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.
According to sources, Polamalu yelled at Kiffin and the pair had a heated argument on the evening of Dec. 29. Kiffin arrived at a Sun Bowl news conference the next morning with a scrape on his forehead, but sources said that was not related to his argument with Polamalu.
USC lost the Sun Bowl to Georgia Tech 21-7 and there was an argument between players in the locker room after the game. Some players blamed the seniors for a lack of leadership leading up to the bowl.
Polamalu, who couldn't be reached for comment, spent the month of January recruiting while the coaching staff started changing. Monte Kiffin officially "resigned" and was hired by the Dallas Cowboys. Linebackers coach Scottie Hazelton left to become defensive coordinator at Nevada.