TEMPE, Ariz. -- USC athletic director Pat Haden left the sideline twice during the second half of the Trojans' 62-41 loss to Arizona State on Saturday night.
Once was during Arizona State's 28-0 run in the third quarter, when he huddled up with some of his advisors and presumably made the decision to pull the plug on Lane Kiffin's tenure as USC's coach now rather than later.
The second was when he trailed the cart driving Marqise Lee back to USC's locker room in the fourth quarter after Lee suffered a left knee injury. Haden wanted to talk to Lee and make sure he was OK before returning to the sideline.
The two might not seem connected on the surface but they speak to an athletic director who has his finger on the pulse of the football team and its players more than most administrators.
Haden can often be seen talking to players before and after games. He is a regular at USC practices and often talks to players and their families not just about football but also about their lives and classes. He has an open-door policy when he's in his office and it's not uncommon to see players pop in and talk to him.
That's not to say Kiffin's players played a role in his firing (other than their play on the field, of course), but it is to say Haden had seen and heard enough from them and their families, in addition to the product we all see on the field, to feel comfortable in making the decision that he made.
To read the rest of Arash Markazi's story, click here.