USA Today Sports

USC pays Pat Haden, Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian the big, big bucks

Add them up for the 2014 calendar year and USC paid Pat Haden, Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian $9 million in salaries and bonuses. Yikes.

It’s hard to know which of the revelations in Wednesday’s USA TODAY story on the salaries paid USC sports leaders is most mind-boggling.

USA TODAY clearly thinks it’s the $2.9 million Director of Athletics Pat Haden pulled down in calendar year 2014 as reported in USC’s IRS 990 filing. And they have a point, as they note, since that’s more than Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick (at $1.6 million) and Duke AD Kevin White ($1.04 million) combined.

It’s also $400,000 more than Pat earned in 2013. And includes a bonus of $1.2 million.

Now a case can certainly be made that Pat earned every bit of that nearly $3 million considering no major college AD has ever had to fire two head football coaches in the middle of two seasons within two years as Pat had to do with Lane Kiffin in 2013 and Steve Sarkisian in 2015. So those 2014 big bucks were well-deserved, right?

That was some heavy lifting that no other AD has had to do. Although critics might point out that had Pat let Lane go after all that happened in the 2012 Sun Bowl, as he surely should have, and had he done due diligence on Sark and not hired him to start with for the 2014 season, Pat wouldn’t have had to do all that dirty work.

But what strikes us is that had Pat been paid merely the average of the Notre Dame and Duke AD’s, still a more than fair salary it would seem, USC would have had enough money to completely pay for a women’s softball program that is much missed around here.

Or it could have staffed up in football support people like Alabama, Ohio State or Clemson have in recent seasons.

But as wildly out of line as the Haden salary seems to be, especially in terms of performance, it pales in comparison to the $6.1 million USC paid two head football coaches in 2014 – Kiffin and Sarkisian. You read that right -- $6.1 million for a pair of coaches who couldn’t make it through more than five games in their final seasons. That’s Nick Saban money.

And sure, you can also note that USC archrival Notre Dame is still paying Charlie Weis north of $2 million on a contract that started in the last century, it seems, and more than their current coach, Brian Kelly, who took them to the BCS championship game.

But what we can’t get over is the way the only effective head football coaches in the two seasons bookending 2014 – Ed Orgeron and Clay Helton in 2013 and Helton in 2015 – were assistants raised to interim coaches and paid far less.

Which gets us to the single number that we find impossible to even write. Sark, in his first season sliding down from a seven-win season in Seattle, made $3.7 million. That’s right -- $3.7 million after going 32-30 in five years at Washington.

How is that possible, you ask. Who signed off on that number? What were they thinking? After Sark’s fairly well-documented issues that took him down in less than two years, it’s almost impossible to say.

But Pat signed off on it. Like it’s Monopoly money. Crazy. USC paid out right at $9 million for its top three salaried guys in 2014 – one of whom (Kiffin) wasn’t there, the second of whom (Sark) didn’t make it through 2015 and a third (Haden) who wouldn’t make it through 2016.

But the next man on the list – basketball coach Andy Enfield – will survive after his NCAA tournament team in his third season at USC. And he wasn’t doing badly, USA TODAY reports, in his second year here, pulling down $1.9 million when it was no cinch, after going 21-43 his first two seasons, that even with his original six-year deal, he’d make it past Year 3.

How big an accomplishment was that for Andy, who came to USC after his 2012-2013 NCAA Sweet 16 run at Florida Gulf Coast University? Well, that season at FGCU, Andy made $252,000, USA TODAY says. 

And with a two-year extension after USC’s 21-13 season, he’ll be well past $2 million per year through 2021 and approaching Pat Haden territory in the final big deal authored by the departing USC AD.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at

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