Troy Aikman Jabs Lane Kiffin at FOX's Pac-10 Gala
The event, held at the historic Twentieth Century Fox studios, was emceed by Joe Buck, FOX's lead play-by-play announcer and was attended by nearly all of FOX's top sports executives: chairman David Hill, vice-chairman Ed Goren, Fox Sports Networks president Randy Freer, who oversees all of the company's regional sports channels, and several other top lieutenants.
The highlight -- by far -- was produced by Troy Aikman, FOX's lead NFL color commentator, when he took the mic after Buck's introductory comments.
Aikman, the 43-year-old former quarterback who starred at UCLA and led the Dallas Cowboys to three NFL titles, dove right into the controversy surrounding new USC head coach Lane Kiffin, whose hiring of former Tennessee Titans assistant Kennedy Pola is the subject of a lawsuit.
In his two years at UCLA, Aikman recalled, one of his big frustrations was UCLA's inability to beat USC, which defeated the Bruins in 1987 and 1988, when Aikman was UCLA's starter. "I realize why we could never beat SC," Aikman said. "We didn't steal any coaches from the NFL."
The quip was met with a hearty number of "ooohs" from the crowd, which included senior administrators from all of the conference's athletic departments, as well as sales and marketing executives from Pac-10 sponsors.
It's unclear how Kiffin responded to the comment. He was sitting in the front row of the theater alongside the league's other head coaches. Kiffin, 35, dressed in slacks and a slightly wrinkled, red button-down, was the only head coach not wearing a jacket.
The gala capped off a three-day, cross-country media blitz for the conference's football coaches, which began on Tuesday with media meetings in New York, continued on Wednesday with a trip to ESPN's headquarters in Connecticut and culminated on Thursday with the "official" Pac-10 media session at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
The campaign, orchestrated by new Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott, is a stark departure from the past: In previous years, the conference's football media campaign consisted of a half-day conference at an airport hotel in Los Angeles.
The presentation included a Hollywood-worthy promotional video highlighting the Pac-10's athletic and academic traditions, with an deep-voiced narrator repeating the refrain that the conference is "as diverse as the American profile, as raw as the American dream."