Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lane Kiffin: Some Would Call It Justice

Lane Kiffin (right) explaining why he left Tennessee. Wonder what he'd say today?^

When I said to my wife tonight, during the network news, "Southern Cal just got Tennessee-d," she looked at me like I'd just grown a tail where my nose sits. "What does that mean?" she asked as I commented on the news.

"OK," I said, "you remember Lane Kiffin, right?" Sure, she said: the guy everybody in the Tennessee would love to crucify upside down in a pot of boiling oil that had just been lit by a tactical nuclear device, right?

"Yeh, him. Anyhow, when he left Tennessee for his dream job at Southern Cal--which opened because Pete Carroll saw an NCAA vigilance committee with tiki torches, hoods and pitch forks heading for the front lawn and left for the rain in Seattle--a lot of people thought it was, indeed, a dream job for Kiffin and his traveling circus (which includes his dad, the legendary defensive genius). Lane's a Southern California boy with a gorgeous, yellow-haired Southern California wife and yellow-haired Southern California kids. He recruited there. He played in college there. It's home. Knoxville was ... well ... Rocky Top. Moonshine, rednecks, Bible belts, the impossible Southeastern Conference and Republicans. Not the best place for him.

I like Kiffin and I thought he brought a lot of energy, enthusiasm and hope to a moribund program in Knoxville, but you had to know he was leavin' on a jet plane the minute he could. Pete Carroll ensured that Lane could because Pete wasn't hanging around for what was coming. He knew; Lane Kiffin didn't.

Today the NCAA hit Southern Cal with a penalty just short of death: 30 lost scholarships over three years, no bowl games for the next two years. That'll cost some of those highly-rated recruits who have just constituted a Top 5 class and I would look for transfers by kids already there. You don't go to Southern Cal to watch TV when you should be playing in a bowl game that pro scouts will be visiting in large numbers.

This punishment is given to the current Southern Cal team, but the crimes occurred in 2004, when most of today's football players were in junior high. Kiffin and his top recruiter Ed Orgeron were part of the So Cal staff then. Big recruiters. Young hotshot coaches.

Kiffin left Tennessee football in a sad state. When he joined the Vols a lot of mad players quit because they didn't like him. When he left, a lot of mad players quit because they didn't like his successor. Others got thrown off the team (and out of school and into jail). Tennessee wound up with--guess what?--75 football players, 20 below the scholarship limit (and that limit can't be filled out in less than about three years because of the rules) and a team that's not likely to go to a bowl anytime soon. One would surmise Lane saw that coming.

But he didn't see today coming. And the people in Tennessee finally have something to cheer about when they think about Lane and his pretty wife in their Southern California home.

(Orange County Register photo.)

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