12 Jan My Lane Kiffin Thoughts
A very good friend of mine who is an Alabama fan asked me tonight how I felt about Kiffin’s departure from Tennessee given my longstanding criticism of what Saban did at Michigan State, at LSU, and then in Miami … I thought my reply would serve as a general post on how I feel about the Kiffin hire (as well as address his very reasomable question):
<< Like I texted, I think it is a fair question. And since I am a fair person, I would say that if I only had two sentences to reply, there is no way to position it differently than that he is dramatically screwing over Tennessee. Personally, I would rather live in Siberia than Knoxville, but the overall obvious attractiveness of Southern California over Knoxville does not make it right to do that to 18-year old kids. Now, I do not know what Lane did and did not say to his team. I know what Nick said. And I know that Nick has players on the LSU team that he was “like family” with (as they put it) who he has not had so much of a single word of communication with since he left. And of course I suppose that doing a wrong thing once is wrong, but doing the same wrong thing three times is triply wrong (if that is a word). But I still understand why Nick did it, and I think that competitive spirit is part of who he is. I will not say Lane is right, though, even if I understand what he is doing. I believe a man of character would play out his commitment to these 19-year old kids, (and in the case of Saban, would not have repeatedly and explicitly lied about it). But Carroll, Saban, Kiffin – they all have this much in common: their strongest points are there biggest defects, and in their case it is a competitive spirit that lacks the clarity that objective outsiders may like to see
Bottom line – I would agree that Kiffin is out of bounds here in terms of what he is doing to Tennessee. But he does have a buyout provision and he is honoring it. I think your question is fair. I would not understand, though, how those who thought Saban (and Kelly, and many others) were right, could think Kiff is wrong?
Now, apart from that “ethics” question, we are left with the football issue. I believe that this sport which you and I love so much is mostly won in the recruiting wars. In the leagues that Boise State and Utah play in, perhaps they rely more on pure coaching as they are all playing with a slightly less impressive college athlete than the top D-1 programs have. But for the most part, recruiting top players and having top assistant coaches should be a formula for success at the college level. I was obsessively involved with USC from 2001-2005 (before my son was born) and I know inside and out how much Orgeron and Kiffin did for the re-build of our program. These guys are animal recruiters, obviously. Norm Chow coming back? Unbelievable. Orgeron and Monte Kiffin coaching that defense? Unbelievable. Tim Davis back to our offensive line? You can’t even imagine what this means (I’ll tell you more about Tim next time we talk). This excitement is not because I think Lane Kiffin is John McKay; I don’t. It is because I think this team of coaches is all-star caliber, and the youthful energy of Kiff and O doing the recruiting will prove to be unstoppable.
I still believe we have a lot of work to do. But I know that this NCAA joke is going away (think about the irony that USC would be encouraging agents to lure our athletes away to the NFL early; simply absurd). We are not even accused of boosters giving money to student-athletes; we are accused of one agent giving money to one player in order for him to leave USC (which all evidence points towards having never happened). I am very excited. Kiffin was closer to beating Alabama than anyone else this year and should have done it (you obviously know what happened there). Yes, he lost at the Raiders but it is impossible to have done anything other than that, and we both know what Tennessee did this year vs. last year.
“His mouth” had a lot more intentionality to it than I think a lot of people realize. I will leave it at that. I know you don’t like him. I am just explaining why those of us in Fight On country are so excited.