Ok- I have held off on commenting much about the whole Lane Kiffin incident, out of respect for some good friends on this site who are UT fans. Truth be told, even as a Florida fan, I’ve never really had a hatred for Tennessee football the way I do for Duke basketball, Manu Ginobili or Hitler. I’ve always respected their program, and the way they handled their business. Phil Fulmer had his faults, but he was a classy coach and he put out some tremendous pros. Besides, UT being good only made the conference as a whole look better, and as SEC fans, that’s something we hang our hats on – the top-to-bottom strength of our conference year in and year out.
But this is getting to be too much now. Less than three months into the job, Kiffin has managed to talk trash to the four most accomplished coaches in the league; Urban Meyer, Nick Saban, Mark Richt and Steve Spurrier. He has guaranteed a win over Florida in The Swamp this year, accused Meyer of breaking an NCAA rule that doesn’t exist, accused a recruit’s high school of being incompetent, stolen coaches off other SEC staffs, admitted he encouraged a recruit to lie about his commitment until Signing Day, and generally put his foot in his mouth over and over and over.
(His apology to Florida was almost more insulting than the false accusations, saying he “never meant to offend anyone.” Really? Calling someone a cheater was never meant to offend them? Come on.)
Then, it comes out today that Tennessee has self-reported two secondary recruiting violations. WHAT??? You can’t make this stuff up.
Look- the violations are no big deal. Every school has a ton of secondary violations during the recruiting process. In all honesty, the violations – using a fog machine as a recruit entered the stadium and holding a mock press conference – don’t seem to be a big deal at all. But it’s just the timing of all of this…just a few days after he wrongly accused another coach of cheating and being reprimanded by the SEC for not knowing the rules and violating their ethical policy, turns out Lane still has some studying left to do on the rules.
Again, let me say I don’t really care about the violations. Every school, my Gators included, does this. But the fact that it all happened while Lane was still wiping the egg off his face from last week’s false accusations does strike me as …well…hilarious.
I have no problem with a coach trying to infuse a little energy into his program. Like I said, the SEC benefits when their traditional power programs, like UT and Auburn, are good teams. But there’s a big difference between bringing energy into your program, or using false bravado to try to make a name for yourself by downgrading other programs.
Perhaps the best part of this whole story is that no one knows whether Kiffin is capable of backing it up on the field with his teams. He has yet to coach one practice, and already he’s running his mouth to the best teams and coaches in the conference.
Think this might be brought up in late September in Gainesville before the Vols visit the Gators? All the confidence and swagger in the world won’t matter when Jon Crompton takes the snap and sees Brandon Spikes headed his way. I wonder how Saban – who wasn’t exactly a teddy bear to begin with – will greet Kiffin on the field in Tuscaloosa this year after losing one of his assistants to the Vols staff. If he gets the chance, think Spurrier might leave his offensive starters in a few extra plays to teach Lane a lesson? Kiffin better hope his team can back up his brash words, because he’s angered a few coaches who don’t mind making a statement on the field when they feel they’ve been disrespected. (Example A: Florida 49, Georgia 10).
So this is going to be an interesting season. It’s one thing to be cocky and a proven winner (see Meyer, Urban and Saban, Nick). Its another to have an smirk as big as Neyland Stadium before even blowing your whistle as a head coach in the college ranks. I have a feeling Kiffin is going to learn the difference real quick.