Vols fans should cheer change

Cox NewspapersJanuary 15, 2010 

HERE'S MY QUESTION for any Tennessee fan apoplectic over Lane Kifffin's one-and-done act as coach of the Volunteers: Huh?

Yeah, y'all got jilted. It hurts. It happens. Both ways. Vol Nation didn't exactly treat ol' Phil Fulmer kindly by kicking him out the door after 17 mostly real-good seasons in making room for ... Kiffin.

The whole karma bit can get ugly.

So, get over it, because there's good news for UT in Kiffin bolting for the Southern Cal gig after a single season in Knoxville, which not long ago he loved enough to name a son Knox.

Ouch! That's going to be a constant reminder of a nasty episode.

But back to the good news for Vols everywhere.

There's such a thing as addition by subtraction, and this looks like that kind of math. Tennessee will be better off without Kiffin sooner rather than later. (The bigger loss might be Kiffin taking along his daddy, defensive genius Monte.)

The guy was all rocky and no top.

He went 7-6, for heaven's sake, with a home loss to UCLA - the Bruins must be drooling - and a rout of a bowl defeat to Virginia Tech. Maybe the regular-season scare the Vols threw into eventual national champion Alabama was enough to give Tennessee faithful grand hopes, or maybe it was nothing more than a blip on the screen.

And how much attention, exactly, would NCAA watchdogs have been paying the Vols for years to come had Kiffin stayed? You can't spell s-c-r-u-t-i-n-y without UT, to borrow a phrase. The Vols reported six minor NCAA violations on Kiffin's 14-month watch. Three freshmen players were charged in an attempted armed robbery.

Kiffin is now off to Southern Cal, which is a better job by any estimate even though the Trojans face an NCAA investigation into goings-on dating back to the time when - Ready? - Kiffin was an assistant there under Pete Carroll, who is leaving for the NFL.

Kiffin, by the way, has tried the pros on for size himself. Didn't work. He went 5-15 as boss of the Oakland Raiders.

This is the guy about whom many Tennessee loyalists are dismayed and distraught and downright angry upon his departure? They ought to be cheering. He was, according to reports, the Trojans' fourth choice for the job, and he still took it despite having to pay off a significant buyout to Tennessee. That's all but screaming for an escape route no matter how Kiffin spins it.

Kiffin, 34, already has established himself as a coaching mercenary, and a mercenary, by definition, is venal and greedy. Tennessee was the victim this time.

"I know that I can walk out of here and say there's not one day I didn't give everything I had to the Tennessee football program," Kiffin said in his farewell.

Which doesn't explain reports that Kiffin, even as he courted recruits for UT, was checking on the Southern Cal opening as the Trojans considered, and were turned down by, Mike Riley, Jeff Fisher and Jack Del Rio. And there's no telling what Kiffin might have been suggesting to those recruits about, oh, perhaps getting together at Southern Cal rather than Tennessee.

Everything he had?

"I really believe the only place I would have left here to go was Southern California," is something else Kiffin said on his way out.

Oh, please.

Kiffin wouldn't have listened to what Notre Dame might have asked had the Irish been interested in him for their recently filled coaching spot?

He's mouthy and arrogant and can be loads of fun to watch and hear. It was more than a little entertaining, for example, to see and listen to him tweak Florida's Urban Meyer, who must - with Fulmer - be enjoying a good giggle right about now.

Kiffin absolutely damaged the Vols with his mess, because the timing on recruiting is horrible. But there will be attractive candidates who want to succeed him, and the Vols will hire one who will stick around and give them the kind of effort Kiffin couldn't or wouldn't sustain.

The long-term prognosis almost certainly will be better than it would have been with Kiffin running the UT show. He turned out to be a checkered misfit for the Tennessee end-zone checkerboard pride.

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