Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Kiffin's Secondary Violations Nothing to Write Off

Imagine my surprise today when I saw the following headline on ESPN.com...

"Kiffin commits third recruiting gaffe"

The story goes on to recap newly anointed Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin's third secondary recruiting violation since he arrived on campus. The most recent Kiffin episode involves mentioning a recruit by name on a Knoxville radio show when discussing ability before said recruit has signed a letter of intent. The recruit in question is Bryce Brown, he of consensus Top 10 status and currently unsigned. Brown is scheduled for an official visit in Knoxville this weekend.

This is just another milepost of poor judgment by Kiffin in his short little journey so far as Tennessee head coach. Since being signed to lead the Volunteers on December 1, Kiffin has been involved in three secondary recruiting violations, and a host of other controversies. The Kiffin timeline reads as so:
  • December 1: Hired at UT
  • December 15: Current Oakland Raiders head coach Tom Cable speaks publicly about Kiffin hiring an assistant coach of Cable's before the NFL season ends.
  • January 26: UT sends a letter to the NCAA self-reporting secondary violations by Kiffin and recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron. The violations stem from two separate incidents simulating game day experiences on a recruiting visit.
  • February 5: Kiffin publicly accuses Florida head coach Urban Meyer of violating NCAA rules by calling a recruit on an official visit to Tennessee. The allegedly broken rule doesn't actually exist, and Kiffin is reprimanded by the SEC and issues a public apology.
  • February 13: Kiffin refers to Bryce Brown by name on a Knoxville radio show, UT self-reports to the NCAA on Feb. 16
That's a helluva first 79 days.

The good news is that Kiffin hasn't done anything that severe. Did he violate the rules? According to UT and the rulebook, yes. Are smoke machines and press conferences (the "gameday experiences" he simulated) really worth getting everyone's panties in a twist? No. However, little problems like this that are repetitive and particularly flippant rarely just stop and seldom just stay little. Ask Kelvin Sampson.

The bigger problem, at least in my mind, is Kiffin's attitude through all of this. I'm all for rivalry. It makes the sport more exciting. But there's a line between competitive banter and being an asshole, and Kiffin is flirting with it if not outright crossing it. Taking potshots at Florida and Alabama just doesn't seem like the smart move. Alabama and Florida spent a considerable amount of time at number one last season, played for the SEC title, and Florida won a National Championship, their second in three years. Is this a fanbase, coaching staff, and team you want excessively pissed off? Mark Richt will tell you no. A thousand times no.

In attempts at rationalizing or downplaying, Tennessee fans will point to Steve Spurrier and his desire to stir the pot at media days, press outings, etc. But Tennessee fans apparently fail to realize that Spurrier and Kiffin are pretty different. One was a consistent winner with a national title. The other has zero college football wins. Kiffin would also be well suited to realize that wins now become even more important. Everyone in the fanbase loves a cocky, verbose winner (see: Spurrier, S.), but Lord help you if you're a cocky verbose loser (see: Callahan, B.).

Spurrier... Champion. Cocky. Ass-Man.

As a Kentucky fan, I wish Tennessee and Kiffin nothing but the worst. I will also readily admit that my jealousy of Tennessee is a complete byproduct of my envy of their program. Love them or hate them, UT is a national player even in a down year, but someone with some deep pockets best inform young Lane how it's going to be in Knoxville. After the epic failboat that was the tail end of the Fulmer Experience, the last thing UT needs is an epic shitstorm of NCAA inquiries and penalties.

Regardless, it's gearing up to be a fantastic fall, as always, in the SEC. And who would have thought that the new kid on the block would basically piss in the sandbox and dare someone to stop him?


Alan's Favorite Vol said...

I think you are spot on about the Spurrier comparison. This will all look very badly if he gets spanked this year. If he can get out of the Swamp without getting destroyed...Big Orange will never be louder or more orange. Read the Sports Illustrated article. Kiffin may be ruffling feathers but he is totally committed. He is working his rear off already. Apparently living with his coaches just off campus and working 7 days a week. I think we've already boosted the recruit prospects. Landing Bryce would be a "real" shot across the bow...not just pissing around. I agree...whatever happens--I think it will be fun to watch.

Alan said...

This is one of three people who could all consider themselves my Favorite Vol.

Regardless of whether they live in Indy, Maryland, or Tennessee, suffice it to say that the ass stomping that's about to happen in Gainesville will fall somewhere between Epic and Legendary.

Nothing sucks like a Big Orange.

Lucas said...

Informative post...you are helping me stay up on this situation.

Alan's Favorite Vol in Laurel said...

Here is something positive amid all the poo slinging.


RV said...

So, positive remarks about Tennessee on his handeler's (also see: agent) website couldn't possibly be to try and get more money out of other parties. Could it? No, not from someone who threatened to skip college for the CFL. What about the previous remarks he's made RE Tennessee?

"I talked with Coach Lane Kiffin, and coach Jim Chaney [the offensive coordinator] came down to visit me," he said. "They talked about the old USC stuff when Coach Kiffin had Reggie [Bush] and LenDale White. I want to be around good players, and I want to have the most players and best athletes on the field as my teammates because it makes it hard for the defense to stop the offense. With Tennessee, they want to get to that, but I don't think that Tennessee has enough players to be successful at what they're trying to do."

Yeah, have fun with that one.

Alan said...