Lane Kiffin is flat-out wrong in his decision not to allow opponents to conduct walk-throughs on the field of the L.A. Coliseum. It's an ugly move, a petty move, one that the coach did not have to make and most certainly one that will help people carry on this idea that Kiffin is some sort of terrible human being.
As one of the few members of the Lane Kiffin fan club during his departure from Tennessee and time at USC, this is truly the first time I've come out against the coach. Whether it was defending his point about the coaches' poll or just admitting to liking the Laner before it was deemed "OK" by the media, I've been in Lane's corner.
Except this time.
As the Los Angeles Times let us know today, Kiffin has decided to stop allowing the opposition to carry out walk-throughs the day before the game. The move, Kiffin said, was "solely based" on preserving the condition of the turf. A quick example of a walk-through?
Call me crazy, but I don't buy it. You see, as far as "harmful to the field goes," a walk-through is about as easy as it gets. It's a team strolling out onto the field, jogging around as a light dress rehearsal and getting the lay of the land. You don't go full speed. You don't even go half-speed most of the time. You can even wear your workout shoes instead of cleats. I always did. They're more comfortable.
Kiffin actually addresses this point in the Los Angeles Times:
"The problem with walk-throughs...you tear it up because people put cleats on and go on there."
But couldn't USC stipulate that visitors wear turf shoes or running shoes for the walk-through?
"Yeah," he said, "but how would we control that?"
You send a note to the other coach and his equipment staff, and they make it happen. Regardless of how much people seem to hate each other, there's a level of respect when you go into someone else's house. If you don't want cleats on the field before the game, just ask.
Now, it must be noted that Kiffin does not take his team on walk-throughs. That is his prerogative. For most teams, though, a walk-through is as much a part of the pregame ritual as the meal and getting your ankles taped, perhaps even more a part of it.
A walk-through helps with sight lines. It helps with wet spots. It helps with flat spots. It helps with judging the crest of the field. Those things seem minute, but if you can have them in your head the night before, the next day it helps you out a bit.
Oh, and most important of all, you get to see the stadium. Instead of seeing it the first time you walk on the field an hour or so before kickoff, you get to see it the day before. That might not seem like much, but for a gang of youngsters going out to play a game, it's a heck of a deal.
Ask folks about the first time at Notre Dame, and they'll mention teammates with a sense of awe during the walk-through. The same goes for other historic and/or unique venues.
I like Kiffin, but this is not a move that I'm a fan of. If he doesn't want to have a walk-through, that's one thing. Forcing another team to change its routine, hurting its chance to get ready for the game, is another. It won't be an excuse for a team getting destroyed by USC, but as far as gamesmanship goes, it isn't a great look.