Lane Kiffin Shines Brightest in The Spotlight

Kevin ScottCorrespondent IMay 21, 2009

The media circus surrounding every move Lane Kiffin makes as the coach at Tennessee is mind boggling.  

Some of the attention and criticism has been self induced, stemming from false accusations about Urban Meyer, comments about Pahokee and other slip ups the young coach has made since being hired.

Yesterday the circus was taken to a new level. Secondary violations happen every day and some schools have self reported as many as 30 in one year. Recently, Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama are just a few SEC schools to report such violations to the NCAA.

However, these instance don't make the front page and don't place their coaches on shows to answer questions about the incidents. Kiffin's interest is understandable to an extent, as I believe he relishes the spotlight.

Nearly every secondary violation that Tennessee has reported since Kiffin arrived has made mainstream sports news. ESPN"s Chris Low, who covers the SEC, has written a column on every violation at UT.  

Kiffin has appeared on shows like College Football Live and Pardon The Interruption multiple times to answer questions about these violations.

Yesterday, ESPN's College Football Live took covering this subject to another level.  The opening question of the interview with Lane Kiffin was, "Coach, how would a guy like Robert Marve fit into your program?".

I understand covering violations, I understand criticizing someone when they have been wrong, and Kiffin has done plenty of that. But, trying to purposely trap a coach on national television into committing a violation is unprofessional and out of line.  That goes for any coach of any school.

Kiffin didn't lose his composure, "Well, unfortunately now that he's a recruited student athlete again I'm not allowed to comment on that situation.", Kiffin retorted.  

Much to the dismay of ESPN, who has a track record of trying to make itself part of the news instead of reporting it, Kiffin didn't fall for the unnecessary attempt.

The series of questions that followed were soiled in negativity. They weren't necessarily unfair questions, and the situations prompting them certainly happened, but the line of questioning was an obvious attempt at trying to further embarrass Kiffin.

When asked about 11 players leaving the program, Kiffin quickly pointed out that 13 players left Alabama in their last coaching change.  

Kiffin wasn't taking a shot at Bama, but more giving an example of something that is pretty common, that has been made to look more significant than it is at Tennessee.

Of course, the Pahokee comments came up in the interview as well, and Coach Kiffin took the opportunity to apologize for them once again, on national television.  

Don't be mistaken, myself or no one else I've read take this stance is making Kiffin the victim here. Kiffin has made a few mistakes, some of which deserved sharp criticism, some of which have been blown out of proportion.

The way Kiffin stood in the face of that line of questioning and gave calm, diplomatic answers shows me a level of resolve in the coach.  

By all accounts, according to former bosses such as Pete Carroll, Kiffin is a very sharp individual, and his interview is a testimony of his learning from his mistakes.

When being faced with a line of questioning that was intended to shine a negative light on UT, Kiffin turned it into an opportunity to make every answer as positive as he could and for lack of a better term, recruit.

Secondary violations aren't exclusive to Tennessee. I think it's time that when news organizations decide to cover them, they do it in a fair and balanced manner.  

If Kiffin's are front page news, so should the 30 that Washington reported in one year, so should the 13 that Georgia reported at one time.

Kiffin has been and will continue to be a target of the media and critics. Some say he brought it on himself, and one can't really argue with that.  

But all of us must give him credit for standing in the face of the tough questions and being forthright and honest about his answers.

His goal has remained the same since arriving at Tennessee. To do whatever he can to enhance the program at Tennessee and put the Vols back in the conversation.  

He's succeeded, and though the reason may not always be positive, Kiffin shines when put in the spotlight by trying to make it positive.

You can watch the interview with Kiffin and College Football Live at

Don't forget my radio show, VSPN, will be live tonight at 9PM EST.  We will have guests Marlon Walls, Kevin Revis and 2011 recruit Kenny Hilliard.  Also joining us will be recruiting expert James Bryant.  You can listen live at