In the game of chess, the pawn is the weakest piece and it is often used metaphorically to indicate something that is unimportant or expendable. In the game of college football, Nu'Keese Richardson has become that pawn for the University of Tennessee football program.
Kiffin first used Richardson back in February at an "energetic breakfast" with some of Tennessee's donors and alumni. Kiffin claimed Urban Meyer broke NCAA rules by calling Richardson while he was at UT on a recruiting visit.
"I'm going to turn Florida in right now in front of you. As Nu'Keese was here on campus, his phone keeps ringing. So one of our coaches who is sitting in a meeting with him says, 'Who's that?' He looks at the phone and says,Urban Meyer."
Kiffin continued "Just so you know, when a recruit is on another campus you can't call him. But I love the fact that Urban had to cheat and still didn't get him."
With Kiffin's blatant lack of knowledge of the rules, he was able to get national headlines after National Signing Day. With their "don't take no for an answer" approach and his promise to turn Richardson into the next Reggie Bush, Kiffin had his trophy to keep his program in the news.
Kiffin said after National Signing day, "We're just getting started. This is just a little bit of a taste. There's already been a message sent and I think there are going to be bigger ones sent soon."
His recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron saw it fit to take some direct shots at the Gators, "In order to beat the national champ on the field, you have to beat the national champ in recruiting. We beat them twice."
Also Orgeron made it clear the strong arm tactics they used to get Nu'ke out Florida, "A commitment doesn't mean anything nowadays. Just the fax. When you see that name come across the paper, that's what matters."
While Boy Blunder and his League of Super Coaches were planning their next PR move, a unsure Richardson had to live with his rushed decision. "I wanted to move it back," Richardson said. "I wanted to wait. But I felt if I did too much thinking, it would make it harder on me."
Fast forward to November 12th, rumors are swirling about an unhappy Richardson considering a transfer and skipping a practice, but what takes place around 2 AM at the Pilot gas station in Knoxville comes as a shock to us all. I won't get into the details as they have been covered thoroughly.
What I want to focus on is the fact that a kid who was promised to become the next Reggie Bush, sits in a Knoxville jail cell because no one has posted a $19,500 bond for him. So, the pawn that was uprooted from his family and friends in Florida gets sacrificed. In a week where Kiffin boasted about his clean program, he has yet to issue any disciplinary actions or shown any compassion towards his players.
Would things have been any better if Richardson came to Gainesville? That I have no clue, but one thing is for sure; Richardson has been nothing but PR magic for Kiffin. He gave the UT program its only win over Florida and in return he gives the Tennessee football program its biggest black eye too. Maybe going forward, the UT advertising agency will look a little deeper into how these headlines affect the people in them.
UT quotes from - Knoxville News Sentinel