Lane Kiffin: Renegade Coach?

Terry LeffewContributor IDecember 13, 2009

KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 10: Lane Kiffin the Head Coach of the Tennessee Volunteers is pictured during the SEC game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Neyland Stadium on October 10, 2009 in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

     Lane Kiffin, already on SEC Commissioner Mike Slive's and the NCAA's radar, seems, on the surface, to be running an out-of-control program in Knoxville.  Allegations of improper contact with young, beautiful women, player scandals involving attempted armed robbery and shoplifting, numerous secondary recruiting infractions, assistant coaches fleeing Knoxville before the storm, and enough negative publicity to make Tiger Woods blush have many of the fans of the Vols wondering, "What have we gotten ourselves into?" 

 But to quote another famous agitator, "Not so fast, my friend!" 

     Is this actually a program that is going renegade? Let's begin with secondary recruiting violations.  Most of the articles written about Lane Kiffin reference the fact the his program his already committed SIX secondary recruiting violations, citing it as an example of his rampant rule-breaking. In 2008, the NCAA received 2972 self-reported secondary violations from 331 member schools.  Thats is an average of nine secondary violations per school. 

Tennessee had six. 

They were actually well below average, yet their six violations, instead of being cited to show how clean the program is, is usually cited without any other statistics, often insinuating that the number is disturbingly high.

     Then comes the matter of the Hostesses. Many of the articles written have failed to include non-inflammatory facts, often implying that the program is unique to Tennessee, was started by Lane Kiffin, and uses sexual favors to entice young men to commit to the Volunteers.  For a brief history of the program, read: 

     If Lane Kiffin directed or reimbursed these young women to go to the game where three of the south's most prized recruits were playing, with numerous other colleges having recruiters present, most of whom already detest him, he may need to be committed, because that would border on insane. 

     The known facts in the case are not salacious enough to include in most articles.  The father of one of the already committed recruits said that his son asked the 2 hostesses back in the summer to come to one of their games, and the hostesses agreed.  According to all involved, the young ladies returned their hotel rooms, which they paid for, without the accompaniment of the recruits.  No steamy, sexy details to report, but it is implied in some articles.  That part of the story won't sell issues of the NY Times.

     Coaches fleeing Knoxville like "rats jumping off a sinking ship" is a recurrent theme in many blogs and article comments regarding the departure of assistant coaches. If the coaches weren't being tempted with other offers, that would be more of a worrisome sign. 

     Not many have commented on the fact that the Florida Gators have lost seven assistant coaches since the end of the 2007 season. If they are good enough to move up in other schools, but not good enough to move up in your own, does that not say good things about your staff?

     As to the players who decided to commit felonies and misdemeanors while a member of the team, they have been dealt with in a way consistent with almost every other program in the country. 

     For any school's fans that would like to make disparaging remarks on the coaching staff for these incidents, would you kindly list the number of arrests and off-the-field incidents regarding your own team, just so that we can have a reference of your team's sainthood?

     And if your coach would have handled the discipline differently, an explanation of what you think he would have done would be beneficial, also.

     Now to root of the issue, which is that Lane Kiffin has a tendency to be sarcastic, quick-witted, and disrespectful to some of the powers that be. While he has put his foot in his mouth with several comments (particularly calling Urban Meyer a cheat), many of his comments leave opponents and their fans looking deep to see if there is a dig at them in some way, similar to the way Steve Spurrier's Gator day's comments would. 

     His comebacks and lack of bowing down to the SEC Commissioner, Mike Slive, and failing to cast glowing remarks on his opponents has upset the status quo.  In the old days, a coach was expected to show reverence to the powers that be until he was able to show his worth on the field. 

     In today's era of immediate gratification, there is not much of a waiting period for expected success.  You are expected to make a splash, and make it now, damn the mediocrity, championships full-steam ahead!! 

     Kiffin has made what has to be one of most talked-about coaching debuts in history.  The biggest problem he has is that his splash got a lot of other people wet, and they want to pay him back.  If anyone understands that they are under a huge microscope, its Coach Kiffin.  He's a very smart coach, but he may need to wear rear-viewing sunglasses, because there will probably be many other attempts to stick it to him.  Opponents don't tend to worry so much about inferior opposition.  It's only the established powers and the up-and-coming leaders that people try to take down.