By the time the chaotic fireworks of this evening surrounding the Tennessee Vols football program die down, many UT fans, alumni, players, and recruits will be left with really only one question: Can we get our money back?
On Tuesday night, Lane Kiffin slipped his tail between his legs and scrambled from Knoxville to become the new head coach at USC. As an outsider looking in, I can halfway understand his decision. He spent time coaching at USC years ago, and his family is from the area. But try to tell that to the UT faithful, and you may regret your words.
This is a man who claimed at his press conference he'd be at Tennessee for "a long, long time." That was 14 months ago. Yes, just over one year. Seems like Kiffin's tenure at UT lasted about as long as the Rosie O'Donnell Variety Show.
With this abandonment, the Vols' football program has its fair share of pieces to pick up and attempt to reassemble. We're less than a month away from the National Signing Day for high school recruits, a day that, aside from actual wins and losses, goes a long way in determining the successes of a program. Currently, the Vols rank sixth on the rivals.com national recruiting rankings. You can bet that will change drastically over the next week or so.
And with many major coaches already hired or given extensions, the Vols will have to frantically try to grab someone with both an impressive resume as well as a sense of loyalty. No matter who the new coach will be, it will take time to heal wounds from the Kiffinectomy UT fans have experienced.
People will try to blame UT athletic director, Mike Hamilton, for this. They'll say he made the hire based on the name and the staff that would be brought in. Perhaps, but Kiffin's pedigree would suggest he could handle the job. His decision-making, childlike composure at press conferences, and ignorance regarding NCAA rules proved otherwise. Plus, when even Al Davis says that you shouldn't trust Kiffin, you have to listen at least a little, right? Who knew that crazy bat Al would be right.
None the less, Kiffin's not refunding your money. He may find himself with secondary violations tailing him, and could be in for some more issues when he arrives in LA. But it doesn't matter to you, Mr. and Mrs. Vol Fan. He ripped out your heart, crushed your dreams, and deflated your expectations.
At the end of the day, we'll hear about the big pay raise Kiffin is getting. We'll hear about what was best for his family. We'll hear about how the USC gig was always his dream job.
But we'll never know if Kiffin really understands that, for thousands of Tennessee fans, it was never about him. It was about the team. It was about loyalty. It was about things that Kiffin may never truly understand.