While the World Laughs at Lane Kiffin, Tennessee Football Fans Hurt
We have all felt it at some point. It's that feeling of rejection and abandonment. It's that feeling of being betrayed by someone you thought wouldn't do such a thing.
When Lane Kiffin was hired at Tennessee, Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders tried to tell us. The frail, weak old man sat at a podium and summoned up enough energy to tell the world what kind of person he felt Lane Kiffin was.
At the time, the majority of the sports world felt Davis was losing it and maybe going a little crazy. However, Davis was so convinced by what he perceived as betrayal by Kiffin, he stood by his story in the face of all that criticism.
As a whole, Tennessee fans owe Al Davis an apology.
Kiffin has bolted in the dark of the night to take the head coaching job at USC. It didn't take the man 24 hours to make what he called a "very hard decision."
Of course, staying true to form, Kiffin committed multiple recruiting violations on the way out, including Ed Orgeron calling and texting early enrollees during a dead period, and then some.
A little more than a year ago, Kiffin was handed the reins of a program that had seen two coaches in 30 years. Vol fans have become accustomed to stability, loyalty, and a "family" type atmosphere around their program.
Kiffin entered the fray somewhat underqualified, but drawing praise from former employers and players and promising to bring a staff that was among the elite in college football. He did just that.
However, it might have been way back then when our first warning sign appeared.
The first strength coach at UT under Kiffin was Mark Smith. Smith came from South Carolina to join Kiffin, but didn't last long. Actually, he lasted about six months.
What did it, or should it have said to us that a man Kiffin handpicked couldn't work with him? Should we have seen something more wrong with that than we did?
Maybe it was the recruiting violations, the dismissed players, or the disrespect he showed to rival coaches who were much more established than he? Who knows. We all want to believe our guy is doing what's best, and that he's going to do right by our favorite team or program.
But right now, while Fox Sports calls Kiffin a "weasel" and ESPN changes their tune to suck at the USC teat, Tennessee fans hurt.
Vol fans believe they have a top-notch program, one worthy of more than the insult of being left after a year with unkept promises and tarnished reputation.
A month ago, I wrote an article saying UT was married to Lane Kiffin, for better or worse. The name "Tennessee" has been run through the mud for an entire year, and the whole time most of us believed it was a means to an end.
But here we are, at the end, and the means aren't justified. Lane Kiffin has pulled one of the most pathetic acts in the coaching profession. He tarnished the name of a good institution and bolted before taking steps to build it back up.
USC is a great program with a proud tradition, but is also facing possible NCAA sanctions, with some rumors labeling them "significant penalties."
The Vol faithful are surely feeling confusion at why Kiffin would leave after promising so much, only to run into a situation facing so much trouble. That confusion leads to a feeling of rejection and anger.
To the rest of the nation, this is simply a sports story. To most of the fans, it's humorous to watch Kiffin continue to do things to embarrass himself, showing his true colors so many rival fans were able to see before we were.
To the players and fans left in his wake, it hurts. We are now faced with the uncertainty of rebuilding a program after someone purposely screwed it, rather than just bringing it back from mediocrity.
Players like Tyler Bray, whose family sold their home in California and moved to Knoxville to watch their son play his college football, are enraged Kiffin would turn his back on so many promises he made.
But, alas, he is a snake. A weasel. A traitor. Most importantly, Lane Kiffin is a liar.
So many people saw it, so many people tried to tell us, but we didn't listen because he was ours. Any fanbase would do the same, but it doesn't help the sting.
With hurt comes reconciliation and recovery. Tennessee football is bigger than Lane Kiffin. The program will move on and recover from this, though it will take some time.
The next move is crucial, though I don't know what that move is.
What I do know is that Lane Kiffin embodies everything that is wrong with college football. It hurts me that he is and was associated with my football program and that we as fans put our program in his hands and trusted him.
At least now, all SEC fans can unite in their hate of Lane Kiffin.
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