It can finally be admitted that Lane Kiffin's departure as a lot more to do with the lofty way Tennessee and the SEC views itself than the outright betrayal of a young coach. Never in the 43 years that I have followed college football have I seen such a vitriolic reaction to the departure of a head coach to another program.
It is interesting to note that the hiring of Derek Dooley is very similar in scope to what happened with Lane Kiffin and USC.
Consider that Dooley is young and relatively inexperienced. It could be argued that his resume is nowhere as strong as Lane Kiffin's (remember, Kiffin was a major player in restoring USC to dominance in the early to mid 2000s under Pete Carroll), though Dooley did have a stint at LSU which cannot be ignored.
Dooley was recruiting coordinator at LSU for three years and then moved with Saban to the NFL in that much-talked-about transition. It is clear that Dooley had an eye on his future at each point of his transitions.
Just last week, Lane Kiffin shocked the college football world by leaving Tennessee for the University of Southern California. This writer believes this has as much to do with the almost God-like allegiance the South has to football and its self-image as anything else.
Former Vol Chuck Smith summarized his view of Kiffin's departure by saying this, "Kiffin’s sudden departure shows a lack of respect for UT and the SEC. I don’t really think he realized how serious the game was there (at UT) and how much people put in tradition in not only the conference, but the team,” Smith said. “That was the worst part about it.”
Wow! A guy leaves an admittedly great program in a great state for the one program in the country that he told his athletic director he would leave for, and he is vilified. Folks, we are talking USC here!
Guess what? Los Angeles takes its football just as seriously as the SEC. There are more people who live within a one-hour drive from downtown LA as live in the states of Tennessee, Louisiana, and Alabama combined, so please save the serious line for some other school and some other opportunity.
Not one of the SEC programs, with the exception of Alabama (historically) can even be mentioned in the same breath as USC. Go ahead and tell me Florida historically matched up with USC. I'll be waiting for Georgia for years before you find enough material. LSU? No!
That's the point! He left for a great program and didn't have a lot of time to weigh the alternatives. Lighten up on the guy, because Tennessee did the identical thing with Dooley that USC did with Kiffin. It's clear both had an opportunity they couldn't pass up.
Tennessee fans, I believe you would not have reacted with so much anger had Kiffin not been making a positive impact before leaving for the preeminent job in college football. And let it be said: It will remain that way, sanctions or no sanctions.
Alabama fans, please do not rail on sanctions. You know a little bit about that, eh?
Now consider the mess that Derek Dooley left behind at Louisiana Tech. It seems hard to believe that anyone could leave a university in such a mess so close to national signing day. How could he leave a program that he had been at for only three years?
He didn't have a great record, so how desperate was Tennessee? Did he care about Louisiana Tech tradition? He must have been in it for himself! That's what you have been saying about Kiffin! Why not apply the same standards here?
The truth is, Dooley left for a better job. He didn't have the luxury of waiting for several weeks. He had to make a decision.
Sounds very similar to the vilified one. The only difference is this sort of fraternity mindset that the SEC and the South has perfected over centuries. If you are not from the South, you don't have a life, or a football team, for that matter.
It's time to wake up and admit that there are legitimate opportunities at great institutions in other parts of the country. Additionally, you had better look your program in the mirror honestly and evaluate how you stole Dooley from Louisiana Tech before you scream at Kiffin for moving to USC. Honestly, which job would you have taken?
Right! USC over a great school, Tennessee. Tennessee over a fine school, Louisiana Tech! Case closed!