Once a landscape of harrowed tradition and occupational stability, the world of college football has recently transformed into a raging whirlwind of immediacy that has spurred a pursuit of the easy dollar.
Driven by our society’s mantra of “What have you done for me lately,” college football fans are an impatient bunch that requires results — and quickly. And because the game is continually confirming its status as a business enterprise to be reckoned with, the result has been pastures around each corner that are as green as the money that created them.
As such, head coaches today have adopted fickleness as their crutch. No longer are football programs built from scratch over the course of multiple generations by a single man; rather, it is the norm today to avoid being stuck in one location for an extended period of time, and leave at the first calling of the highest bidder.
As sad as it is, it is truth. And no one coach in the college game today embodies this modern philosophy better than Lane Kiffin.
Not yet 35 years of age, Kiffin is arguably the Golden Boy of collegiate coaches, but his job history suggests underneath the smooth thirty-something exterior lays a perturbed senior citizen that is perpetually annoyed with his current situation.
Kiffin has yet to remain at any one job for longer than five years. In fact, of his six jobs in the game of football, both in the NCAA and the NFL, five has lasted fewer than three years.
However, now that he’s back at USC, Kiffin seems at ease. But does this mean he’s finally in it for the long haul? Or will his occupational schizophrenia kick in again, resulting in more empty promises and another exasperated fan base? Time will tell.
Here’s a look at what Kiffin could be doing if and when he leaves Los Angeles.
At this point in Kiffin’s career, though he's only 35, assuming a role as an assistant would be a step back. However, should things not pan out in Los Angeles, why wouldn’t Kiffin move on to Seattle should his old buddy, Steve Sarkisian, offer up an opportunity?
Yes, it would be a cut in pay as well as glamour, but a coach accepting a demotion in the game of football is not altogether uncommon.
One year into his tenure at Washington, Sarkisian, also 35, has vastly improved the Huskies, but the offense lagged at times last season. Under first-year coordinator Doug Nussmeier, Washington scored 26.1 points a game last season, doubling its average from the previous season, but that mark was only good enough to rank 69th nationally and merely stated how pathetic the UW offense was in 2008.
It’s unlikely Sarkisian will make any drastic changes to his staff anytime soon, especially if the offense continues to improve under Nussmeier. But what if change is in order in Seattle around the same time Kiffin is looking for his next job? He would remain on the West Coast and in the Pac-10, be able to recruit the same players, and coach alongside a familiar face.
The convergence of the USC lineage of Sarkisian and Kiffin make this an interesting and riveting scenario to think about, but it also leads me to believe there may not be enough room in that Washington locker room to comfortably house the ego of both coaches.
Photo credit: SI/Icon SMI
For the sake of this article, let’s assume Kiffin has a heart of ice to go along with his knack for telling people what they need to hear. Would this one-two combo not make for an ideal arsenal for someone who gets paid to keep murders, rapists, and drug dealers on the streets?
After all, football is not everything, and every good man needs a secondary plan of action. And something tells me Kiffin’s smug attitude, youthful charm, and admirable ruthlessness would all dominate a courtroom quite nicely.
Of course, if Kiffin ever were to change professions, he'd have to earn it, which is something many of his detractors claim he has yet to do in his coaching career.
And seeing as how he likes to change his mind as often as he does, it might take a while.
The chances of Kiffin taking the job at his alma mater are slim and none, and that’s excluding the fact that current head coach Pat Hill recently signed a contract extension.
The only way it would conceivably happen would be if the NCAA’s current investigation of the USC program extends beyond putting the Trojans on probation and finds that Kiffin was guilty of wrongdoing while an assistant under Pete Carroll.
Even then, would a smaller school like Fresno welcome back a man who’s proven time and time again that he’s incapable of playing by the NCAA’s rules? And if the Bulldogs were willing to make a splash for Kiffin, would the coach be content with heading up a program that has been marginally successful in the past but resides in the middle tier of the WAC, a non-BCS conference?
In addition to his days as a student, Kiffin was a backup quarterback for the Bulldogs before he traded in his helmet for a headset, ultimately assuming duties as a student assistant coach under current California head coach Jeff Tedford, who was then Fresno State’s offensive coordinator.
Kiffin knows the FSU program. He knows the town, the fan base, and the school. And his hire would send shockwaves through the conference, if not the entire region.
But most of all, his persona and unabashed lust for competition would work seamlessly with Fresno’s motto of “Anybody, anytime, anywhere.”
Photo credit: Bulldog Village
The act of corporate weasels and politicians exchanging votes and financial support represents everything that’s wrong with our nation’s political system.
But for those lobbyists who are good at it, the payoff far outweighs the ethical reprehension.
Up to this point, Kiffin hasn’t needed to swoon many of his employers. Al Davis didn’t need much convincing. The University of Tennessee hired Kiffin less than four weeks after firing Phillip Fulmer. And USC, well, the head coaching candidate pool wasn’t exactly teeming with realistic options.
Ponder the damage Kiffin could do on Capitol Hill if he actually needed to exert some of those powers of persuasion and his convincing, um, stateliness.
Discarding his visor for a designer suit and tie, Kiffin would easily rake in more cash lobbying for a Fortune 500 company than he would in 10 years of coaching, and all those two-a-days in the summer would be replaced with fraternizing with congressional Democrats and Republicans over daily power lunches.
The only drawback would be that Kiffin would have to do a little less back-stabbing than usual.
Though it’s unlikely Kiffin will give USC the Tennessee Treatment and leave after just one season, the scenario is worthy of consideration.
If a suitor expressed interest, would Kiffin test the NFL waters as a head coach for a second time? We all know how well things worked out with Al Davis, and the sheer animosity behind that whole situation likely resonated with a lot of NFL owners.
But, if there’s one team in the league that could use a shock-value type of hire, it’s the Jaguars, with whom Kiffin worked as a quality control assistant during the 2000 season.
Amid rumors that the organization is all but prepared to pick up stakes and ride out of Northern Florida, the Jaguars have finished last in the AFC South each of the last two seasons, posting a 12-18 mark after earning a playoff berth and making it to the Divisional round of the playoffs in 2007.
And though owner Wayne Weaver recently gave his head coach a vote of confidence , Jack Del Rio is just 57-58 in seven seasons and may be given the hook after one more subpar season, despite having signed a five-year contract extension in 2008.
Plus, imagine the bliss should the Jags opt to draft hometown hero Tim Tebow in this year’s draft. It would be ESPN’s ultimate wet dream to have Kiffin and Tebow on the same sideline together.
Photo credit: AP/Florida Times-Union
Speaking of ESPN, that network could always use someone with a spine, couldn’t it?
I’ll say this for Kiffin: He may not always go about it the right way, but more often than not he says what’s on his mind. Which would be a refreshing alternative to the usual drones that the Worldwide Leader cultivates for its on-air staff.
To be honest, I could see Kiffin taking an analyst position with ESPN, but only after he has roamed the sidelines for a few more years, whether it is at USC or elsewhere.
Or maybe Kiffin decides sooner than later that he wants to take a small break from coaching and try his hand at TV before returning to the sidelines.
Kiffin possesses the tempered enthusiasm that ESPN likes, and he would arguably be the only man in television capable of humbling Mark May, who acts like an unofficial booster at times in acting as if USC can do no wrong, even when the Trojans lose.
Photo credit: USCTrojans.com
Any time a floundering NFL franchise seeks out its next head coach, a hot commodity among the college ranks is going to receive his fair share of consideration.
And in the not-so-distant future, the Browns and Kiffin may prove to be on a collision course with one another.
Despite the fact the Browns finished the 2009 season with five consecutive wins to narrowly avoid complete disaster, head coach Eric Mangini may receive minimal opportunity to turn the franchise around.
Patience among the fan base in Cleveland is wearing thin, and for a franchise that last appeared in the playoffs in 2002, the time for putting up or shutting up is getting awfully close.
So, what better way for the organization to show its commitment to winning football than to hire a coach with nary a speck of success in the NFL?
Photo credit: Cleveland Leader
While USC fans seethe and Tennessee fans wipe away their tears in laughter, let me state for the record that I am joking.
When it comes to Meyer and Kiffin, familiarity does, indeed, breed contempt. Though they spent just one season coaching against one another, Kiffin always seemed to be aware of Meyer’s next move before it was even made.
And, after all, isn’t anticipation one of the hallmark qualities of any good assistant?
Picking up dry cleaning. Grabbing coffee. Screening hostesses for the on-campus visits of five-star recruits. These would be just a few of the activities that would make up Kiffin’s routine as Meyer’s personal helper.
The tasks may seem monotonous and insignificant, but it’s not like Kiffin wouldn’t be well-compensated for his trouble, receiving a considerable percentage of Meyer’s annual salary of more than $4 million.
And who knows, maybe one day Meyer will hand-pick Kiffin to be his successor at Florida, where Kiffin will be afforded the opportunity to renew acquaintances with the Volunteers.
Photo credit: Reuters
To say that the NCAA is familiar with Kiffin’s tactics when it comes to recruiting would be an understatement, as the Committee is currently investigating a pair of cases involving the head coach.
In addition to the alleged wrongdoing involving former Trojans running back Reggie Bush during Kiffin’s time as an assistant coach at USC, the NCAA is looking into multiple infractions committed by Kiffin while at Tennessee, including six minor violations.
In short, as effective as Kiffin has been at luring kids away from other schools, which was most recently apparent on National Signing Day, he has quickly earned a reputation for bending the rules.
But what if after his tenure at USC — however long or short it may be — Kiffin decides to get a glimpse of the other side of the coin, and pursues a position with the NCAA Committee on Infractions?
He would instantly be ahead of the curve, and his intricate knowledge of the seedy side of college football recruiting would enable him to dole out swift justice to the men who were once his fellow perpetrators.
The best part: Once acclimated to the NCAA’s investigation protocols, Kiffin could spearhead an effort to close the recruiting loophole that enabled him to sweet-talk, and then receive a verbal commitment from, 13-year-old quarterback phenom David Sills.
Photo credit: korkedbats.blogspot.com
Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems the UT student body made it abundantly clear that Kiffin had permanently burnt a bridge to Knoxville when they took to the streets in the aftermath of his resignation.
But will school officials soften over time and eventually be open to the prospect of Kiffin returning to finish whatever it was that he started?
Kiffin’s replacement at Tennessee, Derek Dooley, seems like an ideal fit. He’s paid his dues, came highly recommended from a number of people, and has acknowledged being the head coach of the Vols as a destination job.
In short, it seems like Dooley is everything Kiffin is not: A native of the South who understands SEC football and, more importantly, respects what Tennessee football symbolizes.
But I am willing to bet, somewhere in the deepest, darkest, most remote corner of the subconscious of each UT fan, there’s at least a shred of concern about Dooley’s longevity. As the son of legendary Georgia head coach Vince Dooley, Derek Dooley is well-schooled in SEC lore, and his pedigree will automatically makes him a candidate to succeed Mark Richt in Athens.
But how soon would that be? Richt, who is heading into his 10th season at Georgia, is under contract through 2013, but a few more eight-win seasons may land him on the unemployment line.
Assuming Dooley is able to make some waves in the SEC, what will happen if his meteoric rise coincides with the job opening up at Georgia? Will he, too, leave Knoxville prematurely and leave the UT fans fuming over another set of unfulfilled promises?
Say what you want about Kiffin’s brash demeanor, somewhat childish tactics, and mediocre tally of wins and losses, but for the 14 months he was head coach, Tennessee football was arguably more relevant and entertaining than at any point during Philip Fulmer’s last few seasons on the job.
If the football program is subjected to another betrayal, would school officials and fans be willing to swallow their pride in order to bring Kiffin back, along with his swagger and unflinching aura of confidence?
Or will the wounds that were that opened by his untimely departure prove too deep to have healed so quickly?
Photo credit: Knoxville News Sentinel