It's now been two months since the hiring of Lane Kiffin. I have enjoyed, shall we say, the vociferous debate with my SEC brethren, most directly the Tennessee fans who turned from Kiffin's biggest supporter to his most ardent hater.
That might seem like a bold statement, however, the response to my articles about Kiffin's departure and the SEC hate has been eye opening. In fact, my last article Lane Kiffin fallout: Are the Trojans Done as a National Power, was tagged as a USC article because I am a Trojan Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.
I believe everything I said in that article about the greatness that the 2010 season could bring. However, I am beginning to believe this has to do less with Lane Kiffin and more of a full store house of Carroll players that are poised to dominate a Jeremiah Masoli-less PAC 10 once again. Though I did write that article before Masoli was a confirmed criminal, so call me a crazy USC homer!
Many of you have accused me of writing a title to incite the SEC fans and in this case that is not true. However, of almost 6,000 reads, the majority are from "still angry" SEC fans looking to hate on Kiffin.
It really got me to thinking, "What is up?"
How come this vitriol has not subsided. What is it about Kiffin that has ticked these people off so much beyond an arguably shady exit from Knoxville?
So, I've decided to do a little research and follow some hunches that I have seen in Lane Kiffin from day one. I'll unravel his hasty exit and what led to it. I'll also take a look at the reason I think Mike Garrett hired him.
We will take a look at Coach Orgeron and the recruiting accusations that were thrown his way literally as he got off the plane. Are the recruiting accusations against Coach O legitimate, or are they result of a jilted lover (Tennessee) looking for anyway to discredit an old friend?
What was Mike Garrett thinking?
These are Garrett's own words in the Kiffin hiring,
"We are really excited to welcome Lane Kiffin back to USC,” Garrett said. “I was able to watch him closely when he was an assistant with us, and what I saw was a bright, creative young coach who I thought would make an excellent head coach here if the opportunity ever arose. I'm confident he and his staff will keep USC football performing at the high level that we expect.”
OK, not everyone was thrilled with the selection of Kiffin. LA Times ran a poll and the immediate response to the hiring was 47% for and 53% against. Honestly, Trojans fans have been trying convince themselves this 34 year-old kid with a lousy head coaching resume is worthy of the USC head coaching job.
In case you forgot, this is what Dennis Dodd, CBS Sports.com Senior Writer said at the time,
"Bozo the AD -- Mike Garrett is his stage name -- rode one of those tiny tricycles up to the door of USC's hallowed athletic headquarters, paused, cleared his throat and tried to tell a joke.
The punch line came out as, "Lane Kiffin has been hired as the 22nd coach in USC history to replace Pete Carroll ..." We laughed out of shock, frustration and incredulity.
Mike Freakin' Garrett hired Lane Freakin' Kiffin? One is a recluse. The other tried to wreck Urban Meyer. One fiddled while O.J. Mayo earned -- about $20,000 in improper benefits by one estimate. The other led with his mouth.
Can they win together? Not likely. Not because Kiffin can't, but because Garrett probably won't be around to see it. As it stands, Garrett has himself a coach with a .363 career winning percentage, a guy with as many NCAA secondary violations as wins in his first -- well, only -- year at Tennessee. A coach who taunted, teased and tweaked so often he has a rule named after him in the SEC.
For now, let's quickly go to the texts ...
Kiffin? You gotta be kidding me!!!
Lane Kiffin? Lane Kiffin? Really? Ha ha! No, seriously, really?"
It has become clear to me that the Kiffin hiring by Garrett has more likely says more about the No's that came USC way in January than it was about Kiffin and his potential as a USC prodigy!
Volunteer fans, you can thank Mike Riley for his "no"! You can thank Mike Riley for his "no"! You can thank Jack Del Rio for his "no"! You can thank Jeff Fisher for his "no"! Chris Petersen's "no"!
My thought was if these guys said "no", then what about Al Davis' first choice as Raider coach, Steve Sarkisian. We don't know if he was ever asked, but if he was and he said "no", then all USC FANS SHOULD KNOW SANCTIONS ARE ON THE WAY!
It's been speculated that Kiffin's sincere entrance and insincere exit for Volunteer-land could eventually cost the Tennessee A.D. his job. I hope not, because I think Coach Dooley is a good hire.
However, how many Volunteer fans are crying about La. Tech's sudden loss? A big zero! Though, there seems to be much less question about Dooley's character than Lane Kiffin's. Stay tuned!
I am guessing that since new USC President C. L. Max Nikias has been named, he could clean the Trojan house of Garrett and put Kiffin on a short leash once the NCAA findings are announced, if they are as bad as so many seem to think they will be.
After all the needling of Tennessee's fans that I have dished out, what has brought on this Trojan "future" introspection?
Just call it character, my friend. The Tennessee fans kept screaming that Kiffin was making the same promises in L.A. that he made in Tennessee.
They kept screaming they sold their soul to the devil and were making the same bold claims as Trojan fans a year earlier.
I have read hundreds and hundreds of SEC and Tennessee responses about Kiffin's character and then proceeded to see him begin to prove them at the very least, worthy of investigation!
So, time will tell if Garrett's "Hail Mary" is intercepted, but the pass is sure wobbling now!
What was it about Kiffin's exit that really set off Volunteer fans?
This one has me concerned and amused at the same time. However, level-headed Volunteer fans have been railing to me on the blogs that this was more than your typical exit.
For many of us in disposable relationship Southern California, we simply do not understand why UT fans were so torn up over a coach leaving a program.
The facts are, Lane Kiffin scooted out of Volunteer-land because he broke their trust and he was afraid for his own safety and the safety of his family. You don't break commitments in the South.
I found out that In the South, football is a way of life. Marriages, divorces, birthdays, you name it are all planned around football schedules. West coast fans don't get that and never will!
It does not matter what level of football either. College, High School, Pee Wee, Pop Warner. Every level of football is taken seriously in this part of the country.
We have other things to do then obsess over USC football around the clock, but in the South it is different!
It doesn't make SEC fans better than PAC-10 fans, however, it does explain the amount of energetic responses to Kiffin's exit.
While the sun did rise the morning after Kiffin's departure, for many fans, the sun did not shine as brightly for many very upset Volunteer fans. That was obvious by the responses to my articles on Bleacher Report.
As I found out on hundreds of responses, this is easy. Trust, honesty, and honor are major tenets of the Southern way of life.
In the eyes of UT fans, Lane Kiffin violated all three. In Lane Kiffin's eyes, this was another business decision. I defended Kiffin and still do, by claiming, "he left for USC."
However, in the South, Kiffin's exit is about much more than leaving for USC. It is about a coach who gave his word.
Trust, honor and honest are rightfully in play here!
Regardless of which side of the fence you fall on this subject, Southerners cannot stand to be lied to. Bleacher Report respondents to my articles were overwhelming in this respect and have been to this day.
I was told time and time again, Kiffin sold Volunteer Nation a bill of goods with his mouth that he could not pay. They said, "When dealing with a habitual liar, this eventually happens every time!"
Is Kiffin a liar, as they say? You be the judge, but it is worth bringing up, now that he has the most high profile college football coaching job in the country.
In the view of SEC fans, an honorable man would have turned the offer down, because he had only been on the job 14 months.
I didn't get that then, but I do now. Particularly after what he said after his last game.
Following his team's loss in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Kiffin had promised his fans (and detractors alike) that he was only getting started. I was told time and time again from the SEC fans that this is something you don't break, no matter what.
In Kiffin's case, apparently he completed the job faster than expected.
Is Coach O the savior or a recruiting violation waiting to happen?
I will admit I have been the lead cheerleader with respect to Coach O. However, as the accusations came from the South about Orgeron's character. I began to take a closer look.
I'm the first guy to give a guy a break, however, if there is a pattern, then it is buyer beware, and in my mind, USC is in no position to take risks on coaching character.
Did USC take a risk on Coach Orgeron's coaching character? You be the judge!
I'm a Coach O. fan, but this time my blinders are off and his character will speak for itself...
* In the early 90's Orgeron was ordered into a 26 week domestic counseling program.
* A year later Orgeron was placed on probation by the Miami athletic department for another incident. Orgeron did go back to his family in Larose, La. to get his life back together.
* After Hurricane Katrina, Missisippi Athletic Director Pete Boone suggested the Orgeron contact Tulane about possible player transfers.
Tulane head coach Chris Scelfo was less than pleased with the idea. Scelfo attacked Orgeron after the incident, called those coaches or administrators connected to the Tulane controversy "lower than dirt" and later stated that "there's people in our business who do not belong in our business".
The SEC investigated the alleged infractions but found that no league or NCAA rules were violated and exonerated Mississippi and Coach Orgeron. Did he break any rules, no? Does it raise questions about his character, yes!
* There was a 2007 Mississippi probation incident with 20 football players for having stolen pillows, and clock radios from the hotels in which the team had stayed.
This brings to question what kind of player Coach O recruits. Coach O. reversed the probation because no previous discipline issues had arisen.
Trojan fans, can you imagine something like that happening at Heritage Hall? With football violations issues flying all over USC these days, the Trojans can't afford a slip up here.
* Orgeron was the subject of the 2007 book "Meat Market: Inside the Smash-Mouth World of College Football Recruiting" by Bruce Feldman that highlights the recruiting season during Orgeron's time at Ole Miss.
To be fair, Coach O's resume' in his first stop at USC appears to be clean. It had better stay that way, Ed!
Can USC afford these kind of recruiting tactics or anything close? I'm just saying!
I know, we all want to say..that is in the past....This is a new day for Trojan football...
* After his departure from the University of Tennessee, reports surfaced that he called midterm enrollees at the school to offer them a scholarship at USC.
This was just hours before they were scheduled to begin classes, which would have limited their transfer options.
Furthermore, some of these calls were purported to take place during a team meeting, with the players turning on their speaker phones so that their new teammates could listen to him talk.
Both Kiffin, who played dumb to the whole thing, but his body language said "GUILTY" at the press conference and Orgeron denied he broke any rules.
However, his sloppy response led me to believe where there is smoke there is fire! Additionally, with their past history revealed it can now be understood why Tennessee fans feel as they do.
For Trojan fans it is "buyer beware" and let's not sell our souls to the devil. We didn't hire these guys and we hope they will work out.
However, at the first site of Kiffin foul-ups, I'm ready to bag the great recruiting season (Kiffin is a great recruiter), bag the great coaching staff (thanks Coach O and dad) and ditch the emotion and call this a monumental failure and mess.
Lane Kiffin and his staff have no business in shady recruiting ventures, and signing a 13 year old kid David Sills to a non binding letter of intent is a stupid publicity stunt. We are SC! Stop that, Lane!
I believe Trojan fans are different than Tennessee fans. We are willing to write about our warts and demand they be eliminated and do it now, not after we are jilted!
I've been telling SEC fans and particularly Tennessee fans that this is the case. Lane Kiffin you can expect us to be watching very closely and not pull a bag over our heads if you blow it.
It is too early to tell whether Coach Kiffin will destroy the Trojans tradition? You should be aware there are many unanswered, and until now , not even recognized, issues!
Be aware, be very very aware!
(About the writer: Jon Sarver is the co-founder of Fanrevolt.net , a site that is committed to Dumping the BCS and demanding a college football playoff. Check it out if you are tired of the current BCS system and want a change now!)