Tennessee Volunteers Football: Is Rocky Top Getting Ready To Crumble?
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Over the past year, the NCAA has taken several shots to the chin regarding their handling of potential NCAA violations. The hypocrisy of the NCAA has been loud and clear. Put aside the Cam Newton scandal because none of us know the truth. However, look how they handled similar violations. For example, former Georgia Bulldog, AJ Green, was suspended four games for selling a piece of property that belonged to him for fair market value ($1,000). While I think the rule is idiotic and hypocritical, it is the rule, and he had to accept the punishment.
Then, you have Marcell Dareus for Alabama who went on two separate trips to Miami where airfare, lodging, meals and transportation were all paid for by an agent. The NCAA declared the value of the benefits received to total almost $1,800. His punishment, despite being almost $800 more than AJ Green's, was only two games. At the same time, the NCAA was investigating violations committed by Ohio State University football players. The NCAA waited until the bowl game to make a ruling and would not enforce the punishment until the 2012 season.
In essence, they suspended the one player the University of Georgia could not afford to lose, gave Marcell Dareus a slap on the wrist for a more blatant offense and gave Ohio State an extension on their punishment.
The NCAA would later come out and proclaim that they were going to be tougher on punishment and more consistent on the severity of the punishment. In other words, they are going to find a couple of schools and make an example out of them.
Because of this negative media attention, The University of Tennessee might be staring down a barrel they don't deserve to be looking at. Before non-Tennessee fans become outraged by that statement, hear me out. Yes, the basketball team deserves to be punished, and to some extent, made an example out of. However, the football team's violations are, for the most part, the working of Lane Kiffin.
Lane Kiffin was hired at the University of Tennessee after a vary successful tenure as an assistant coach with the USC Trojans and one less-than-impressive season with the Oakland Raiders. Most insiders believed he was hired more for the staff he could assemble than his personal coaching style. In his first season with the Volunteers, he posted a mediocre record of 7-6. However, the team did look better than the record would suggest and by many accounts should have won the game versus eventual national champions Alabama. Then, out of nowhere, Kiffin resigns to take the head coaching job with his former employer USC.
I know that was a long introduction, but I want to submit three reasons the University of Tennessee football program should not be punished. The first reason is because they did not know the history of Lane Kiffin's previous violations prior to his hiring. Had they known he had a history of being involved in major recruiting scandals, I am doubtful that they would have hired him. The bulk of the news about the USC violations did not break until after Kiffin was hired. It is one thing to hire a man you know has previous violations, and it is another to thing all together to hire a young coach who has all the right answers.
The second reason I do not believe Tennessee should be held accountable for Kiffin's actions is because he was only at the school one season. If history is as important as the NCAA claims, they need to consider that in the 45 seasons prior to Kiffin's arrival, Tennessee only had four coaches. They have been a model of consistency in that area. They had not been through the hiring process for a football coach in a long time, and they made a mistake. However, they are guilty of a bad hire but not the offenses made under the watch of a habitual offender.
The third and last reason I believe they should go unpunished is because the University of Tennessee is the victim in this case and not the offender. The Vols athletic department is much like an old lady who gets internet for the first time and soon after receives an email from a supposed Nigerian official needing her bank account information. The old lady didn't do anything wrong; she just got conned. In the same way, this is the work of Lane Kiffin, not the University of Tennessee.
The basketball program is a different situation. The truth is they should have fired Bruce Pearl the day the evidence was shown to them. However, I know it is difficult to throw someone to the curb who took your basketball program from a bottom feeder into a national powerhouse. In the end, whatever the basketball program gets will be hard to argue. Although, the slap on the wrist Jim Calhoun received should serve as a precedent.
If the NCAA wants to send a message, they need to send it to coach Lane Kiffin and not the University; he lied and manipulated.
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