With Kiffin, Volunteers Take Fast "Lane" to Continued Mediocrity

Brad TaylorContributor INovember 29, 2008

There have been some boneheaded hires in recent years in the Southeastern Conference. Ron Zook at Florida and Ed Orgeron at Ole Miss come to mind most recently, while the coaching landscape was previously littered with such doozies as Curley Hallman at LSU and Hal Mumme at Kentucky.

The SEC's most recent hire, however, Lane Kiffin at the University of Tennessee, may be the most ill-conceived, mind-boggling move by a college President and athletic director since Notre Dame hired Gerry Faust. 

What were the Volunteers thinking?

Yes, I know the litany of challenges that Tennessee faces such as the geographical recruiting challenges that force the Vols to recruit nationally, playing in the SEC Eastern Division, and fan expectations that are through the roof. 

These, combined with the fact that one never hears Knoxville mentioned as a particularly great college town, require a coach to do a hard sell when it comes to convincing a high school star athlete to suit up in deer hunter orange.

But this is a powerhouse football program, folks. There is no reason that a university like UT had to take a legitimate step down from Philip Fulmer to hire a largely unproven, 33 year old whose best item on his resume is his daddy's name.

Until his flop in Oakland, which admittedly was doomed to failure because, well, any job working for Al Davis is destined to end in failure, little Kiffin's best credentials were while serving as offensive coordinator at USC.

There are titles and there are jobs and if you believe the offensive coordinator at USC was Lane Kiffin, Pete Carroll is an even better salesman than previously thought. Kiffin's responsibilities with the mighty USC Trojans offense were probably closer to calling out for pizza during film sessions than calling plays on Saturday afternoon.

The big winners in this are clearly the rivals of the Volunteers in the SEC Eastern Division. Georgia and Florida could use one less knockdown, drag out scrap every season and will likely enjoy playing a Tennessee team whose coach is simply not ready for life in the rough and tumble world of SEC Saturdays.

Tennessee will continue to get talented players and with talk of bringing in former Ole Miss head coach and recruiting guru Ed Orgeron to serve as defensive coordinator, February will likely still be kind to the Vols. But as Ole Miss fans will tell you, Orgeron could recruit but couldn't coach his way around the Oxford square. Game days may well be the blind leading the blind.

Just as with all hires, time will tell whether this was another blunder by AD Mike Hamilton or a savvy move to lock up one of the great young coaching minds of our time.  

I'll bet on the blunder.