Tennessee Volunteer Fans Who Defended Lane Kiffin, Don't Be Hypocrites!

Gerald BallCorrespondent IJanuary 13, 2010

ATLANTA - DECEMBER 31:  Coach Lane Kiffin of the Tennessee Volunteers watches pre-game warmups before the Chick-Fil-A Bowl against the Virginia Tech Hokies at the Georgia Dome on December 31, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  The Hokies beat the Volunteers 37-14.  (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

First off: Tennessee Volunteer fans who have not spent the last year defending Lane Kiffin, this does not apply to you.

Now, Kiffin-defending Tennessee Volunteer fans. For the past year, you have defended the disrespectful, unprofessional antics of your legacy hire. The thousand injuries of Lane Kiffin against the Southeastern Conference, a league with a proud tradition that Kiffin clearly despised because he is a west coast and SEC guy, I will not exhaustively enumerate because you know what they are. Instead, I will only list a few of them, and more important what motivated them.

You also know that the rest of us in the SEC warned you that this day was coming. We warned you that Kiffin was going to use his time in the SEC to advance his own interests, to do his best to make the conference look bad (witness the humiliating nonconference losses to UCLA and Virginia Tech, games that Kiffin could have cared less about, as compared to his best coaching and motivational efforts against Georgia, Florida and Alabama).

To make as many enemies as possible, go for the quick cheap fix instead of working to build a program, and then leave the first chance he got. And when Kiffin left, you guys would still be left right where you are: in the very SEC that Kiffin did his level best to disrespect, undermine and marginalize because it sticks in the craw of him and every other west coast guy that the SEC wins national titles while they win media attention for their many excuses.

Granted, it happened much faster than I thought. And that is good for you Tennessee fans, because Kiffin only had one season to damage your program. The only bad thing is that it happened too late for you all to go after guys like Tommy Tuberville, Turner Gill, Charlie Strong, Brian Kelly and some of the other better candidates out there.

However, there are still some good candidates for you to go after: Kirby Smart, Butch Davis, Jeff Jagozinksi, Al Golden, Dan Mullen and Mark Dantonio come to mind. Hire well now and you actually avert a disaster. You come out way, way ahead.

But that does not change the fact that when Lane Kiffin takes the USC job, he will not rack up secondary violations because he actually CARES about the future of the USC program (yes, the NCAA will eventually tire of flagrant secondary violations and impose sanctions, ask Washington and Colorado victims of "secondary violation" Rick Neuheisel).

He will not fill his roster with a bunch of flaky self-seekers looking to exploit the Volunteers for quick playing time and resort to alleged armed robbery attempts when they don't get it (Nu'Keese Richardson).

He will not tell five star all star game MVP QBs from one of the top producing regions of QB talent in the country (Tahj Boyd) "thanks but no thanks" knowing full well that he has practically nothing at the position, then fail to replace Boyd in the recruiting class AND fail to get anyone better in the next one but a scout team body JUCO and some kid that he got to decommit from a west coast mid-major.

More important, Kiffin WILL NOT enter the Pac-10 trashing Rick Neuheisel, Dennis Erickson, Chip Kelly, Jim Harbaugh, Mike Riley etc. the way that he did Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Mark Richt and Steve Spurrier.

He will not raid assistants from other programs and voraciously go after other programs' recruits, obviously more interested in inflicting damage on the contenders' programs than building his own.

He will not claim that players who attend Pac-10 programs other than his "all wind up pumping gas for the rest of their lives" as he did regarding South Carolina.

He will not tell recruits committed to other programs to lie, and he certainly will not trash the high school teachers and administrators and the entire impoverished small town (again, Nu'Keese Richardson). He will not do any of these things to his Pac-10 foes because he likes and respects the Pac-10.

More important, he loves and respects the university that he will be working for, and he will do his best to keep that university from becoming a national laughingstock. Making Tennessee a laughingstock? For Kiffin, that was a fringe benefit, to use an SEC school to advance himself, make fools of that program during the process, and then split.

Now of course, the rest of us in the SEC tried to warn you. When we did, what did we get? Your repeating the lie of this legacy hire that it was necessary to help Tennessee recruit against mighty population centers like Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Auburn, Alabama and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. That Johnny Majors and Philip Fulmer had no problem whatsoever getting outstanding talent to Tennessee without resorting to those tactics? Immaterial.

Your failure to notice that Kiffin was only interested in trashing and raiding SEC programs while refusing to do the same to USC and the Little Nine out west, or even to Big 10 and ACC programs? Please. Instead of that being a clear sign that Kiffin was going to be gone the first chance a desirable west coast job opened up because Kiffin wasn't alienating people and burning bridges, the only people who notice things like that OBVIOUSLY hate Kiffin and the Tennessee Vols!

And that is what it was all about: our alleged hatred for the Tennessee Vols. Never mind that in the BCS era, everything has changed. Because of what happened to Auburn in 2004 and almost happened to LSU in 2003 and Florida in 2006 (and would have happened to Georgia or LSU in 2005 had it not been for Hurricane Katrina with the latter and key injuries for both), everyone in the SEC has gotten the message: it's the SEC against the world! Everyone in the SEC knows that the traditional and current powers like Tennessee, Florida, LSU, Alabama etc. have to be competitive or the national media will rob the SEC like they did in 2003-2004 all over again, when the SEC should have walked away with two national titles but had to settle for half a title!

And we were allegedly oh-so-worried about what this legacy hire and his father were going to do to the SEC. Right, as if the SEC hasn't had its share of failed NFL coaches and guys with NFL experience (Spurrier, Rich Brooks, Saban, Sylvester Croom, Bobby Petrino), and if the SEC wasn't filled with guys who were winning before Kiffin came and would still be winning after he left. No one in the SEC was trembling scared because Philip Fulmer was gone and now you guys had a new way of doing things, because quite frankly we all had a higher opinion of Fulmer (who ran a solid, clean program, was a great recruiter, hired very strong assistants, and oh yeah WON A NATIONAL TITLE) than we ever had of Kiffin. If you didn't know why before, you do now, don't you? What do you think of "Kiffin's new way of doing things" now Volunteer fans?

Now this isn't about the Kiffin hire itself. We know that none of you Volunteer fans had anything to do with that, and we also know that the people who were responsible for this fiasco will be held accountable. Instead, this is about Tennessee fans who defended Kiffin's nonsense week after week.

Tennessee fans who claimed that so long as it was helping you guys beat Florida and Alabama on the recruiting trail, anything goes. Tennessee fans who dishonestly tried to draw some sort of equivalency between Kiffin's bawdy behavior and never concealed hatred for the SEC and Steve Spurrier's making fun of Fulmer and Chavis' strategy and lack of adjustments.

Look, Spurrier mocked SEC coaches because he honestly wanted the SEC to improve. The SEC took Spurrier seriously and you see the result: seven national titles in 15 years. Also, Spurrier saved his worst barbs for Bobby Bowden and FSU. That's the difference between an honest straight shooter who played for the SEC, has coached for two SEC programs, and LIKES the SEC and a carpetbagger who is just passing through long enough to fill his moneybags and letting everybody know his hatred for everything pertaining to Dixie while he was here.

Look, Kiffin freely and thoroughly mocked everything about the SEC and the south on a routine basis during his entire time in Knoxville. What made you Vol fans think that he was different? That he hated everywhere in the south but Tennessee, and that he hated every SEC school but the Vols? What made you Vol fans think that the harm that Kiffin was doing to the SEC wouldn't harm Tennessee as well? Did it take getting humiliated in the Peach Bowl and then Kiffin leaving to figure that out? Because seriously: Virginia Tech isn't that great.

Alabama ran them off the field, and Virginia Tech was only able to stay in the game because of special teams. What is more, Georgia Tech and NORTH CAROLINA beat Virginia Tech this year. So Kiffin is able to get his team up to nearly upset Alabama—and accuses the SEC referees of cheating to protect Alabama after the game—but blows off the ACC-SEC rivalry in the Peach Bowl? Of course. Because Kiffin hates the SEC, could care less about the ACC-SEC rivalry, and would rather coach in the Holiday Bowl than the Peach Bowl (and the Rose Bowl than the Sugar Bowl). Kiffin cared more about knocking Alabama and Florida out of the national title race than building his own program. If you didn't know that then, now you do.

But hey, you Kiffin supporters shouldn't be let off the hook now. You backed Kiffin all this time, so keep backing him. Root for the guy. Root for him to win every single game, even when he plays Tennessee! Because you are Kiffin fans, right? Everything that he does is just fine, on the level, straight and narrow, right? Anyone who says anything against him is just a Kiffin-hater, right? So don't change now!

Otherwise, you are just—gasp!—A HYPOCRITE! It was fine, great even, when Kiffin was doing everything that he could to undermine the other 11 SEC programs and diminish the SEC's national image. It was just fine for Kiffin to harm the conference that your own university is a member of and makes tens of millions annually from as a result, right? So why change now? Why stop rooting for Kiffin when it is your school that is getting hurt? If it was OK for Kiffin to thumb his nose and give the middle finger to everyone else in the SEC while rejecting the conference's traditions AND their common interests in the BCS era, it is OK for Kiffin to give you guys the middle finger too!

It is too late, Vol Kiffin apologists, to FINALLY recognize that you guys are in the SEC too, that your own fate is tied to the health and good image of the conference. It is too late for your bunch to realize that advancing Tennessee at the rest of the SEC's expense A) wasn't going to happen and B) wasn't in your own interests if it was. It is too late for you guys to admit that the ends does not justify the means so long as you beat Georgia, Alabama and Florida. And it is too late for you guys to realize that hiring a guy who obviously hates the south and the SEC and loves the west coast and the Pac-10 is an idiotic thing to do.

Now Volunteer fans who never backed Kiffin: welcome back to the SEC. As a matter of fact, most of you never left to begin with. Here's hoping you find a guy like Spurrier, Tuberville, Saban, Meyer, Miles and FULMER who can take your program to the top without doing to the rest of the SEC what Sherman did to Atlanta. But for you Kiffin apologists, stay loyal! He is your guy. You bought into him and everything he did. So obviously with you guys, it was all about the best interests of Kiffin and not the best interests of Tennessee. You guys weren't Vol fans, you were Kiffin fans.

Well, stay Kiffin fans. Go buy USC paraphernalia. Learn their fight song. Root for them to win titles. In other words, be true to yourselves, honest and consistent. Do not expose yourselves as being so craven with self-interest, so envious of what Florida accomplished with Spurrier and Meyer that you became so desperate and myopic that you actually BELIEVED that what Kiffin was about, what Kiffin was doing, was actually GOOD for Tennessee football in the long term instead of being Kiffin enriching himself, padding his resume, and having a good old time for himself until the guy found the next ticket out of town.

But hey, if everything else that Kiffin did was fine with you, then his open, naked bald-faced admission to the entire college football world that USC is a better opportunity and a better job than Tennessee, that Tennessee is actually only a second-tier stepping stone job like Cincinnati or Utah, then you ought to be fine with that. Because after all, you are Kiffin fans, not Vol fans.

Well, allow me to wish the best of luck to you former Tennessee and now Kiffin fans. You all deserve each other! I hope you guys win every game! Except, of course, when you guys play against the SEC. Yep, Tennessee is in fact a member of the SEC. Sorry that you Kiffin fans just forgot, even if Kiffin himself never did.


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