Lane Kiffin's dream job?
Lane Kiffin's dream job is wherever winning football games is easier. And he made a calculated decision that it's easier to win championships at USC than it is at Tennessee. Given the Pac-10's weakness and the sunny Los Angeles locale, I think that's true.
So am I surprised that Lane Kiffin left for USC? No. Am I surprised that USC, given its looming NCAA issues, hired Lane Kiffin?
But if you needed any single event that better symbolized the massive difference between the mercenary/stripper era of college football and the era that ended in the SEC with the firing of coach Phil Fulmer, how both men made their exits summed it up best.
Phil Fulmer wore a suit, prepared his remarks, sat at a table next to the man who was firing him, Mike Hamilton, allowed the event to be carried on live television, fielded questions from the media, and cried on his departure from Tennessee. The entire Volunteer team was there to support their coach.
Lane Kiffin showed up in a white polo shirt -- short sleeved -- and jeans. He had no prepared remarks, refused to allow the media to carry his statement live, talked for just 90 seconds, took no questions, and not one single player was there to support their coach. How could they be? The departing coaches were too busy trying to convince them to skip across the country to California and join them there.
And there you have it, Tennessee moved into the fast lane and got burned. But it's not all depressing, there's been an awful lot of high comedy the past few days. Let's dive in, shall we:
By the way, as a preliminary, some people have e-mailed and asked about my story that went up last Tuesday night, about how it came to be so quickly. The answer is pretty simple. I've had most of that information for some time, but prior to last night I didn't have anyone who was willing to attach their name to it, and I didn't want to write an entirely anonymous piece.
It's fairly common for college athletes to be unwilling to go public with criticisms of their coaches while they're still college athletes.
Because they have no power in that situation. As soon as Lane Kiffin left, the power dynamic switched, and the story opened up.
So that's a prelude, now on to the departure, the coaching search and whatnot.
1. My favorite quote from this whole imbroglio?
Even in the midst of police protection being deployed for him, Kiffin still took the time to take a shot at Urban Meyer. Asked if he was going to cease his criticism of Urban Meyer, Kiffin told Volquest, "No, it's good. Now I can do it and not get fined for it."
The fact that this quote hasn't gotten any attention is criminal.
2. How much is Lane Kiffin tarnishing his dad's legacy?
If Monte never leaves Tampa Bay, he coaches five or six more yeas, retires, and probably gets inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.
Now he's jumping from one college job to another after years of stability.
Plus, from everything I've heard, Monte is a class act.
Unlike Lane, Monte made the rounds apologizing to UT officials for his son's decision to bolt to Los Angeles. Monte even let it be known that he didn't agree with the decision.
3. I can't let this go: Who shows up in an oversized, short sleeve, untucked polo and jeans for their farewell press conference?
It's incredibly disrespectful.
And this is coming from someone who wore flip-flops while he worked in a law firm.
It's not like Lane Kiffin didn't know the media was going to be there or that he might have to talk to someone before leaving for USC.
Plus, it was 20 degrees in Knoxville, why was he in short sleeves anyway?
4. Best tweet received on Tuesday? "Should Mike Hamilton show up to his presser with an old Starter jacket and an overhead projector?"
That would have been epic.
What if Hamilton had said, "I've sought and received permission to be added as a third-party plaintiff in Oakland Raiders v. Lane Kiffin?"
5. Is Ed Orgeron the dirtiest recruiter in college football?
He calls guys who become Tennessee students at midnight, at 10 in the evening, telling them not to go to class. And he did this while the head coach was addressing the team about leaving.
Then someone at Tennessee has to get his phone shut off!
How does this happen?
I'm picturing a UT underling rushing down the hall, arms pumping, screaming, "Get Sprint on the phone! Push the red button, push the red button!"
There are so many questions about this: Who can you immediately call and get a phone disconnected? Does that also kill your address book in the phone?
You couldn't make this up if you wanted to.
Also, am I the only person who can't stop thinking about how funny it would be to have Tennessee rehire Coach O and have USC have to turn off his cell phone when he started calling recruits from USC to get them to go back to Tennessee?
"Uh, hello, dis Coach O, I'm back with the Vols. Come to Tennessee."
He's like a big, dumb recruiting robot.
6. The Knoxville police had to be posted outside Lane Kiffin's house.
That's not a joke.
What's even more incredible?
They had to call-in the national guard to watch the Knoxville police to make sure they didn't shoot Kiffin.
7. What's up with Kiffin leaving behind David Reaves, his brother-in-law, Layla's brother, in Knoxville on the UT staff?
How has this not gotten more attention? And how can the other coaches left behind trust him?
That's like Fidel Castro jumping to the Florida Keys and then telling the Cuban people, "Don't worry, Raul is harmless. He's a good guy. He loves free speech."
How awkward is Christmas going to be in that household?
Your brother-in-law and sister's father-in-law hop on a plane for Los Angeles and leave behind the wife's brother to take all the crap in the city of Knoxville for their decision?
Scene: A Kiffin family Christmas. David Reaves hands present to Lane.
Lane Kiffin opens Christmas present: "David, is that Smoky's feces?"
8. The only thing that could have made this entire situation better is if Nu'Keese Richardson had shown up at the airport and robbed Kiffin before he could leave town.
Even better, what if he'd shot him with the pellet gun?
Kiffin would have crumpled and gone down like Lee Harvey Oswald.
Oh, stop it, he would have been fine. You probably used to shoot your friends with pellet guns too.
You're not from the South then.
9. Find me another person who has been less successful in life and kept getting promoted?
OK, other than George W. Bush.
Kiffin is now 34 years old, and 12-21 as a head coach with three different teams.
Let me repeat that: Three different teams have hired him!
Think about how hard that is to manage. How many coaches pour their heart and soul into coaching and never even sniff one head job? And yet Kiffin gets three before he's even 35?
This entire process has me convinced that most football coaches aren't very smart. Otherwise, how can a guy of medium intelligence run absolute circles around them?
10. What if Lane's last name wasn't Kiffin?
He's probably still toiling away somewhere as a wide receivers coach at a non-BCS school.
Even more incredible, now that he's in a great situation at USC, isn't he likely to succeed even if he isn't that great at coaching?
Yeah, he is.
Because a huge part of being a success anywhere is the quality of the people around you. After all, if you put someone who is average at best in a great job, they'd be successful too. For instance, if you put The Situation in a Martin Scorcese crime drama, he could get nominated for an Oscar.
Okay, maybe a stretch.
11. Thank God for T.J. Simers of the LA Times and his questioning of Lane Kiffin at the USC press conference Wednesday.
With his pointed questioning he turned Kiffin into Richard Nixon. He also demonstrated the difference between the press corps in big cities and in small Southern cities.
Kiffin is hired at Tennessee: "Lane, is your grandmomma happy to see you with this job?"
Kiffin is hired at USC: "How can you say you run a clean program when your top recruiter is telling recruits not to go to class?"
Also, someone please explain why people say Kiffin is great at interviewing when he can't respond to questions without using the word "umm" or "OK" 4 billion times.
12. Monte Kiffin went on Knoxville radio last week and committed a secondary violation by naming an unsigned recruit, Jacques Smith.
Whose violation is this?
It's like the black hole of secondary violations. Does USC have to take this one or does Tennessee?
13. In leaving, Kiffin said over and over that he'd been at Tennessee for 14 months.
Kiffin was offered the job on November 28, 2008, the Friday before the Kentucky game, but he wasn't introduced until November 30th.
So he's officially been at Tennessee for 1 year and 13 days. (Evidently I missed a month in my calculations here, he's been at Tennessee for 13 months. This is why I took a course called Mathematical Ideas in college. One of our exam questions involved coming up with an imaginary formula to count how many squares there were on a soccer ball. Also, we had to answer an essay question about whether we liked addition or subtraction better. I am not making this up.)
Even giving him 13 months is rounding up.
But I love that he chose to go with 14 months instead of just saying a year, as if 14 months is a commitment and one year is much less so.
Although, credit to Kiffin, he could have claimed that he'd been here 3 years, 2008, 2009, 2010, thanks to the quirks of the calendar.
14. Did Kiffin leave the program in better shape as he asserted throughout his USC press conference?
When Phil Fulmer was fired, Fulmer had the No. 7 recruiting class in the country committed. Lane Kiffin finished with the No. 7 recruiting class in the country.
Kiffin made a big deal of turning a 5-7 team into at 7-6 team, but the reason Fulmer was fired in 2008 was because the offense sucked under Dave Clawson. That 2008 team, which finished third in the nation on defense, had quite a bit of returning talent, they just had an awful offensive system.
The expectation was that with a new offensive coordinator who simplified the system things would work out much better.
And a new offense helped.
So Kiffin turned a 5-7 team into a 7-6 team, but that 5-7 team was the defending SEC east champs. To hear Kiffin tell it, he walked into a program with no talent whatsoever. News flash, an untalented team wouldn't have been favored in nine of last year's games by Las Vegas.
Kiffin won seven.
So did this 2009 team really overachieve with him at the helm?
And can you possibly argue that leaving your second class, and the only one you recruited in its entirety, three weeks before signing day leaves the program in better shape?
The fact is, the program is in worse shape now than it was in when Kiffin took over. Any other argument is laughable.
15. Is this Mike Hamilton's fault?
Probably not, but he shoulders the blame.
It was his ultimate call to bounce Coach Fulmer, and while it's difficult to predict that Pete Carroll is going to bolt and that the next four or five candidates at USC will all pass on the job, Kiffin's love affair with USC was apparent from the get-go.
Plus, and this is key, lots of people at Tennessee feel like Kiffin leaving now actually kept the school from getting in any serious trouble as a result of Lane's antics.
16. Kiffin said that the reason Tennessee fans reacted as they did was because we were all so impressed by the job that he'd done and couldn't bear to see him go.
Give him credit for his megalomania.
But that isn't the reason at all.
Tennessee fans were angry not because Lane Kiffin left, but because he lived up to all our worst fears. He really was a mercenary coach, the guy who didn't care one bit more about Tennessee than he did the Oakland Raiders.
After three decades of Tennessee men at the helm, we'd come to expect more.
And Lane Kiffin showed us that in the new era we've got to expect a lot less.
17. Near the end of "On Rocky Top," I wrote that Lane Kiffin would be compared to Phil Fulmer no matter what happened.
As part of that comparison, I quoted Tripp Lodge, a 4-year-old, about the lack of popcorn at the spring game: "Phil Fulmer always had popcorn, Lane Kiffin needs to work on the popcorn," Tripp said.
Two days ago Tripp's dad texted me.
Tripp had this to say about his erstwhile coach, "Lane Kiffin's popcorn sucked."
I think that about sums it up.
Clay Travis is the author of three books. His latest, "On Rocky Top: A Front Row Seat to The End of an Era" chronicles the 2008 Tennessee football season and is on sale now and makes a great stocking stuffer. You have a stocking for Martin Luther King Day, right?