Lane Kiffin hated the weather in Knoxville. Whenever it was cold, he bitched. Whenever it rained, he bitched. But while he couldn't control the weather he could try and turn Tennessee into the USC of the South.
Kiffin ran Trojan football highlights as recruits visited Tennessee, abandoned General Neyland's maxims because he didn't believe in them, brought West Coast swagger to the South. Then, in January, Kiffin's dream job came open. Pete Carroll was abandoning the Trojan ship for the NFL and the USC job was there for the taking.
After one year in Knoxville, Kiffin leaped for the USC brass ring.
The day he arrived in Southern California one of the first things Kiffin did at this press conference was comment on the beautiful weather. Ironic, then, that as USC is slammed with a two-year postseason ban and the loss of 30 scholarships, Kiffin now finds himself at the center of a constant rainstorm.
Lane Kiffin dreamed that he could be the next Pete Carroll. Instead of building on Carroll's dominance, Kiffin is the bag-holder, the fall guy left behind in a conspiracy to illegally dominate college football. For the next two years, Kiffin is in survival mode, from globetrotting CEO of USC, Inc. to fevered BP executive with his own metaphorical oil spill to contain in a matter of moments.
Lane Kiffin, just learned what Thomas Wolfe, a man who made his home a few hours from Knoxville, taught us so long ago, even if USC is your dream job, you can't go home again.
For Pete Carroll, life is grand with the Seattle Seahawks. He's tweeting up a storm from just up the coast. He's making more money, he's relaxed, the Seattle rain doesn't even get him down. Why should it? He's an Internet millionaire who sold his company the day before Wall Street tanked.
But for Lane Kiffin, the boyish coach with the golden interview skills, the man who believes he wields a whistle on campus fields like Picasso moved a paintbrush on canvas, the failure to examine all the angles in his move to USC must be crushing right now. If everything Midas touched turned to gold, Lane Kiffin has to be looking at his head-coaching hands, the same hands that left behind a steaming wreck in both Oakland and Tennessee, and wondering to himself: Why does everything I touch turn to crap?
Including, meanwhile, that career head-coaching record of 12-21.
And could there be worse timing for USC? Probation hits at the exact same instant that the Pac-10 is trying to expand and potentially bring in Oklahoma and Texas? Do you think Bob Stoops and Mack Brown might take advantage of USC's probation with recruits? Are oilmen rich in Texas? Hell, yes, they will.
How can USC even hope to compete with the likes of Texas and Oklahoma in the midst of its probation? Not to mention how Kiffin will compete with the wolves in his own sun-bedecked city. Why do I picture UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel applying aftershave this morning while repeating over and over to himself, "I love the smell of napalm in the morning."
Because let's be clear about something, this is the worst Pac-10 probation in nearly a generation, the worst since Washington in 1993. This isn't an NCAA slap on the wrist, it's a cannon shot to the groin delivered at a distance of five feet. It's crippling, debilitating to any program, but even more so to Lane Kiffin, a recruiter so confident he believes he could peddle televisions to the Amish.
How receptive are recruits going to be now that Lane Kiffin is selling national irrelevance? What's more, how many of those USC upperclassmen are going to stick around to help Kiffin try and salvage some veneer of success after they came to USC to be dominant?
If Lane Kiffin thought dealing with Al Davis in Oakland was rough, it doesn't compare at all to selling a five-star recruit on a program in peril.
Ask Alabama's Mike Shula.
At least, Kiffin has been forward-thinking in one respect, his 13-year-old quarterback recruit will not even be a junior in high school by the time probation runs out.
While everyone will focus on what probation is going to be like for Lane at USC, the bag holder-in-chief, what's it going to be like for his father? As if we needed a further lesson, we learn it anew: the bond between fathers and sons is stronger than the bond between sanity and our brains.
How else to explain what Monte Kiffin, now 70 years old, feels waking up this morning? Just over a year ago Monte was an NFL Hall of Fame defensive coordinator lauded as the greatest defensive mind in the game. Now, he's an old man staring down two years of probation before he can even coach a team in a bowl game. Years on top of that before he can coach a championship-caliber team.
All because he followed his son to Knoxville and then from Knoxville to Los Angeles.
And for what?
So his son could pursue his head-coaching dreams? The same dreams that only exist because the father was so successful?
Now Lane Kiffin is rich, but he's also lost in L.A, the coach with no resume in a city with the collective memory of a goldfish.
After all, anyone who follows TMZ knows that Hollywood dreams can quickly turn into nightmares. Just ask Lindsay Lohan. Or one of the other front-running celebrities that used to come stand on the sideline for your games back when you were relevant.
Somewhere another former front runner who flamed out, Pacman Jones, is smiling.
Because while it may not be cloudy often, the NCAA just made it rain on Southern California.