Tuesday, June 9, 2009

In the Fast "Lane", but to where?

Not many people could find much wrong with the hiring of Lane Kiffin at the University of Tennessee. Even I thought it was an intriguing hire and that it could definitely pay immediate dividends because of Kiffin's name, his offensive mind and connections around college football. Oh how things have changed in a half year.

Roughly six months, and there have been six violations. They have all been minor violations but still violations nonetheless. He has also accused a fellow coach in his conference of cheating, which he was wrong about. You also can't forget that he has already had a rule inspired by him and let go of his strength and conditioning coach not too far into the summer.

The latest mishap actually involves ESPN, but this time it involves the sports super station directly instead of through sources like is the case more often than not. Kiffin was taped during an Outside the Lines segment talking with unidentified people who have since been identified as recruits. The NCAA rules prohibit a member of the media to be in the room when a coach is talking with recruits. Even if they weren't identified, anyone who has a decent amount of knowledge about college football would be able to tell who they are based off of how he was treating them and what they were talking about. Coaches don't have to be buddy buddy and talk about coverages you may like when you've already signed the letter of intent, because you're already the property of the university. Some people may choose to blame ESPN because they had to have known it was a violation and still put the clip on the air, setting Kiffin up for the violation. However if Kiffin was aware of the rules then he could easily kicked the cameramen out of the room for the period of time for the interview. His ignorance for the minor NCAA rules kept him from doing that though.

His other violations include mentioning recruits by name before he signed with the program on Twitter when it is a violation to do such. This one showed irresponsibility because he is not the one who actually "tweeted" the post, it was an assistant of his. Having an assistant do it is fine, but I'm thinking all employees need to know the NCAA rules. Kiffin lack of knowledge for the rules is starting to have an effect on his staff and makes me wonder if they all have that same lack of knowledge.

His recruits and recruiting has certainly been very controversial as well. He has so far signed someone who had a role in a rape when he was younger, a player he lured away from a fellow SEC school. Coincidentally (or not depending on how you look at it) that same recruit was involved in Kiffin wrongly accusing Florida Head Coach Urban Meyer of a recruiting violation when he called a recruit on a visit on the UT campus.

He also was able to lure big-time recruit Bryce Brown away from Miami. This isn't necessarily bad, but it shows his willingness to win by what seems any means necessary because Brown showed himself to be a bit of a primadonna during the recruiting process. As a result, the pressure is not only on Brown to be great but on Kiffin as well to play him right away. He might not actually be ready, but that won't matter.

The commissioner of the SEC made a rule a couple of weeks ago which forbids coaches from criticizing each other in the publicly. This, of course, is stemming from Kiffin and his dealings with other coaches within the conference. I believe that this is all putting a crazy amount of pressure on Kiffin in his first year. Their team will be decent, but they still have a long ways to go to get back to the top of the conference.

You also have to keep in mind the target that is being put on his back as well as the target that he is putting on the backs of all the players on his team. So far at least 10 players have left the teams, which does not speak well for what Kiffin has done there already. He says he only wants players that want to play UT football, but those kids did want to play UT football. Then he came, and did something (or things) that made them want to leave. I don't know exactly why they left, but I can't blame them anymore than the coach without knowing what actually happened. This is especially considering Kiffin's track record so far at the school.

If anybody read one of my earlier posts, they should know that I am NOT a Florida Gators fan in any sense of the word. I am objective however and believe that if Meyer and the Gators have a chance to drop 60+ points on the Vols in September, they will take it and use it fully. That goes for any team in the conference that is going to play Kiffin and the bunch this season.

His mouth has written more than their fair share of checks in his six months being coach at UT. Will his players be able to cash the checks? Because when the season starts, he won't matter as much as he thinks he will. All of the pressure will transfer from him to his players.

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