January 13, 2010
We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog for breaking news -- Tennessee fans were literally burning with anger Tuesday night at now-former coach Lane Kiffin:
How enraged was the Knoxville campus tonight as word spread that Kiffin was leaving the Vols to take over the top spot at USC? Besides the flames and the angry crowds, I can't zoom in any closer than this on the famous UT rock without bringing down the censors:
(Click here for the uncensored version. You have been warned.)
Elsewhere on campus, a few dozen Vol students came up just shy of a full-on, torch-and-pitchfork riot, gathering outside Kiffin's impromptu press conference to shout obscenities at their former coach -- at one point reportedly chanting Kiffin's home address -- before police came in to break up the burgeoning mob. A few players walked out of the hastily-assembled team meeting when Kiffin told them he was leaving. Some UT recruits are already backing out of their commitments. Apparently they weren't swayed by his insistence that he wouldn't be leaving for anyone else.
Kiffin was already something of a villain, in a kind of playful, "I poach recruits, I've been reprimanded by the conference on multiple occasions" sort of way. He was a young, cocky guy who managed to parlay one of the most coveted coaching gigs in America despite a meh resumé, and was given everything he asked for immediately upon his arrival. He named his newborn son "Knox." Tennessee took a chance on Kiffin, stood by him through an uninterrupted series of controversy and petty embarrassments, only to watch him bail at the first available opportunity, having proven nothing.
When Phil Fulmer was forced out in November 2008, he was met with an outpouring of goodwill from a grateful fan base that wasn't entirely sure it was doing the right thing by jettisoning the safe, home-grown hero who had built one of the most stable programs in the nation for the sake of keeping up with the mercenary trend that had paid such big dividends for rivals Alabama and Florida. Tonight, they have their answer: The hired gun is always bound for the next hire, even if he doesn't hang around long enough to shoot off anything but his mouth.
Maybe Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis wasn't as crazy as he looked when he called Kiffin "a flat-out liar" in the process of kicking the youngest head coach in NFL history to the curb less than a month into the 2008 season. He's not welcome back there, and he certainly won't be welcome back in Knoxville after tonight -- from the looks of things, he may not have anywhere in Knoxville to go back to after tonight. And if USC really is his dream job, he'd better make it count, NCAA sanctions and all, because next time he's not going to have anywhere to land safely if they run him out of town again.
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Vol fans burning UT gear in effigy via the Knoxville News-Sentinel.