Wed Feb 23 11:14am EST
Lane Kiffin has been Tennessee's ex-head coach now for almost as long as he held the original title, but between the evaporation of his only recruiting class and the burning desire of some Tennesseans to shoot him in effigy, the residue his 14-month tenure continues to pervade the program a full year after his abrupt departure for USC. Now, there's one final addition to the Kiffin legacy in Knoxville, courtesy of the NCAA, which wrapped up a 22-month investigation Tuesday by dropping an official notice of alleged infractions under Kiffin in the university's lap – one of which stands out, in particular (emphasis added):
The University of Tennessee yesterday received a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA regarding the school's men's basketball and football programs. … The notice contains the following allegations of violation of NCAA rules against the football program:
• By former members of the football coaching staff: impermissible telephone contact (16 total calls) with prospective student-athletes from Jan. 3-9, 2010.
• By a former assistant football coach: allegations relating to impermissible contacts with prospective student-athletes.
• By a former head football coach: failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the football program and failure to monitor the activities regarding compliance of several assistant coaches have also been made against a former head football coach, and permitting a football recruiting intern to make impermissible contact with high school staff during a recruiting visit.
Jan. 3-9, 2010, was a recruiting "dead period" (during which coaches aren't allowed to contact recruits) that ended just before the Kiffin clan made tracks for USC on Jan. 12, meaning these allegations do not specifically include recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron's alleged attempts to turn Tennessee commitments to USC as news of their departure was breaking – and all hell was breaking loose – that night. They also don't include anything apparently relating to the deployment of overly friendly "hostesses" to games featuring high-profile recruits.
As expected, the allegations do appear to include the illegal workout reportedly conducted by Orgeron ("former assistant coach") with a recruit during a dead period in May 2009, as well as former intern Steve Rubio's acting as a recruiter in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. If there's a hammer here, though, it comes with the charges of "failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance" and "failure to monitor," which are tied specifically to Kiffin, personally, not just Tennessee: As USC athletic Pat Haden said in his response to the allegations, "The NCAA enforcement process provides for Tennessee and Lane to address those charges," suggesting that potential penalties could follow Kiffin (and possibly Orgeron) to his new gig, even if he hasn't been accused of breaking any rules there.
That's a novel approach to enforcement, which is typically levied against the institution, not an individual coach. One glaring exception to that rule is Kiffin's crosstown counterpart, UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel, who was barred from off-campus recruiting for eight months in 2002, when Neuheisel was head coach at Washington, for recruiting violations that stemmed from his tenure at Colorado in the mid-nineties. Presumably, the notification to USC is notification that Kiffin could face the same fate.
The fact is, as scofflaws go, Kiffin comes across as something of lightweight compared to the epic list of allegations against Vol basketball coach Bruce Pearl – including "failure to furnish full and complete information relevant to the investigation," traditionally a kiss of death when dealing with the NCAA – over the same period. With the Neuheisel precedent hanging over his head, though, Kiffin is officially on the clock, along with his former employer: They have 90 days to formally respond to the allegations, before their date in front in front of the NCAA's Committee on Infractions for judgment in June.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.