August 06, 2010
One of the hallmarks of the Lane Kiffin administration at Tennessee was the "secondary" recruiting violation, relatively harmless slaps on the wrist for (in Tennessee's case) offenses ranging from mentioning recruits by name on the radio and Twitter to staging mock press conferences to improer deployment of a smoke machine to letting ESPN cameras in on a recruiting visit. The Vols racked up six minor infractions in all in a little more than a year under Kiffin's watch (admittedly, not an outrageous number, despite the unusual publicity) and came under even more fire when the NCAA began a probe into UT's overly friendly recruiting hostesses in December. Kiffin's attitude at the time seemed to be, if we have their attention, we must be doing something right.
Well, he definitely had their attention. According to ESPN's Joe Schad, the NCAA's interest didn't stop with a few flirtatious hostesses, and won't stop until it serves Tennessee with a notice of allegations stemming from Kiffin's tenure at some point in the very near future:
NCAA investigators interviewed Tennessee assistant football coaches Lance Thompson and Jim Chaney and other school officials in Knoxville last spring in the process of examining possible recruiting violations beyond the appearance of Vols recruiting hostesses at high school games, a source told ESPN on Friday.
Thompson and Chaney are the holdover coaches from the one-year Tennessee regime of Lane Kiffin, now coach at USC. A separate source said Florida State assistant Eddie Gran, a former Tennessee assistant under Kiffin, also was questioned by the NCAA.
The first source said Tennessee expects to receive a letter of inquiry from the NCAA in the near future. As part of a broadened inquiry, the NCAA is expected to interview other former Vols coaches, including Kiffin, about recruiting methods at Tennessee, including the timing of coaching staff contacts with high school players, a source said.
Conspiracy theorists are already envisioning a hoard of black NCAA helicopters descending on USC to lead Kiffin away in handcuffs based on information gleaned from Tennessee's full cooperation as state's witness. More skeptical beat writers point out that this "news" only restates what we've known for months: The NCAA was looking into possible recruiting violations at the end of Kiffin's tenure, and still hasn't come back with a notice of allegations or anything else. In all fairness, we have to hold out the possibility that nothing serious will come out of the affair.
But dramatically speaking, as a narrative, the very prospect that Kiffin – already despised on historic levels by the entire state of Tennessee – might add "major violations" or "probation" to his record of casual disregard for rules and general decorum would make for a near-perfect ending to the pitch-black farce of his tenure there. If there's any insult left for Tennessee to endure that could definitely prove all of the worst assumptions about Kiffin – he came, he saw, he said "Eh, I've seen better," and stuck the hillbillies with the tab – the specter of non-trivial NCAA sanctions would have to be it.
- - -
Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.