January 28, 2009
I don't know the first thing about Lane Kiffin on a personal level, other than that he once sported questionable facial hair, he's not above sacrificing his child's name to ingratiate himself to a rabid fan base and he's breaking the bank to bring Tennessee up to speed with its mercenary rivals. Something tells me it's only the latter that's put young Lane in the crosshairs so quickly: Steve Spurrier tried to peg Kiffin for cheating the same day Kiff was hired at UT, and now Ray Melick's snippy takedown in the Birmingham News last week has been one-upped by his esteemed colleague, Paul Finebaum, who's so turned off by Kiffin that he actually defends Al Davis today in the course of a general spitballing of the Vols' new coach:
However, after watching Kiffin's bizarre and infantile behavior at Tennessee the past few weeks, I'm beginning to wonder if Weird Al was so crazy after all.
Since arriving at Tennessee in December, Kiffin has gone on a spending spree that rivals the recent government bailout of Wall Street. He's been hoarding assistant coaches, making unprofessional comments about other schools, and, in the process, is well on his way to becoming public enemy No. 1 in the SEC without having coached a game.
Another concern for some in Big Orange Country — in addition to fiscal irresponsibility during bleak economic times — is a complete break from the tradition of Tennessee football, according to Bob Gilbert, a respected journalist and sports historian of UT football.
"This is the first time since Bob Neyland became head coach in 1926 that there are no coaches with Tennessee backgrounds on the staff," Gilbert said.
Oh, Paul. The economy? Good ole boy assistants? Alabama's staff makes how much, again? How many of its assistant coaches have prior ties to the Tide? (Answer: Before they joined Nick Saban's current staff, zero). If he's "not ready for the SEC," as Finebaum's headline says, then what is it about Kiffin that's rubbing the rest of the conference so raw? Surely it's not something as petty as luring assistant coaches.
As best as I can tell, other recent public enemies in the SEC and the attendant press have included Spurrier, Saban and Urban Meyer, which isn't such bad company -- I don't think Finebaum has gone out of his way to castigate Rich Brooks or Bobby Johnson lately (although he hasn't always been so quick to jump on other lavishly-compensated, carpetbagging recruiting mercenaries when their behavior veers towards the "unprofessional"). So even though I have no idea how many games Kiffin's going to win this year at Tennessee (well, I have some idea), on some level I have to think anyone able to cause rival scribes to spill this much ink and drive a usuallly sensible Alabaman into the arms of Al Davis before his first spring game at a school that just went 5-7 with a loss to Wyoming must be doing something right.