Entries in Tennessee (3)
By BRADLEY MERRITT
Special To One Great Season
KNOXVILLE -- As the Lane Kiffin news leaked out on the ESPN wire around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Tennessee campus quickly escalated into riot mode, and campus police, many of whom are Vols fans, had seemingly no intention of stopping it.
About 1,000 students gathered outside the football complex, burning one of Kiffin's promotional "It’s Time" T-shirts in the street, setting a mattress ablaze and blocking the exit of the Neyland-Thompson Sports Complex. Kiffin eventually needed a police escort out of the complex, leaving his luxury car parked in the staff lot outside the building.
During the impromptu circus, a group of UT players lashed out against their former coach, proclaiming the familiar refrain, "It’s great ... to be ... a Tennessee Vol," as well as, "We are Tennessee. We don't need Lane Kiffin."
The players were understandably angry, in shock and looking for answers. Most of all they were defiant. Tennessee is a proud program, one steeped in tradition, and they scoffed at the notion that Kiffin was the key to its revival. Defensive end Ben Martin started chants of "Bring back Phil (expletive)," in reference to former coach Phillip Fulmer, who Wednesday was contacted by the school about a potential return to the sideline.
The biggest shock, though, came from USC's end. Many wondered why a program that just experienced one of the greatest decades in college football would hire a man with a combined 12-20 record over the last three years with Tennessee and the NFL's Oakland Raiders. The interest on Kiffin's end was understandable. After all, he's a west-coast guy with a west-coast wife, but why, they wondered, would USC go that direction when many more proven candidates are out there?
In the end, the answer is likely the same as when UT hired him: bloodlines. By hiring Kiffin, USC also gets his dad, defensive guru Monte Kiffin, as well as recruiting ace Ed Orgeron. And it's expected that Norm Chow -- the architect of many of Pete Carroll's great USC offenses -- will return as offensive coordinator.
That's the type of package deal that will get an under-qualified coach a job.
In the end, Tennessee fans see Kiffin as a liar and a one-man wrecking-ball. With NCAA sanctions looming at USC, the orange-sweatered loyals await the last laugh, ready to watch from afar as Kiffin meets his comeuppance. At the very least, they can enjoy the mark they've left on the Kiffin family. As Kiffin slithers his way toward the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, he's doing so with a 1-year-old son named Knox.
Merritt is the sports editor for the University of Tennessee's student newspaper, the Daily Beacon.
By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- I don't understand why there's such a fuss about Lane Kiffin's most memorable quote from his introductory press conference when he became Tennessee's head football coach.
YOUR THOUGHTS: Were Kiffin's comments disrespectful?
Said Kiffin: "I'm really looking forward to embracing some of the great traditions at the University of Tennessee, for instance the Vol Walk, running through the T, singing Rocky Top all night long after we beat Florida next year. It's going to be a blast, OK? So get ready."
I don't think it was much different from when Jim Tressel took over as Ohio State coach, ending more than a decade of Michigan dominance in the best rivalry in all of sports. Tressel was introduced to Buckeye Nation during a break in the Ohio State-Michigan basketball game in Columbus in January 2001.
Tressel took the mike and proclaimed: "I can assure you that you will be proud of your young people in the classroom, in the community, and most especially in 310 days in Ann Arbor, Michigan."
I think Tressel's comment was fairly ballsy, again because the Wolverines owned OSU for a decade, and because it is, again, the biggest rivalry in all of sports. And yet the statement didn't get hardly the amount of criticism that Kiffin and his proclamation have been getting this year.
Comments or gestures like that are intended to pump up your fan base and really nothing more. If the other side wants to turn it into bulletin-board material, then sobeit. Tressel has succeeded in walking the walk. We'll find out Saturday of Kiffin and his Volunteers can back it up at the Swamp when Tennessee takes on No. 1 Florida.