Lane Kiffin was named the new head coach at USC last night. The moment after it was announced during a two minute press conference in which Kiffin refused to field questions rioting erupted on the Tennessee campus.
UT students reacted in a way more in kin with a prison riot at Attica than a "thanks, see you later" press conference.
Threats were made, students chanted his home address, Kiffin's car was chased, mattresses were set on fire, and I hate Kiffin graffiti decorated the campus. Police were called in and tear gas was used to disperse the angry mob.
That is one heck of a lot of negative emotion to display toward a coach who is leaving with 7-6 record, six minor NCAA violations, a recruiting hostess scandal the NCAA is curently investigating, a reprimand from the SEC office, and a reputation for opening his mouth way before he thinks.
They take football seriously in Tennessee and they take perceived disrespect even more seriously. The feeling is Lane Kiffin betrayed the program that embraced him only 14 months before. Leaving the program after only one year and a couple of weeks before letter of intent day is a betrayal these fans will never forgive. Hopefully Kiffin and his family had a private jet waiting to whisk them away to Los Angeles because spending the night in Knoxville might have put them in harms way.
Kiffin's press conference was a complete joke. It showed a major character flaw. He read a two minute statement voicing some hastily written rhetoric about how he had worked 110% for the last 14 months and then was off to Los Angeles to accept his dream job. Obviously there is no easy way to handle a situation like that but he could have shown enough class to answer a few questions before he fled.
Coaching is a business and coaches leave to take other opportunities all the time. The legendary Darryl Royal coached one year at Washington before taking his dream job at Texas. It was an extremely hard decision for Royal to make at the time. With the support of the UW AD he ended up getting that dream job even though it dissapointed Washington fans at the time. Royal arrived with class, left with class, and kept coaching with a lot of class. They eventually name stadiums after guys likes that,
Washington fans will never know how close they were to losing Steve Sarkisian yesterday. Sark could have had the USC job if he had shown interest in it. He wasn't the first choice and neither was Kiffin but word out of LA is that he was much higher on the totem pole and things didn't even start to go anywhere because Sark simply said no.
A lot of coaches even if they didn't intend to go might have played it up for a day or two to extract a pay raise. That is how the game is played these days. Sarkisian had no interest in playing that game. He meant what he said on Friday and that is Washington is his dream job. He is happy in Montlake. Leave it at that.
Kiffin and Sarkisian are going to be measured against each other for the forseeable future. Sark was offered the Oakland Raider job and turned it down. Kiffin was offered the Oakland Raider job and he took it. When he was fired by Oakland he lobbied for the Washington job and didn't get an interview. Sarkisan got that interview and knocked Woodward and Emmert off their feet.
Imagine what things would be like today if Washington had hired Mike Leach or Lane Kiffin? We would probably be scrambling during the final weeks of the recruiting season trying to find a new coaching staff. Washington made the right hire and this week the trust they bestowed on Sarkisian was rewarded. USC is one of the top five jobs in college football. It takes a lot of integrity to pass up the opportunity to be considered for a job that you have probably dreamed of having. Steve Sarkisian is a man of integrity.
Back in 1979 when Woody Hayes was let go at Ohio State Don James was a candidate for his job. He had the right bloodlines being from Ohio and having been the head coach at Kent State. James publically denied interest in the job but when Ohio State came calling he decided to interview for it. OSU picked Earl Bruce instead. James later said that it was a relief when he wasn't offered the job because he might not have been able to say no.
James was also courted by Notre Dame and the Seahawks among others in later years but decided to make it a career at Washington. Based on what happened on Tuesday Steve Sarkisian is going to be at Washington a very long time. The only other job that we ever thought he would be attracted to was USC and now you can scratch that off the list for the time being.
As for Lane Kiffin this is his third head coaching job in the last 16 months. He arrives at USC with the best coaching staff money can buy. USC which was in chaos on Monday isn't going to miss a beat this recruiting season. They might miss out on a kid or two but with the Tennessee recruiting list in hand they will be able to finish nicely.
The battle for Los Angeles is just starting. Rick Neuheisel over at UCLA may have been pretty cocky over the weekend but this announcement isn't the news he wanted to hear. Kiffin and his staff will be relentless recruiters. In fact they already are trying to poach his offensive coordinator Norm Chow. Rick needs to be on his toes because USC just hired someone who is just as slick and even more brash.
Even though USC will put together an incredible staff and still be talent rich there are some serious obstacles to overcome. Probation is coming as soon as this spring. Insiders in LA are saying it will be major. Not as bad as what Washington suffered in the 1990's but similar to Alabama in 2000.
Expect the Trojans to be stripped of past victories, pay money back to the BCS, and possibly lose a cherished national title. They will also face a bowl ban, reduced scholarships, and the loss of TV money over the next year or two. Expect the punishment to end no later than after the 2012 season. The Pac 10 has a new TV contract coming up in 2013 and the league wants this all over and done with by then.
Lane Kiffin is a very talented coach but he has some big shoes to fill at USC and while he is filling those shoes he has to run a clean program because the NCAA is going to be watching very closely. He needs to grow up quickly because the guy I saw chased out of Knoxville after a two minute press conference doesn't seem mature enough yet to handle a challenge like this.
Only time will tell if USC made the right choice. As for Tennessee maybe in the long run Lane Kiffin did them favor by leaving before he got them placed on probation.