STUDENTS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE GIVE DEPARTING HEAD COACH LANE KIFFIN A RIOTOUS SEND-OFF
by Bradley Merritt
for HUSTLER Magazine – May 2010
Lane Kiffin’s surprise resignation showed those outside Knoxville just how serious the Big Orange Nation takes its football. As soon as ESPN spread the news he would be succeeding Pete Carroll at the University of Southern California, around 1,000 enraged UT students quickly took to the streets.
Some torched Kiffin’s promotional “It’s Time” T-shirts, and a mattress was set ablaze. The legendary Tennessee Rock was defaced with “Fuck Lane Kiffin” and other derisive slogans. Cops donning riot gear and firefighters rolled in, but campus police—many of whom are Vols fans—had little intention of stopping the mayhem. After his impromptu farewell press conference, Knoxville’s new public enemy number one had to be escorted by lawmen through the heckling crowd gathered outside the Neyland-Thompson Sports Complex.
In the meantime a group of UT football players began to lash out against their former coach. They were understandably angry, in shock and looking for answers. Most of all they were defiant. Tennessee football is a proud program, one steeped in tradition, and players scoffed at the notion that Kiffin was the key to its revival. There were shockwaves at USC as well.
Many wondered why a program that enjoyed one of the greatest runs in college football history would hire a head coach whose combined record over the past three years with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders and UT was 12-21. They understood the interest on Kiffin’s part. After all, he’s a West Coast guy with a West Coast wife, but why, they wondered, would USC bring back Carroll’s former protégé when so many proven candidates were available?
The answer is likely the same as when UT hired the guy: bloodlines. With Kiffin as a young, brash figurehead, USC gets two key members of his UT staff: defensive guru Monte Kiffin (Lane’s father) and recruiting ace Ed Orgeron. That type of package deal will always land an underqualified coach a big-time job.
Vols fans hope they have the last laugh. They see Kiffin as little more than a snake in the grass and a program wrecking ball. With USC facing possible NCAA sanctions, the UT faithful would like to see Kiffin get his comeuppance. At the very least they’re taking solace in the fact that as Kiffin slithers his way toward the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, he’s doing so with an infant son named Knox.
Which takes us to UT athletic director Mike Hamilton, who figuratively wet the bed. Two days after announcing he was seeking a proven national recruiter to replace Kiffin, the A.D. hired Louisiana Tech’s Derek Dooley. In his first head-coaching job, he chalked up a three-year mark of 17-20. So now an inexperienced coach who couldn’t secure a winning record in the Western Athletic Conference has what it takes to revive Tennessee’s program in the powerhouse Southeastern Conference? Of course Dooley had a sterling reputation as a recruiter at LSU, but got it by representing Nick Saban, not himself.
With a need for the Vols to recruit nationally, Dooley seemingly doesn’t have the name recognition to walk into a promising player’s home and beat out SEC heavyweights. When word came out that he’d be running the show, the general sentiment of the Big Orange Nation was: Who’s that guy? Is he related to Georgia’s old coach?
By hiring Lane Kiffin for one mediocre season and replacing him with Derek Dooley, Mike Hamilton has effectively set the Tennessee program back for years to come. The only answer now is to scrap the whole thing and start over, new athletic director and all.
Bradley Merritt, a senior majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing, is sports editor of the University of Tennessee’s student newspaper, the Daily Beacon. The onetime collegiate football and baseball player is a chief contributor to FireMikeHamiltonNow.com and has also written for ESPN.com.
MAY 2010 – HUSTLER Magazine
Buy this issue – $15.00.
Comes with full length DVD and free shipping!
Buy the digital issue for immediate download – $8.99.
Includes 4 movie clips in the issue!