This is Lane Kiffin, former head coach of the University of Tennessee Volunteers football team. Kiffin was head coach at Tennessee for exactly one year, and during that time he committed minor NCAA violations, recruited a convicted rapist, and trash-talked wildly successful Florida coach Urban Meyer. Oh, and Kiffin went 7-6, getting crushed by Virginia Tech in their bowl game.
Which is why it’s odd to see Tennessee fans so remarkably upset upon hearing word that Kiffin – an outsider who never seemed to understand the culture of SEC football – was bolting the school to take over for Pete Carroll as head coach at college powerhouse USC. After the announcement was made last evening, UT fans responded by storming Kiffin’s final meeting with the team to shout obscenities at him (police were called to break up the scene, and Kiffin needed an escort home), defacing school property, and burning things. Poor mattresses and cars. They always take the brunt of a good riot.
Kiffin was a loudmouth and has no successful track record as a head coach. In the wake of his departure, the school could end up better off, hiring any number of more talented men for the job, including Mike Leach, the former Texas Tech head coach. So why are people at Tennnesee so upset? I put the question to Fanhouse writer and Tennessee fan Clay Travis, who wrote:
The timing. Being spurned is one thing, but being spurned three weeks before national signing day? And on the day before classes started? To be honest, there were probably a lot of drunk people on campus.
And that’s a fair point. You have drunk kids, you have destroyed property. But I think it goes deeper than that. I think, at heart, we are still a very provincial nation. Southerners are more likely to trust fellow Southerners. Midwesterners are more likely to trust fellow Midwesterners. And East Coast people are less likely to really mean it when they’re punching other East Coasters in the face. That’s just how this nation is. And whenever an outsider – like Kiffin – is brought in and entrusted with an institution sacred to the region, and then ruins it and bolts at the first opportunity? Well, that tends to make people mad. It’s one thing to have one of your own people mess everything up. BUT A SMOOTH TALKIN’ YANKEE? That won’t do.
Like in politics, people in college football are always looking for people who “get" them, who understand what their team means to them. Lane Kiffin never got that at Tennessee, and you can bet that’s the last time the school decides against hiring one of their own.