Kiffin cares only about himself
By Gene Wojciechowski
If there were a stock car race between all the frauds, egomaniacs and two-faced weasels I've ever covered, Lane Kiffin would have the pole position all to himself.
Kiffin is a spin doctor without a medical degree. He thinks truth comes in different shades of gray. He demands loyalty, but gives none himself.
Kiffin is a used car salesman with a whistle. Wait, that's not fair to used car salesmen. He ditched Tennessee for USC after just 13 games. The remaining five years on his contract, the players he left behind, the nine high school recruits who planned to enroll early, they all meant nothing to Kiffin.
According to someone who was in the room, the Tuesday night farewell meeting between Kiffin and the Tennessee players was "very, very, very hostile." Kiffin told them that coaches come and go, that USC was his dream job. The players, orphaned after less than 14 months, responded angrily.
If not for interim coach Kippy Brown, who calmed the players down after Kiffin's appearance, the tension and anger could have redlined. Put it this way: Kiffin is lucky no one took a swing at him. That was the level of betrayal felt by the players in that meeting room.
Kiffin doesn't care. That's because Kiffin is about Kiffin. He sold Fords on Monday, Chevys on Tuesday. Just change the business card and the mailing address. His scorched-earth coaching policy isn't concerned with collateral damage.
All that bluster about beating Florida, and singing "Rocky Top" all night long? Nothing more than a Hefty bag full of Kiffin verbal garbage. All those recruiting pitches he made? Empty promises. (By the way, full disclosure: I'm a Tennessee grad.)
Heads should roll, beginning with the one belonging to Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton. Hamilton is the guy who hired Mr. One-and-Done. He's the guy who made like a Kevlar vest and protected Kiffin when the coach falsely accused Florida's Urban Meyer of cheating, or kept committing secondary rules violations, attracting NCAA inquires, or got fined by the SEC for popping off.
Oh, I'm sorry, Kiffin said it was all part of a calculated scheme to keep Tennessee in the news. First of all, Kiffin isn't that smart. Second, it wasn't true. Kiffin wanted everyone to believe it was part of a master plan, but he knows better.
Hamilton paid Kiffin and his staff eye-popping money to come to Knoxville. A lot of good it did. Kiffin is taking his old man and defensive coordinator, Monte Kiffin, as well as recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron and several other assistants with him to USC.
It has been a gruesome past 12 months at Tennessee. Firings. Guns. Robberies. Drugs. Player arrests in football and basketball. Player suspensions and dismissals. NCAA rules violations. And now Kiffin ditches the place.
All of this happened on Hamilton's watch. Why anyone would trust him to run an athletic program and make the next football coaching hire is beyond comprehension. He made a panic hire with Kiffin and got exactly what he deserved.
Any chance UT women's basketball coach Pat Summitt would like to become the school's athletic director? Her B.S. detector would have sounded the alarm on Kiffin's nonsense during the first interview.
And if not Summitt, how about hiring someone else who actually cares about Tennessee -- someone who played there, coached there and won a national championship there? I'm talking about Phillip Fulmer, who was forced out by Hamilton and disgruntled heavy-hitter boosters to make room for Kiffin.
According to a source with direct knowledge of the situation, several members of the UT Board of Trustees have contacted Fulmer about the possibility of returning to Tennessee as its athletic director or even as its football coach (but not both positions). Those same sources say Fulmer was receptive to those inquiries, though ESPN.com's Chris Low reports that Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp is Tennessee's first choice to succeed Kiffin.
Given the circumstances, the AD job would make the most sense for Fulmer and Tennessee. He would provide instant stability and credibility. But adding to the intrigue and confusion is this: The school is without a permanent president, which means it might take a power play from trustees to force a change.
Whatever happens, it will take years for Kiffin to patch and caulk the gaping holes in his credibility. If you were a recruit, why would you believe a word he said?
On the December 2008 day he was introduced as Tennessee's head coach, Kiffin told reporters: "I want the Tennessee family to know this: This is what I'm going to give you. I'm rolling my sleeves up and going to work. I'm not promising you how many wins, how many championships. I can't do that ... but I can tell you this right now: No one is going to outwork us. No one is going to outwork me as a head coach and no one is going to outwork our staff that we put together. That's the promise I'm giving you, the wins will come after that."
All seven of them.
Some promise, eh?