Truth is indeed stranger than fiction. Those who would like to argue that point would be well-served to learn the story of Lane Kiffin. He came, he talked, and then he talked some more... and then he left. But he didn't really accomplish anything in the meantime. And yet somehow, he got a promotion out of it all. Two of them, actually. You still don't think truth is stranger than fiction?
For all of the hot air produced, there was never any underlying substance to justify any of the endless blathering. His biggest "wins" were in fact respectable losses. His moments of greatest attention came not from on-field accomplishments but from off-field shenanigans. His biggest recruiting coups ended up stoned in the back of a Prius parked at a gas station in the wee hours of the Knoxville morning, just waiting to rob a couple of idiots riding around in a '98 Hyundai Elantra.
To paraphrase Shakespeare, he was full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Yet, somehow, he keeps working his way up the coaching ladder. He bombed with the Oakland Raiders -- who only hired him in the first place because no remotely qualified candidate would ever consider joining such a laughingstock organization -- only to be rewarded with one of the top jobs in all of college football. And once he got there, again, he didn't really accomplish anything, but yet he was awarded with yet another promotion. At this point, Kiffin is literally failing his way to the top. I tell you, he is really missing his calling by being a football coach. Anyone with that skill really ought to be in politics.
And the hilarious thing is the outrage from the Tennessee fans. Exactly what is there to be upset about?
Yes Kiffin did leave at the worst possible time for recruiting, and yes Kiffin did put the university in a serious bind in terms of hiring a new coach, I'll give you that. But so what? Even if the recruiting class turns to fecal matter -- which looks to be the case -- Tennessee hasn't been able to do anything for years with top-end recruiting classes because of a complete inability to develop talent once it arrived on campus, and there was never any real evidence to indicate that Lane Kiffin was going to be able to do anything to reverse that trend. And so what if Tennessee has trouble finding a good replacement? Consider what they are having to replace... a young, unqualified, and inexperienced coach who really had no business even being considered for the job in the first place. Can you realistically argue that Tennessee cannot find a comparable replacement for that? They might not be able to find a good replacement, admittedly, but they never had a good coach to begin with. Hell, they might even legitimately land an upgrade. Truth be told, Tennessee fans will probably look back at this moment about like Alabama fans look back at Dennis Franchione setting foot on a plane bound for College Station.
And the outrage over Kiffin and Orgeron trying to convince Tennessee commitments to follow them to USC? Equally as absurd. Tennessee fans sure as hell had no problem last year when Lance Thompson started recruiting Alabama commitments and prospects the second he arrived in Knoxville. Oh sure, it was fine when they were using those ties to recruit prospects like Tana Patrick, Brandon Moore, Eddie Lacy, and Gerald Myles, but let those same people do the same thing to recruit prospects like Brandon Willis, Markeith Ambles, Delvin Jones, and Ahmad Dixon to another school? Apparently that's another story entirely. In reality, at most, it's just a bunch of people not liking that they are finally receiving a dose of their own medicine.
Besides, Kiffin's departure probably spares Tennessee of major NCAA sanctions, which were almost inevitably coming had he continued to reside in Knoxville. If the majority of that fan base had even a modicum of intelligence, they would have figured that out right away in the wake of Kiffin's departure and would have responded accordingly. And, frankly, had they had any meaningful amount of intelligence, they would have realized how ridiculous it was to buy stock in all of Kiffin's hot air in the first place.
Furthermore, who really did not see this coming? Can Tennessee fans legitimately be surprised that this happened? All Kiffin did from the moment he set foot in Knoxville was to try to build that program in the mirror image of USC, and huge shock... when USC pursues him with the head coaching job, he immediately accepts. The only real surprise here is that USC was desperate enough -- having been turned down by the Jack Del Rios of the world -- to even consider someone like Kiffin. It should have been common knowledge to any legitimate observer that Kiffin would take the USC job in a
LA New York minute if it was ever legitimately offered to him.
Meanwhile, in his introductory press conference, Kiffin showed himself to be more of the same. To the contrary of what USC athletic director Mike Garrett wants to contend publicly, there has been no growth on the part of Kiffin since he arrived in Knoxville this time last year. He showed himself to be the same bag of hot air he has always been, and his attempts to defend his unimpressive record were nothing short of laughable. No fewer than four times did he make light of the fact that he was a member (a position coach, mind you) of what he called possibly the greatest run in college football history. Perhaps someone should remind Kiffin, who is obviously no college football historian, that Curley Hallman could have made the same claim at his introductory press conference at LSU in 1989. And the fact that he doubled the Raiders win total in his first year? Or his assertions of improvement in his first and only season at Tennessee? Those claims were of an equally ridiculous character. Simply put, Kiffin's record is indefensible. He knows it, Mike Garrett knows it too, and their claims in defense of his record shows you exactly how indefensible his record truly is.
And as for USC, mark my word that they will get hammered by the NCAA. The actual merits of their case are completely and totally irrelevant. I figure they are guilty as hell, but even assuming they are completely innocent, their lack of guilt simply does not matter. The Trojans have long since lost in the court of public opinion in the most high profile NCAA case in many years, and the NCAA knows good and well that their legitimacy as an organization will be seriously undermined if they do not empty both gun barrels on USC. They simply will not allow that to happen. Mere facts be damned, the NCAA will work backwards from an end result -- major sanctions -- if that is indeed what it takes. And even knowing that good and well, USC goes out and brings back both Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron? Damn, just damn. I tell you, that is the kind of complete and total disregard for authority that you just have to tip your hat to. Audacity of that magnitude is just downright impressive. Oh sure they'll still go down, but while you may hate USC, you at least have to respect that.
So, with all of the foregoing in mind, let me summarize by recapping exactly what has happened here: Tennessee lost a coach they should have never hired in the first place, and in doing so they probably avoided major NCAA sanctions in the years to come. Their recruiting class was hurt by this move, but they haven't really done what they needed to do in recruiting in years (and there was no indication that was changing with Kiffin), and while Kiffin's late departure did put them in a bind in terms of finding a good replacement coach, truth be told they never had a good coach in the first place. And, meanwhile, USC is still going to fall at the hands of the NCAA, and while they will remain a recruiting power, they will likely see a dip in their level of on-field success (relative to what was accomplished from 2002-2008) just as was expected with Pete Carroll leaving and the NCAA moving in with the hammer.
In other words, for all of the glorious YouTubes, the burned mattresses, and all of the tear gas, Kiffin's departure changed very little on the college football landscape. Again, full of sound and fury...