Lane Kiffin Leaves Tennessee after coaching just one season
Fourteen months ago, the University of Tennessee took a risk on a coach who had struggled to find success and chemistry in the National Football League (Oakland), and brought him in to replace legendary coach Philip Fulmer whose tenure lasted seventeen rather successful years. Now, Tennessee is again in search for a head coach after Lane Kiffin left the school to return out to the west coast to fill the vacancy at the University of Southern California.
I am struggling to find a reason why Lane Kiffin would leave Tennessee in the first place. Kiffin is a loud-mouth, and even after trash-talking several coaches, including the notable incident with Urban Meyer of Florida, Tennessee never really disciplined him, at least publicly. Kiffin even committed two minor recruiting violations, and the school essentially gave him a slap on the wrist. He spent most of this season trying to discover his team, as they looked great in some games (lost to undefeated National Champion Alabama on a last-second field goal), but awful in others (42-17 loss to Ole Miss), but in the end, much improvement was seen and several great recruits were coming in. Kiffin was on the verge of finding great success in the Southeastern Conference, where several coaches have been eaten alive by the difficulty of the country’s toughest conference. Tennessee risked it all by giving Lane a head-coaching position in which many called a stupid move, but it looked like a stroke of pure genius until Kiffin decided to bolt at the next best offer, just days before National Signing Day.
However, lets look at where Kiffin is going. He is headed to USC, where he coached from 2001-2006, serving as offensive coordinator for two of those seasons. But is USC a good fit for this bad boy coach? I believe the survey should say no on this one. In the midst of investigations about very severe violations, it is unclear why any major college coach would approach this job. If the school faces postseason restrictions, the idea of no major bowl games for two seasons (give or take) would be more than enough to drive away several current players and passionate recruits. And if the punishments are not too harsh, USC is one wrong step away from ending up that way.
It appears as though they endorsed a coach they knew would say yes, and embrace these risks as opposed to dwelling on them. Guys like Jack Del Rio and Jeff Fisher would want instant success, but a guy like Kiffin, a west coast guy living in Tennessee, why would he pass it up? He had a mediocre season at best at Tennessee. Was the program moving in the right direction? Absolutely. But the on-field success was not there, and it seems like an oddity that Kiffin would be the best potential candidate for a program so used to success and big-name coaches.
So in the end, Kiffin owes Tennessee a big thank you. They took a guy who had lost fifteen of his last twenty pro football games and made him their head coach. They gave him a great opportunity to succeed and the resources to do it. And understanding the business side of things, Kiffin gave them the finger and said so long a year later. I guess we will find out soon whether or not USC and Kiffin made the right move in forming this partnership.