Kiffin: Optimist vs. Pessimist

January, 13, 2010
1/13/10
4:52
PM ET
Boy, who have thought hiring a football coach could inspire such... feeling?

USC fans mourn Pete Carroll's departure with a candlelight vigil. Tennessee fans mourn the loss of Lane Kiffin with a, er, near-riot.

It makes sense that Tennessee fans feel jilted. But the reaction most everywhere else, including LA, also is mostly negative.

The pessimists think all those people who are saying bad things about Kiffin are way too generous.

The optimists can't understand this. They think Kiffin is a great hire.

In the interest of making everyone happy -- or, in the case of the pessimists, justified -- the Pac-10 blog will present talking points for each position.

The Kiffin Pessimist


  • Kiffin is bailing on Tennessee after only one season. He showed zero loyalty to the school that entrusted him, at just 33, with its cherished football program.
  • Kiffin was fired from his previous head coaching job, the Oakland Raiders, before the end of his second season. His record? 5-15. Said owner Al Davis, "I think he conned me like he conned all you people."
  • USC is entrusting its tradition-rich program to a coach whose career record is 12-21.
  • He's an immature, attention-seeking loudmouth. He popped off at Urban Meyer, Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier. His mouth earned a reprimand from the SEC.
  • In just one season, he committed at least six secondary NCAA violations.
  • Tennessee faces at least two more violations as the NCAA continues an ongoing inquiry into other infractions, including the possible misuse of recruiting hostesses and impermissible visits.
  • That's the NCAA baggage he brings to USC, a school facing its own NCAA inquiry. That hammering you hear outside? That's the NCAA building a gallows.
  • Three Vols freshmen were involved in a robbery on November 12. Two were later kicked off the team.
  • That's the sort of discipline he inspires.
  • Kiffin is trying to hire Norm Chow as his offensive coordinator. Recall that Kiffin was part of the palace coup that convinced a suddenly marginalized Chow to bolt USC for the Tennessee Titans. Sure they'll be swell together.
  • With Chow gone, Kiffin was USC's offensive coordinator when UCLA beat the Trojans 13-9 in 2006, costing them a berth in the BCS national title game.
  • Kiffin lost 19-15 at home this season to UCLA, which went 3-6 in Pac-10 play.
The Kiffin Optimist


  • One word: Recruiting.
  • Make that two words and a sentence: Recruiting, recruiting. Kiffin and recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron will be the nation's best recruiting tandem, and nothing in college football is more important than great recruiting.
  • Xs and Os? The defense goes to Monte Kiffin, one of the great coaching legends on that side of the ball. The offense -- hopefully! -- goes to Norm Chow, one of the great coaching legends on that side of the ball.
  • So, great recruiting plus great schemes: We could stop there.
  • Lack of loyalty? Wait, phone's ringing. Hello. You want to offer Mr. Pessimist his dream job? Sorry. He's not going to take it. He's loyal.
  • Maybe the reason Kiffin has been hired for his third head coaching job in 17 months -- before he turned 35 -- is because everybody knows he's got loads of talent? It's not like the Raiders, Volunteers and Trojans hired him because they felt sorry for him.
  • The loudmouth stuff? Overblown. But he's been told to tone it down. He will.
  • The secondary NCAA violations? Randomly audit 10 other elite BCS programs. How do they compare to Kiffin? No, we don't know why those other schools didn't get as much publicity for their peccadillos.
  • Look, fans and media who don't understand the nature of NCAA violations and sanctions can prattle on about how horribly the Trojans will get hammered, but, please, just make sure they're around when the actual penalties are handed out. We want photos of the chagrined expressions.
  • When you oversee 85 young men, ages 18 to 23, the odds of going a year without any of them getting into trouble aren't great. That's just the way things go.
  • Chow's a pro. He and Kiffin, if reunited, will work fine together.
  • Kiffin took over a Vols team that went 5-7 in 2008 and lost to Florida by 24, Georgia by 12 and Alabama by 20. He went 7-6, beat Georgia 45-19 and lost to Florida and Alabama by a combined 12 points. Where did the Gators and Tide finish in the final polls?
  • Anyone recall the uproar when USC hired Carroll? Who thought that was an inspired decision in 2000?
  • When the pessimists unanimously back a position, always bet against them (Carroll taught us that).

Ted Miller | email

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