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Kiffin lovefest ends abruptly on Rocky Top

1/13/2010

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Obviously, just a crazy Tuesday night at Tennessee with Lane Kiffin bolting for Southern California after 14 months on the job.

Here’s the link to our main story on Kiffin going back to the West Coast.

My initial thought is that Kiffin must have a pretty good agent. He now has one of the top three jobs in college football and has yet to celebrate his 35th birthday or win more than seven games in a season as a head coach.

But timing is everything, and when several candidates turned down the Trojans, Kiffin quickly moved to the top of the list. He was on that staff during the glory years under Pete Carroll, the guy he's replacing.

And with national signing day three weeks away, the Trojans couldn’t afford to be turned down again and have the process drag out any longer.

Kiffin acknowledged that it all happened extremely fast. But by early Tuesday evening, he was all Trojan and the Vols were in his rear-view mirror.

Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton was caught totally off guard. He wasn’t even in town and was out in Denver visiting with a high-level booster.

The Vols have appointed Kippy Brown to serve as interim head coach until a new head coach is hired. Brown was hired last month by Kiffin to coach the receivers, but he also served on the staffs of both John Majors and Phillip Fulmer.

He knows the Tennessee program and will be a steadying influence while Hamilton searches for the next head coach.

It goes without saying that Kiffin hasn’t exactly endeared himself to Tennessee fans with his hasty departure.

Look at it from their perspective: He did a lot of talking, stepped on a lot of toes, drew the ire of SEC commissioner Mike Slive, got the NCAA snooping around, finished a game over . 500 … and now he’s gone.

Depending on how big a mess he left in terms of what the NCAA finds, Kiffin might want to make sure he detours around the state of Tennessee in future travels.

And already, the gloves have come off in recruiting.

Recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron, who’s following Kiffin to USC, was contacting mid-term signees Tuesday and telling them not to enroll in classes at Tennessee on Wednesday as originally scheduled. By not enrolling, those players would be free to go to USC and wouldn’t have to worry about transfer rules.

The whole thing’s a mess for the Vols, who can’t afford for this signing class to go belly-up.

But at this point, salvaging a top-10 class (or even a top-20 class) will prove extremely difficult for a Tennessee program that's clearly reeling.