Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Vols can't shake the Kiffin touch
By Chris Low
Tennessee is still dealing with fallout from Lane Kiffin's tenure.
Lane Kiffin’s tenure at Tennessee is a lot like that wet dog smell in your basement.
Even though the dog might be long gone, the stench remains.
You clean, get new carpet, get new furniture, disinfect the place and essentially do everything you can to get rid of the smell.
And while it’s not nearly as pungent, the smell never completely goes away.
Even worse, it’s on those days when your family members and closest friends are over to celebrate some special occasion that the smell drifts back around and hovers.
Given Tennessee’s latest NCAA troubles, who could blame second-year coach Derek Dooley and the Vols’ beleaguered fan base for wondering if there will ever be any true closure to Kiffin’s short, but turbulent, stay on Rocky Top?
He was in Knoxville for 14 months. But to those who came in behind him and those orange-hearted souls who’ve weathered the embarrassing fallout since his departure, it probably seems more like 14 years.
With this latest news first reported by Yahoo! Sports, it sounds like another official letter of inquiry from the NCAA is headed Tennessee’s way. Consider it Kiffin's latest gift to the Vols' program.
The NCAA has already been in touch with Tennessee after talent scout Will Lyles told the NCAA that he received a $1,500 wire transfer from former Tennessee defensive backs coach Willie Mack Garza in 2009 for recruit Lache Seastrunk and his mother to make an unofficial recruiting trip to Tennessee.
According to Yahoo! Sports, Lyles told NCAA investigators about the payment in August, and Tennessee spokesman Jimmy Stanton confirmed that Tennessee had been notified verbally about an issue involving the former staff member and a recruit that never attended Tennessee.
Tennessee officials were just in Indianapolis in June appearing before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, wrapping up a two-year investigation into recruiting practices by former basketball coach Bruce Pearl as well as Kiffin and his staff.
The university self-imposed two years of probation, although the NCAA decided not to levy any additional penalties on the football program.
There was a collective sigh of relief on the banks of the Tennessee River when that ruling came down earlier this month.
But now this.
You can bet that Dooley is done with all of it, the fact that he’s having to deal with all this scrutiny and negative attention on the recruiting front when he had nothing to do with any of it.
It’s hard enough to recruit in the SEC, but try recruiting when you’ve got another NCAA investigation hanging over your head.
In this case, Tennessee isn’t subject to repeat violator status because this infraction would have occurred before the Vols were placed on their current probation.
But this is also a major violation, which means Tennessee could easily be looking at a loss of scholarships.
The NCAA has been more prone lately to go after the coaches who are committing these violations, which means Kiffin could also face some recruiting restrictions at USC.
Garza went with Kiffin from Tennessee to USC, but was sent packing by the Trojans earlier this month after Lyles told his story to the NCAA.
It’s understandable that Tennessee fans would suggest that they’ve already been punished enough, and that Kiffin, who is long gone, is the one who brought on all this scrutiny to the Vols’ program.
That’s true, but Tennessee also hired Kiffin and bears a certain responsibility for doing so, which includes paying the price for any improprieties that might have occurred on his watch in Knoxville.
The interesting question now is what all will Garza have to say, especially since he’s no longer at USC.
We know Lyles is singing pretty loudly to the NCAA, which can’t be too comforting for some of the other schools he’s been connected to such as Oregon and LSU.
And to cap it all, what about the comments of Seastrunk’s mother to Yahoo! Sports?
She said publicly what a lot of people have been saying privately for a long time.
“Whatever undercover dirty stuff that they're doing, I'm pretty sure that Willie Lyles is not the only person. He's just the only one that's been caught," Evelyn Seastrunk told Yahoo! Sports. "This is something that they've been doing forever."
Tennessee hopes to settle this latest issue through summary disposition, which means the Vols wouldn’t have to face the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions again.
Whatever happens, Kiffin has certainly left his mark on Tennessee.
And it’s one the Vols are having a dastardly time getting rid of.