Kiffin Trades the River for the Ocean

Lane KiffinBack on October 11, I wrote that Tennessee Volunteers fans needed to climb on board The Lane Train.  I insisted that Lane Kiffin, if given time, would give Tennessee fans six (the phrase is an homage to legendary Vols broadcaster John Ward).

I was correct… sort of.

What I should have said was Lane Kiffin would give Tennessee fans the deep six.

In a stunning development, Lane Kiffin, after only one year heading up the Tennessee football program, has accepted the head coaching job at USC. 

I was one who immediately jumped on board The Lane Train.  And in less than two months on the job, Kiffin put swagger back into Tennessee football. 

Without setting foot on a football field, the Vols were back on the college football map.  In some cases, it wasn’t necessarily for the right reasons as Kiffin seemed to create controversy every time he opened his mouth. 

But whether wrongly suggesting Florida head coach Urban Meyer was a cheater (in recruiting) or insisting how great it would be to sing Rocky Top all night in Gainesville after the Vols would beat Florida this season (they didn’t), electricity was in the air.

ESPN, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times – Tennessee football was on the way back, at least in the way of media coverage.

Where former head coach Phillip Fulmer viewed media scrutiny like airport scanners, Lane Kiffin welcomed it like family at Thanksgiving.

And so here it is roughly one year later and Tennessee football is seemingly back in the starting blocks after Fulmer was shown the door.  At the time, I surmised it would take the Vols going through two or three coaches before arriving at the gated neighborhood known as BCS Estates.

But, alas, that journey is on hold.  The Kiffin’s are calling the moving company again, trading in Knoxville and the Tennessee River for Bel Air and the Pacific Ocean.

On paper, the move isn’t hard to understand.  USC is one of the premiere jobs in all of college football and, no disrespect to Tennessee, opportunities like this often come along only once in a career… if ever.

And it’s not like departing Trojans coach Pete Carroll, on his way up the Pacific Coast Highway to Seattle and the NFL, is leaving Kiffin with an empty cupboard.  For that matter, an empty cupboard at USC is Christmas dinner for many programs.  Still…

What about the Tennessee cupboard?

When Fulmer departed, the assembled talent in orange and white would have filled up a size 7 shoe box.  Enter Kiffin, his father and defensive genius Monte, brilliant recruiter Ed Ogeron and a host of other talented assistants and high school four and five-star recruits took notice as they immediately signed on. 

It promised to be much the same in a couple of weeks on February 3, National Signing Day.

And, in fact, it will be the same.  Lane Kiffin will reel in another stellar class of recruits.  But the letter they’ll be signing will say University of Southern California on it. 

Back in Knoxville, Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton, after burning the last of his Lane Kiffin 8×10 photos, once again has the task of doing an expeditious national search for someone to put on the obligatory orange tie and “T” lapel pin, and then have him stand in front of a room full of reporters, players and administrators while saying how thrilled he is to be the head coach of the University of Tennessee.  And how he fully expects to be in Knoxville for a long, long time as he rebuilds the Vols football program back into a BCS championship contender.

With a little good fortune, he may even stay for two seasons.

photo credit: Tennessee Journalist

Filed Under: College footballTennessee Volunteers

About the Author: Christopher serves up sports on 940 ESPN in Fresno with a good deal of pop culture, films, music and the quirky side of life mixed in. Distinguished guests and contributors from across the nation and around the world regularly join the program. He tackles the most complex stories to ones slightly off the radar delivering depth and humor with a thoughtful perspective. When he was in Fargo, the city not the movie, the program was nominated for Best Radio Show in the region in 2012, 2013 and 2014 by readers of The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. As a writer, Christopher's work has been been published by the Chicago Sun-Times, Sun-Times Network publications, Reuters, USA Volleyball and Team USA, the Official Website of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

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  1. Andy Heller says:

    I always thought Christopher after I heard you awhile that you would make a great sports commentator. You’re good at analyzing. In fact, you remind me of Richard Nixon; the way he was with foreign policy, you are with sports. You must not give up TCGP, but maybe you’ll have your own sports column sometime in the Forum or on your program.


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