Lane Kiffin ran a clean program for more than eleven months. No arrests, highest team GPA in years, and while Kiffin's mouth may have raised some questions about his discipline, there was nothing tangible to stand on in terms of the discipline of the program.
In the last six days, much of what Kiffin - and the Vols who are doing it right - have worked to establish has been thrown by the wayside. On Thursday, Nu'Keese Richardson, Mike Edwards and Janzen Jackson were arrested on attempted armed robbery charges; Richardson and Edwards have since been dismissed from the team, while Jackson - who was released from custody on his own recognizance - still awaits his fate.
Today, it was reported that fellow freshmen Nyshier Oliver was cited for shoplifting at Dillard's in Knoxville's West Town Mall on Saturday, November 7, just hours before the Vols faced Memphis (story here from The Knoxville News-Sentinel). Oliver was/is looking at a redshirt and therefore apparently was not involved with team gameday activities leading up towards kickoff.
Oliver has a court date on November 23, and there are several questions surrounding this incident. One of the biggest in terms of the overall perception of Kiffin and the program is, when did Kiffin find out about this? Oliver shoplifted on November 7, and the other three freshmen were arrested on November 12. On November 11, during his weekly teleconference, Kiffin boasted of Tennessee's spotless record in terms of no arrests, etc. Did Kiffin know about Oliver's situation then, or, as Wes Rucker has pointed out, is it possible that Oliver kept it quiet because he wasn't arrested, only cited, and Kiffin didn't find out until later?
This is bad news either way for Tennessee's perception and Kiffin's once-clean record in terms of program discipline. To me, it's much worse if Kiffin knew about the incident when he made the comments four days later about the program being so clean.
There will be more disciplinary action to follow on both Oliver and Janzen Jackson...but Tennessee's once-stellar recruiting class has taken serious damage, and both Kiffin and the program must deal with the reality that questions of character and discipline are now back on the table. How will Kiffin and Tennessee go forward?