Photo by OakleyOriginals.
Yeah, so Lane Kiffin stepped on a stink pellet yesterday. Acknowledging my Big Orange Bias, here's my attempt at an objective recap: At a booster function, Kiffin suggested from the platform that Urban Meyer had committed a recruiting violation by contacting a recruit who was at the time of contact on an official visit to Tennessee. Turns out, that wasn't a violation. Allowing for the possibility that he was joking or simply making stuff up to get a rise out of the boosters, to me it looked more like Kiffin knew neither the recruiting rule nor the SEC's ethical prohibition against criticizing another SEC program in public. Not good. He evoked a stern rebuke from the Florida athletic department and a reprimand from the SEC. And no, I'm not a fan of equivocal apologies, either, but he probably was doing as he was told.
So that's what happened. But the real story is that Lane Kiffin is making himself something more than just a mere nuisance to the rest of the SEC. It's one thing to get some well-deserved criticism for making a mistake, but it's something else entirely when the senior national columnist for ESPN.com not only devotes a column to the matter but also busts out the hyperbole stick. Check it out:
Man-made devices wouldn't have been able to measure the size of Kiffin's smirk. Problem is, Kiffin was spectacularly and laughably wrong.
He was so wrong that Florida AD Jeremy Foley issued a statement that all but called 33-year-old Kiffin a punk. He was so wrong that SEC commissioner Mike Slive publicly attached Kiffin to the clothesline and let him dangle in the wind.
. . . .
Kiffin has been employed for a grand total of two months and change. Since then, he has guaranteed a victory at Florida next season; ticked off South Carolina's Steve Spurrier; detonated the fuse of the SEC's human C-4 explosive, Alabama's Nick Saban, by basically suggesting that heralded recruit Marlon Brown -- who chose Georgia over UT -- was a grandmama's boy; intimated that Richardson's high school in Pahokee, Fla., couldn't be trusted to fax the national letter of intent to Tennessee; charged Meyer with breaking rules; and gotten himself reprimanded by the league commish.
. . . .
If I made Kiffin money ($2 million per year), I'd consider hiring security for the annual SEC spring meetings in Destin, Fla., in May. Saban might try to leap across a table and stab him with a rib bone from Dreamland. Meyer might try to drop one of those two BCS crystal trophies on him.
(Emphasis mine.) Wow. Putting aside the question of exactly how one detonates a fuse, that's a few too many beans in the coffee for my taste. And Gene Unspellable isn't the only one employing overly amped-up language. Gator fans (and even some Alabama fans for some unexplained reason) have shown up at Tennessee sites in droves warning us of the coming wrath of Meyer. Ooooooh! You just wait! Yoooouuuuu're gonna geeeeeeeet iiiiiiit in Septeeeeeemmmmmberrrrrr!
I've said this in the comment threads over and over, but I'll say it here on the front page, too. Humiliation, like most things, is subject to the law of diminishing returns. I certainly don't expect Florida fans to either know or remember this, what with all of their recent success, but take it from someone on the receiving end of the 59-20 dishumiliarrassment back in 2007, it's true. Do you really think that 73-20 would feel much different than 59-20? I don't even care if you have to zero out the scoreboard and start counting from 100 in September, it's not going to be much worse than having to endure allegations of quitting during a game.
No, this isn't about the Autumn of 2009; it's about 2012 and beyond, and if Tennessee wants to become nationally relevant on a consistent basis again, then we need to stop acting like we're afraid of being embarrassed. Lane Kiffin knows that, and he's doing something about it. He's the Young and the Reckless, but he's got the right idea, and I for one hope that he spends an afternoon with the UT compliance department and then gets right back to doing what he was doing, this time without the rules violations.
Somehow over the past several years, the Tennessee program has become a bit like the lazy old hound on the porch dozing intermittently while the rest of the pack runs and jumps all over the dignified old fella. No more. We've got ourselves a young pure-bred pup now. Sure, he's going to soil the carpet now and then, but appreciate the fact that he's still growing and that he already has the wary attention of the pack. The big dogs are growling at Knoxville more today than they have in a long time. You know, like there's a legitimate new threat to the established order of things. Go get 'em, boy.