In case you missed it, ESPN featured Lane Kiffin on Outside the Lines yesterday. The feature included a happy thought from former Kiffin boss and Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis ("Lane Kiffin is a flat-out liar" and will poop on Pat Summitt any day now. And will eat your blue-tick puppies. And something else really, really bad, too.). The program also featured a recap of UT's recent spate of secondary violations (Five! And forget the fact that THE Ohio State University has apparently reported "more than 375" secondary violations since 2000 . . . (pause for math by lawyer) . . . that's something like 41 per year).
ESPN then concluded with a video postscript:
It is entirely possible that you just saw another one. Remember the scene where Lane Kiffin is speaking with a recruit? "Well, in the infamously thick NCAA rulebook, Rule 13.0.1, media members cannot observe recruiting contact by coaches. Tennessee tells Outside the Lines it is reviewing this matter. The NCAA is reserving comment until the story airs, so we look forward to hearing from them today.
Oh, the drama! It's the NCAA equivalent of a snuff flick -- a secondary violation CAUGHT ON TAPE! GET THE KIDS OUT OF THE ROOM NOW! THE FOLLOWING FOOTAGE MAY BE DISTURBING TO SOME VIEWERS. VIEWER'S DISCRETION IS ADVISED AND ALL THAT. BOO!
Vol fans with web sites (VFWW) are still weighing in. Gate 21's Home Sweet Home -- a journalism student -- says that it was shoddy journalism on the part of ESPN and gives the appearance of bias. The current tally on GVX's poll asking whether ESPN orchestrated the whole thing stands at 64% for "Of course. I think they've had it out for UT for years."
I doubt that there's any malicious conspiracy being baked at the ESPN studios, but you really have to wonder about the decision to both include that footage and then immediately follow it up with "Ah-ha! He did it again!"
Clay Travis suggests an alternate theory: that Kiffin knew exactly what was happening and did it anyway.
Maybe not, but . . . maybe so.
Consider a comment from SI.com's Andy Staples, who says that "[t]he secondary violation has become one of the best recruiting tools in a coach's arsenal because, thanks to an insatiable media, every secondary violation that comes to light offers a massive publicity boost." He notes several instances of programs who made national news only due to secondary violations and points out that Auburn's national publicity was limited to the stretch limo thing until the recent Big Cat Weekend . . . which was headlined by a secondary violation.
It is entirely possible that Kiffin in fact knew that a secondary violation was in progress when the recruits showed up and the cameras were rolling and simply wanted more attention for the program. Are we just now getting the picture that the secondary violation is the 2009 Recruiting Loophole, the recruiting strategy subject to exploitation by the most aggressive recruiters until the loophole's closed or the rules are equipped with a set of teeth next season?
Either way, rules are rules, and the problem with such a strategy is that at some point, it's entirely possible that we are going to reach a point of backlash, and forecasting when that time will arrive is difficult and may only be recognized in hindsight. Boomerangs often attack from the side. Why is it that the legal troubles of Florida Gator players didn't really backfire and become a Bad Thing until the count hit 24?
If indeed Kiffin's secondary violations are calculated, he may want to watch for signs of backlash. I think it's imminent.