At some point Tuesday night, a clown car pulled up to Heritage Hall. Out jumped the guy in the bright maroon tie and clueless look on his face.
Balloon animals, kiddies?
Smelling salts, USC?
|Kiffin waves goodbye to Knoxville after only one season in charge. (US Presswire)|
The punch line came out as, "Lane Kiffin has been hired as the 22nd coach in USC history to replace Pete Carroll ..." We laughed out of shock, frustration and incredulity.
Mike Freakin' Garrett hired Lane Freakin' Kiffin? One is a recluse. The other tried to wreck Urban Meyer. One fiddled while O.J. Mayo earned -- about $20,000 in improper benefits by one estimate. The other led with his mouth.
Can they win together? Not likely. Not because Kiffin can't, but because Garrett probably won't be around to see it. As it stands, Garrett has himself a coach with a .363 career winning percentage, a guy with as many NCAA secondary violations as wins in his first -- well, only -- year at Tennessee. A coach who taunted, teased and tweaked so often he has a rule named after him in the SEC.
For now, let's quickly go to the texts ...
Kiffin? You gotta be kidding me!!!
Lane Kiffin? Lane Kiffin? Really? Ha ha! No, seriously, really?
That's just on my phone. Garrett's probably coughed up a hair ball.
One good thing came out of this -- Meyer's stress level just dropped. The NCAA, though, probably arched an eyebrow.
The search to replace Pete Carroll, arguably the best coach of the last decade, lasted a couple of days, reached into the Smoky Mountain foothills and ripped out the intestines of Vols Nation. Ah, but who cares Bozo/Garrett got his man.
SB Nation: Scenes of UT "riot"
SB Nation: Lane Kiffin: Rebound girl
Thread: Kiffin to USC!
Dodds and Ends
That's the question. A huge one. With the NCAA on the doorstep and Troy burning from inside out, it looks like Garrett put out the fire with gasoline. Coach after coach seemingly shunned interest because at least the word is out that the NCAA is about to bring the heavy artillery. So Garrett does the logical thing by bringing in the man-child coach who was a hostess away from putting Tennessee on proby.
In the short term, Kiffin will hold together the recruiting class and bring a stellar staff. In the long term, Garrett let the program get to this point. It is officially and until further notice, radioactive. To the NCAA, to normally eager coaches who would take the job in a heartbeat. Reggie Bush, O.J. Mayo, Joe McKnight, all happened on his watch. All were dealt with in secrecy that would make the Politburo blush.
Garrett responded to accusations that he was hiding in an ivory tower by communicating from behind a firewall -- on the Internet. He looked the other way while Tim Floyd brought in Mayo. Then the school self-penalized basketball as a show of good faith in the football investigation.
So is it possible that in one shocking move, the NCAA was appeased in Knoxville when Kiffin left while it was antagonized at USC when he arrives?
This isn't on Kiffin so much as it came to having to hire Kiffin. He wasn't going to say no. There just weren't many coaches who were going to say yes. Mike Riley wasn't coming. The timing wasn't right for Mike Bellotti, who is recovering from knee surgery. Jack Del Rio and Jeff Fisher were out. Chris Petersen might never leave Boise State.
After Riley, my first call would have been to Steve Sarkisian -- Kiffin sans the tart tongue. Perhaps Sark could have been sweet-talked to come back after a year at Washington. Perhaps the word is out on USC/Garrett/the NCAA to the point that no one but Kiffin will take it.
|Garrett's hiring of Kiffin may end up doing more bad than good. (US Presswire)|
So familiar that Tennessee AD Mike Hamilton might lose his job over this -- his future was tied to Kiffin. Garrett's future is tied to no one. Speculation is that he's going to be fired either way by the new president after Steve Sample retires.
Garrett hired a guy who should be required to know the NCAA manual front to back in Chinese before he takes another recruiting trip. Instead, Kiffin was reprimanded by the SEC for not knowing the NCAA rules. Meyer, in fact, did not cheat to get Nu'Keese Richardson. Kiffin, though, probably wishes he had when Richardson was arrested for armed robbery.
Carroll was accused of running a loose program at USC -- over nine years -- that produced seven Pac-10 titles, seven BCS bowls and those two national championships. Kiffin stayed 14 months in Knoxville; his best win was over South Carolina. His worst decision was signing a recruit who, quoting the AP story "at the age of 13 was found by a juvenile court to have helped rape a relative."
But again, this isn't about Kiffin's failings so much as Garrett's. At some point, Kiffin might become a proven coach and he isn't now. Not after a season and a half in Oakland where, at last check, Kiffin is still being sued by owner Al Davis. Sure, Al is crazy but 5-15 is still 5-15. Not after a 7-6 season at Tennessee where the team became marginally better.
Kiffin is the best copy since Ali. He might need a security guard, though, if he ever ventures again below the Mason-Dixon Line. On Tuesday, he became what Nick Saban is to LSU -- times 10. Kiffin left Tennessee after one season, during the heart of recruiting.
Think Tommy Tuberville isn't kicking himself for waiting a couple of days before taking Texas Tech?
Or do you think Garrett's Heritage Heisman is shedding a tear even inside that hermetically sealed case?