New Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin's rocky start at Rocky Top will get rockier early next week when he is deposed by lawyers for the Oakland Raiders, who refused to pay the remainder of his contract after firing him in September -- and who will try to demonstrate why during what promises to be a contentious deposition.
|The Raiders say Lane Kiffin used his first Tennessee press conference to take a shot at his former employer. (AP)|
In addition to the timing of Monday's deposition, CBSSports.com also has learned that the Raiders sent a scathing letter to Kiffin's boss at Tennessee, president John Petersen, less than two months after the school hired Kiffin in late November.
In the letter written by Raiders general counsel Jeff Birren, a copy of which was obtained by CBSSports.com, the NFL team suggests Kiffin undermined the Raiders after he was fired.
"It is ... quite possible that during the period of time for which Kiffin is seeking compensation from the Raiders he was also actively supplying information about the team to its opponents," Birren wrote.
The letter, which accused Kiffin of misleading the team during the hiring process and undermining owner Al Davis during Kiffin's 20 games as coach, noted "Mr. Kiffin's personal agenda in his apparently on-going efforts to damage the Raiders" and concluded ominously:
"It cannot be in the best interests of the University to continue to serve as (Kiffin's) ally in his personal, though misplaced, war to rewrite the past."
Kiffin's attorney, Alan Loewinsohn, fired back in an e-mail to CBSSports.com Friday night and noted that Raiders officials will be deposed Tuesday.
"Starting with Al Davis' nationally televised press conference publicizing the firing of head coach Lane Kiffin last fall, the Raiders have continued to attack coach Kiffin in the media," Loewinsohn wrote.
"That assault continued today, long after he left the Raiders, when the Raiders issued a statement and 'leaked' a letter they wrote months ago to coach Kiffin's new employer, the University of Tennessee, in which the Raiders again attacked coach Kiffin's character."
"Starting next Tuesday at a hotel in Oakland, the Raiders will no longer be able to rely on unsupported allegations made in the media, as key Raiders personnel, starting with Al Davis, will finally have to answer questions under oath at their depositions, a process that coach Kiffin is confident will demonstrate that he was fired by the Raiders without cause and show that the continuing assault of allegations being made against him are false."
Monday's deposition figures to add more headlines to the curious pile Kiffin has created in his first few months on the job at Tennessee:
- Kiffin accused Florida coach Urban Meyer of committing a recruiting violation while trying to woo Vols signee Nu'Keese Richardson, citing a rule that doesn't exist. Kiffin's mistaken attack on Meyer at a Tennessee booster meeting led to a reprimand from SEC commissioner Mike Slive, and Kiffin apologized to Meyer.
- While Meyer committed no violation, Tennessee has self-reported to the NCAA a handful of minor recruiting violations committed by Kiffin himself.
- Kiffin told Sports Illustrated that he had fired many staff members in his first few months at Tennessee, saying, "You can't count the number of people we've run off because they couldn't keep up, and I'm including secretaries Tennessee athletics director Mike Hamilton undermined the validity of Kiffin's comment, saying, "If he said he has fired somebody, that's not true. I don't know if he said it from a standpoint of making a point that, 'We've got to get this right.' But he didn't fire anybody."
- Kiffin reportedly told recruit Alshon Jeffrey from South Carolina that if he chose USC over Tennessee, he would end up pumping gas like other players from the state who chose the Gamecocks. Kiffin has denied making the remark, but Jeffrey's coach corroborated his player's story, saying he also heard Kiffin make the gas-pumping comment.
All told, Kiffin's first few months on the job have created the impression that he is volatile and unreliable -- points the Raiders made when they fired him in September, points they made to Tennessee's school president in the letter in January, and points they are likely to bring up during Monday's deposition.