>The Blind Side

>Or “How to Screw Over a Program in 14 Months” starring Lane Kiffin

When the news broke that Lane “Traitor Boy” Kiffin was leaving UT, I was stunned, shocked, hurt and felt like I’d been punched in the gut. It was almost like that feeling I got in the fall when the Vols had two field-goals against Alabama blocked–you just want to throw up, scream in frustration and have a good long cry. Then you put it past you and move on.

I was ready to consider moving on, until I began to see and hear how Kiffin and his staff have acted in their departure.

As Kiffin was trying to make this decision, athletic director Mike Hamilton was out of town. Kiffin apparently went to see him, but didn’t find him in his office. But apparently Kiffin didn’t bother to have the courtesy to place a call to Hamilton–the guy who took a chance on him last year, gave him the opportunity and was willing to open the check book to make the UT coaching staff the highest paid in the nation. Of course, given the track record of Kiffin and his relationship with bosses, this shouldn’t have come as a huge shock.

Then, there’s the Kiffin statement. Apparently he and Pete Caroll went to the same school of public speaking. The statements both gave on exiting their current positions were pretty much the same–boy, sure a great opportunity and I can’t pass it up. At least Kiffin only went 45 seconds instead of Caroll rambing on for six hours (OK, maybe it just felt like six hours or maybe that’s because ESPN has reshown it a zillion times and I’m sick of hearing it), but that’s not the point. 104.5 the Zone has Jim Wogan from Knoxville’s WATE on the air this morning, talking about the bizarre nature of the statement…apparently Kiffin or UT or both didn’t want cameras. And it took some pursuading to get Kiffin to come into the room and talk to the reporters. If you’re going to jilt us, at least be man enough to come in and say something about it. I realize that he probably wants to get out of town before the airports shut down and angry fans block the roadways or show up at your house with pitchforks and torches, but you created this situation, so you should be man enough to deal with the consequences.

Again, given the Kiffin track record, I shouldn’t be shocked by this, but yet I am.

And now, by the way you’ve done this, you’ve screwed over the football team for the season to come. Kiffin said he’s got to get in and start recruiting because national signing day is in three weeks. Well, Lane, UT also has national signing day in three weeks. And the way you’ve left means we are probably going to lose a lot of talent that was coming to UT. And I really don’t like the underhanded tactics Ed Orgeron was taking yesterday in calling guys who’d early enrolled and telling them to not go to class. If, as you said in your 45 seconds, you think you’re leaving us better off, that’s not really making your case there. And that doesn’t even get into the situation faced by some of the players you leave behind, who bought into your system, embraced your coaching staff and worked their asses off this year to get a winning record, improve over last year and get you this opportunity to take your “dream job.” In many cases, you may have screwed over a lot of guys who had potential to go pro and make a solid living for themselves and their families becuase your blind-siding selfishness.

As UT scrambles to find a new head coach, I find myself wondering who on the team will step up and be the leader we need. And while I’m happy to see Eric Berry going pro and wish him all the best, I can’t help but wish he was there to rally the team. He’s the type of guy the team needs and I can’t help but think–man, if Monty hadn’t encouraged him to go pro, we might have him now when we really need him. I don’t mean just on the field, but in the locker room.

There could be one real winner in all of this–writer Clay Travis. His book about Phil Fulmer’s final year was a “must read” for anyone who loves the Big Orange or just college football. I can only imagine the potential he has for one hell of a follow-up book called “The Big Orange Screw: The Lane Kiffin Era at Tennessee.”

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