There are two sides to every story and we should look at both when it comes to analyzing Lane Kiffin’s decision to leave Tennessee for USC after only one season as head coach.
On one hand, Kiffin is turning his back on a program that brought him in despite claims of insubordination at the NFL level, that gave him free reign to do whatever it took to get back to contending for national titles and that embraced him even as he caused firestorm after firestorm throughout his 14 month tenure in Knoxville. Volunteer Nation has every right to be furious today.
And don’t forget about the recruits. Poor things. Kiffin, the young, fiery head coach, charmed them over with stories about what he accomplished as an assistant at USC and if that didn’t work, he always had his secret weapon --the beautiful undergraduate hostesses known as Orange Pride -- to help with the process. Everyone knows how impressionable high school seniors can be; I picked Seton Hall because it had a Nathan’s on campus. Most of these kids committed to play for Kiffin, not Tennessee. So of course you feel bad for them.
But what about Kiffin’s perspective? For a guy who went to school at Fresno State, USC is probably his dream job. It’s the only place he’s ever shown any allegiance toward. His six years as an assistant there is the only prolonged job he’s ever had. It’s a program he knows inside and out which means he’ll have very little trouble adjusting and he’ll provide continuity for the current roster.
That and it’s a better job. It’s being the face of the elite team in the PAC 10 every single year versus the third or fourth best team in the SEC. Recruiting is easier at USC than it is at Tennessee which makes Kiffin far more likely to win a national championship in his new job. You also can’t dismiss the star factor either. Pete Carroll was probably the most recognized sports figure in Los Angeles not named Kobe Bryant. If Kiffin can win, he’ll be a major celebrity even for Hollywood.
Whenever a controversy in sports pops up, we tend to philosophize over it and compare it to our own lives. If you could take an illegal pill or injection and it would make me infinitely better at your job, would you do it? If I were blogging’s version of Tiger Woods, would I be able to remain faithful or would I be a walking tabloid?
Those are much more difficult questions than the one we have to ask ourselves in regards to Lane Kiffin’s situation.
If a significantly better job in a bigger city for more money was offered to you, would you take it?
Or perhaps more appropriate, why wouldn’t you take it?
Yes, part of me wants to believe Kiffin is just as much of a con man as Carroll, John Calipari, Nick Saban, Bobby Petrino and every other scummy coach who goes into a recruit’s house and makes a vow that he’ll be around for the entire four years and then runs off at the first sign of trouble or a better job. But at the same time, my ambitious side says you should never be content with your current position and always be striving for something bigger and better.
USC is Kiffin’s bigger and better.
So maybe the real question is, how can we fault him?