Saturday, January 16, 2010

Let's settle down, people

Probably the best thing about Tennessee choosing a new coach Friday is that I hopefully won't be subjected to any more "LANE KIFFIN IS THE BIGGEST JERK EVER!!!" columns. I'm looking at you, Gene Wojciechowski:
Whatever happens, it will take years for Kiffin to patch and caulk the gaping holes in his credibility. If you were a recruit, why would you believe a word he said?
OK, let me start by saying that Kiffin is an asshole. From the moment he accepted the Tennessee job, he went out of his way to insult everyone from Steve Spurrier to Urban Meyer to recruits. He just doesn't care.

But for everyone crying about him leaving Tennessee after one year, get real. College football coaches have as little job security as anyone on Earth; everybody out there is one or two bad seasons from getting canned. Loyalty doesn't exist from either side. If you want to coach at a big-time school, the only way to do it is to leave your former employer between a rock and a hard place by jumping ship when said job is offered to you. Kiffin can't just wait around a couple years on the off chance that he might get a second chance at his dream job. It was unfortunate timing for Tennessee, nothing else.

Look it at from a real-world perspective: You take an excellent job with a great salary, plenty of money to live on. You're excited and plan on being there for as long as possible, and you bring in a number of good employees to help achieve your long-term goals. A little over a year later, you're offered an even better job, an opportunity of a lifetime that you'd only dreamed about. It's where you grew up and where you honed your skills, and they're offering to significantly increase your salary and let you bring along all your best employees. If you can honestly say that you'd turn that job down, you're a more loyal person than I am.

And after all the hatred from Tennessee fans and all the criticism in the media, the second person the Vols went after -- Duke coach David Cutcliffe -- had been at his job for all of two years. The guy they hired -- Louisiana Tech coach Derek Dooley -- had been at his job for three years. Urban Meyer left Bowling Green after two years and then Utah after two more to take over at Florida. Brian Kelly left Central Michigan after three years and then Cincinnati after two to go to Notre Dame. That's what happens when elite programs have job openings.

I suppose two years is slightly better than one, but it doesn't matter; every recruit those guys brought in still had at least three years left under another coach. There's no right time to leave a program, so criticizing Kelly or Kiffin but not criticizing Dooley or Meyer is ridiculous. If you want to blame anybody, blame the NCAA for not allowing players a free transfer if their coach is fired or leaves voluntarily.

Then there's the FURY about Kiffin immediately trying to persuade Tennessee's recruits to join him at USC. Por ejemplo:
the thing that I do not understand is Kiffin & Co. trying to singlehandedly tear down the Tennessee football program by trying to steal recruits already committed.
For an appropriate response to these claims, I'll cede the floor to Dan Hawkins:

IT'S DIVISION I FOOTBALL!!! If you think this doesn't happen everywhere up until the minute a guy faxes in his letter of intent on National Signing Day, you're smoking crack. Just last year, for example, Michigan had two committed players bail on Signing Day but pried receiver Roy Roundtree away from Purdue, at which point Joe Tiller spewed some holier-than-thou complaints about Rodriguez being "a guy in a wizard hat selling snake oil." It was then discovered that Purdue's first move after losing Roundtree was to try to get a guy who had just signed a letter of intent with Ball State. Pot, meet kettle.

As someone who closely follows recruiting, I can tell you definitively that no commitment goes unchallenged until the paper is signed. Hell, it's a common thing now for guys to commit while still openly considering other schools and taking official visits. They're not really committed; they're just reserving a spot.

Anyone remember Bryce Brown, the top-ranked player in the country last year who ended up signing with Tennessee? For almost a year before National Signing Day, he was "committed" to Miami. That obviously meant a lot.

Again, the timing of all this craziness obviously sucks for Tennessee (February 3 is approaching in a hurry), but if it's not against the rules, it happens. Get over it and move on.

I hate to be the guy to defend Kiffin, because I really think he's a douche. But that's the thing: Just because he's done a ton of stupid shit and nobody likes him, that doesn't mean we should all flip out about him jumping at the USC job and trying to bring some recruits along with him, both of which are perfectly understandable and have plenty of precedent from coaches who didn't receive nearly the amount of criticism.

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