Lane Kiffin and his smokin’ wife are headed to USC. Outrage abounds as the media rails at his lack of integrity and predicts imminent failure, citing his 12-21 career coaching record as proof that he’ll fail at SC. They also take it as an opportunity to rail against the hypocrisy that allows coaches to leave but abandoned athletes cannot transfer without losing the year of eligibliity.
A few things worth mentioning with respect to whether he’ll win at USC or not:
- The 12-21 record. This is irrelevant. And it’s lazy to simply cite this as evidence that he’ll fail at USC. We’ll know soon whether Kiffin wins or not at USC. But the past record doesn’t matter. He was 7-6 at Tennessee and 5-15 at Oakland. First – nobody was winning more than 5 games in Oakland. Bring back Bill Walsh, Bill Parcells, you name it – the Raiders are one of the worst run franchises in sports – nobody was winning in Oakland. UT was 5-7 the year before, a 2 game improvement is a modest success and they were close against Alabama (had they had a high school kicker they win that game).
- Recruiting: ability to land big recruiting classes is what matters in college football, far more than X’s and O’s. Kiffin had ESPN’s #6 recruiting class in the country at UT. He can recruit.
- Assistant coaches: he brings better assistants in his father Monte, his recruiting coordinator Orgeron, and Norm Chow – these three are as big as any recruit they could bring in.
In addition, USC is an infinitely better job than Tennessee. Think about it: USC is one of maybe five schools that can recruit nationally. Even with that, you have insane talent in your backyard, so you may not have to spend as much time in other time zones recruiting. And imagine where you’d prefer to live personally: Los Angeles with its beaches, restaurants, events, weather and atmosphere or Knoxville, TN with its (?) – any ideas?
As for the hypocrisy claim, that’s nothing but hypocrisy. Loyalty is a two way street. Schools and fans only demand loyalty when the coach wins. Had Kiffin not had a good year at UT and not been doing great at recruiting, UT wouldn’t care if he left. If he had won 2 games and was “Neuheiseling” Tennessee, then the fans would have demanded the administration remove him. So it’s OK for the school to fire coaches and have the players lose the coach who they came to play for … but it’s not OK for the coach to leave?
And how can a coach leave that doesn’t “abandon” players? Should coaches tell recruits “I’m 100% at UT, unless that USC job comes up.” Or “I’m thinking about leaving in the next 3-4 years?”
What if players were able to leave if the coach left? Which is a solution advocated by many in the media. A) that could decimate programs overnight, making it difficult to even field a team. Coach leaves and it’s open season for players to transfer elsewhere, and possibly displace other kids who have been “loyal” and put in the hours and earned the right to play at the right program? B) That would give the coach incredible leverage to extract more money from programs. Many coaches interview for or get their names linked to jobs t try and put pressure on administrations to up their salaries. Not shortage of examples exist. If they could simply walk into their bosses’ office and say “pay me or I leave and the floodgates open for everybody else to leave” – they now have the ability to hold the school hostage.
And oh by the way, there’s nothing stopping players from “abandoning” their program and turning pro early if they can find “a better job.” So loyalty is a two-way street. Kiffin took a better job in the same way Matthew Stafford took a better job by leaving Georgia for the NFL.
This isn’t to defend Kiffin, or his decision to leave after a single season. And I don’t defend his behavior in trying to steal UT’s recruits, which if true is deplorable. And I don’t think he’ll be a failure at USC, but I don’t think he’ll continue the overwhelming sucess that Carroll has. Given the way he handled himself in the past, it won’t be surprising if recruiting violations turn up sooner rather than later. And the reality is that if his character is that low maybe UT’s better off without him. But ultimately, Kiffin leaving, and coaches ability to move jobs, isn’t that big of a deal.