Mike Hamilton hit a home run when he hired basketball coach Bruce Pearl. So is it any surprise that Tennessee's athletic director is swinging for the fences again?
Hiring Lane Kiffin as UT's next football coach is a button-popping, tendon-tearing, Jose Canseco-size swing. And it creates a Neyland Stadium-size crowd of second-guessers.
Kiffin has never been a college head coach. He's 33 years old.
He's young enough to be Butch Davis' son.
Davis, presumably the first target of UT's coaching search, could match resumes with just about any reasonable candidate. He has made a quick turnaround at North Carolina, was a head coach in the NFL, built a national championship program at the University of Miami and has firmly established himself as a recruiting heavyweight.
He was the safest choice Hamilton could have made. But when his lack of interest forced UT to look elsewhere, there wasn't a fail-safe candidate.
Cincinnati's Brian Kelly might have been the next-safest choice - if he was interested, and there's no guarantee he was. However, a Big East championship doesn't mean you're ready to take on the SEC.
Texas Tech's Mike Leach wasn't as safe as Kelly, but he was much more intriguing, because of his spectacular, innovative offense.
Could his offense work in the SEC?
Answer: It would work significantly better than anything UT is doing now.
My biggest concern about Leach would be in regard to recruiting, not offense.
Nonetheless, Leach would have been an upgrade over what UT has now. Kelly would have been, too.
In fact, I'm convinced you wouldn't be any worse offensively if you hired your coordinator from the primates section of the San Diego Zoo. A trained chimp could get you one touchdown against Wyoming.
I also believe Hamilton could have hired a number of coaches who could improve a program that is 4-7 this season and has lost 21 games in the last four years. But the choice of Kiffin indicates Hamilton is thinking bigger.
He's not just trying to hire a guy who can win seven, eight or nine games and go to a second-tier bowl. He's trying to win a championship, not make the top 25.
Do you really think Hamilton could have hired a coach whose credentials would match those of Florida's Urban Meyer or Alabama's Nick Saban?
They're arguably the two best coaches in college football. And UT has to face them both every season.
You're not going to beat them with average or pretty good coaches. You might not even come close, as evidenced by UT's misadventures against Alabama and Florida the last two years.
So why not take a chance on a young coach with an upside?
Kiffin has been an offensive coordinator at Southern California and a head coach with the Oakland Raiders. He has seen college football at its best under Pete Carroll at USC, and the NFL at its craziest under Raiders owner Al Davis. He also has grown up in the same house with one of the NFL's most renowned defensive coordinators, Monte Kiffin.
He has coached NFL players. He has been exposed to one of the best programs in college football. He should be able to judge talent.
So should the guy who hired Bruce Pearl.
Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or email@example.com.