Part One: UT AD Mike Hamilton on Kiffin's departure
Tennessee fans despise him. Students can't stand him. Nor will Lane Kiffin win any popularity contests with former UT football players.
Not after Kiffin, who spent less than 14 months as UT's coach, suddenly announced Tuesday night he was leaving to become coach at Southern California.
Several former Vols attended a Wednesday press conference when UT athletic director Mike Hamilton addressed plans for hiring a new coach and introduced Kippy Brown as the interim coach.
Kiffin's departure - he sold fans and players that he was here to make UT a championship team - was still stinging.
"It's disappointing," said David Douglas, an offensive tackle in the mid-1980s and whose son, Aaron, an offensive lineman for the Vols, was named a Freshman All-American last week. "The first thing for me is sitting there worrying about your son and the team, and what are they thinking. As fans we tend to think we're most important, but we're not. It's about the kids and their well-being."
David Douglas played at UT when Phillip Fulmer was offensive line coach. Fulmer, who became head coach in 1992, was fired late in the 2008 season and replaced by Kiffin at season's end. Fulmer signed Aaron Douglas, who played at Maryville High School.
"Basically, I'm just disappointed, but at the same time, you've got to wish guys well trying to better themselves," David Douglas said, "but I don't like the way they handled it and the way they exited because they truly didn't care about UT and didn't care about these kids. That's pretty evident."
Douglas said his son had implied that before.
"Yeah, from time to time, (he'd) just say I don't think these guys really care about us, I don't think they really care about the program as much as Coach Fulmer and his staff did," Douglas said. "Aaron's kind of jaded on that. We brainwashed him. He was around that (Fulmer) staff a long time as a kid."
John Bruhin, offensive guard 1985-87, said he was concerned since the Fulmer firing. Bruhin is a pro-Kippy Brown guy.
"Kippy is a great guy. He was on the staff when I played here," Bruhin said. "I just thought they could have asked (Brown) one simple question that they should have asked Kiffin: What's your lifetime goal as a coach, where would you want it to be? If (Kiffin) had been truthful, he would have said USC and we wouldn't be in this mess. So for him to come here, it should have been an ultimate goal, something maybe he dreamed about."
Fred White, who played safety on the 1998 national championship team and now hosts a radio sports talk show in Knoxville, was most vocal about his disappointment with Kiffin's sudden departure and its timing.
"I think it was low," White said. "I think it was betrayal because there were a lot of things he promised. He promised (the players) a lot of different things and promised the fans a lot of things he couldn't hold up to. . . . I think it was even lower because you leave during the recruiting period. You leave with three weeks left in recruiting. You leave when you've got (mid-year enrollees) in transit to Knoxville. I think that's the lowest way to do it."
Former offensive tackle Phil Stuart (1985-88) said Kiffin's departure is another reason recruits should sign because of the school and program, not the coach.
"I'm kind of shocked and kind of hurt because of the things (Kiffin) promised to do, not (hurt) for me but for a lot of the young kids that are coming in," Stuart said. "You talk to these parents (of recruits) and tell them you're going to be the coach and then you turn around and you leave, and it kind of leaves them guessing on what to do."