His departure enraged Rocky Top.
From the Hill on campus to Capitol Hill in Nashville, University of Tennessee football fans directed their anger Wednesday at former coach Lane Kiffin.
"I was shocked, angry and disappointed," said Josh Ferguson, a UT sophomore engineering major.
Legislators refused to follow their annual custom of honoring UT's football coach after a winning season.
Kiffin spurned UT, where he had spent only one season, for the University of Southern California, and Volunteer fans took it personally. East Tennesseans grumbled around their water coolers, groused over beers and vented through social networks.
No fewer than 32 Facebook pages devoted to Kiffin-bashing materialized overnight. By midday more than 2,000 users had signed up as fans.
Some had names that couldn't be printed in a family newspaper. Many online comments - some of them aimed at Kiffin's family - couldn't be reprinted either.
One page was dubbed "Toss a Shoe at Lane Kiffin," a reference to the Iraqi who threw his footwear at President George W. Bush. Another was named, "Lane Kiffin: I will find you, kill you, and eat your firstborn child!"
Vitriol filled Twitter accounts. Threads on Internet message boards, even nonsports sites like Knoxblab and Knoxviews, unravelled into anti-Kiffin slugfests.
One particularly outraged fan posted a video on YouTube showing him urinating on a Kiffin-themed UT t-shirt before setting it afire.
Students viewed the departure as betrayal. On Tuesday night they hurled obscenities at any vehicle leaving the athletic department offices that could possibly contain Kiffin. They set a bonfire. They painted vile comments about Kiffin and his wife on the Rock, UT's granite canvas for student expression.
They indulged in hyperbolic hatred, comparing Kiffin to Hitler and Satan.
He was only at UT for 14 months and his record was a mediocre 7-6, but Kiffin's pro-football pedigree and brash braggadocio had energized the Volunteer faithful.
Former players were furious, too. Before Kiffin's brief tenure, UT had known only two coaches over the past three decades.
Part One: UT AD Mike Hamilton on Kiffin's departure
Words were more measured within the UT Athletic Department, though the anger seemed to pitch beneath the surface.
At a press conference in a media room tucked under the stands at Neyland Stadium, interim head coach Kippy Brown acknowledged the players were mad and the mood was "gloom and doom," but emphasized, in the way of coaches, the virtues of overcoming adversity.
"There are going to be bumps in the road," he recalled telling the team Tuesday night. "It's how you react to those bumps that is the difference between success and failure."
Athletic director Mike Hamilton said he understood why Kiffin would leave for his dream job at a school where he enjoyed success as an assistant. But Hamilton seemed to identify more with the 500 or so students who nearly rioted on campus the night before.
"If they were displeased, they have every right to be. … Heck, I might have been out there with 'em if I'd been here," he said.
Hamilton voiced confidence in Brown (who said he'd like the top job on a permanent basis) and noted that the Sweetwater native and three-time UT assistant coach is part of the Big Orange family, saying: "Kippy's one of us."
Kiffin no longer is.
He and his family left East Tennessee from McGhee-Tyson Airport at 2:25 p.m. aboard a plane registered to Fletcher Jones Management Group Inc. of Las Vegas. The family-owned company owns a string a luxury car dealerships in Hawaii, California, Nevada and Illinois. USC's Web site lists some of the Fletcher Jones dealerships as supporters that donate the use of vehicles to the Trojan athletic department.
Hours earlier, during an on-campus interview with the News Sentinel, Kiffin praised Tennessee and its fans, and explained that USC was the only school capable of luring him away.
"But really this is the one place that I'd leave for, and I hope people understand that," he said.
Some are bitter and don't understand why someone would voluntarily leave UT.
At the afternoon press conference, Hamilton might have spoken for all Vol fans when he said: "We want someone who wants to be here."
Scott Barker may be reached at 865-342-6309. Amy Smotherman Burgess, Chloe White Kennedy and the Associated Press contributed to this report.