Adams: Worst move at worst time for UT

John Adams

The consensus opinion on Tennessee's hiring of Lane Kiffin was that he would be a boom or bust. But no one expected to have the answer a year after he was hired.

Turns out he was both. He accomplished enough in one year at UT to land the head-coaching job at Southern California.

He succeeded. But he failed the Vols.

The boom you just heard was the UT football program exploding.

I'm pausing now to think of a worse-case scenario for the Vols.

Still pausing.

OK, I give up. There's not a worse-case scenario. And imagining worst-case scenarios is one of my strengths.

The Vols have lost 13 games in the last two years. The young, enthusiastic head coach who offered so much promise is checking out after one year on a rebuilding job that will take years. Next year's schedule is one of UT's toughest ever. The signing date for recruits is less than a month away.

And, oh by the way, the NCAA has expressed an official interest in UT football.

Wonder if Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis has gotten a phone call from UT athletic director Mike Hamilton yet? They suddenly have something in common. Both wish they had never seen Lane Kiffin.

When Kiffin was hired, he characterized UT as one of the premier coaching jobs in the country. He left it looking like a stepping-stone job.

He also left it under NCAA investigation.

Don't get me wrong. There are no hard feelings on this end. Kiffin is a columnist's dream. From his first day on the job to his last, he was a column waiting to happen.

But I don't think Hamilton will share my gratitude. Neither will the UT family.

Hamilton and UT took a chance on Kiffin, who had never been a college head coach and who had been fired by the Raiders after less than two years on the job. He repaid the Vols by skipping town at the worst possible time.

Feeling used?

In fact, Kiffin is merely doing what coaches do on a regular basis. They leave for better jobs without so much as glancing at their rear-view mirror or recalling all the promises they made to media, boosters, or - most importantly - players.

But this isn't Miami of Ohio or the University of Cincinnati. This is UT.

And there's nothing routine about leaving it.

Now, the program Kiffin left behind in disarray can only do what its last coach just did - move on.

My advice: Don't hire Wade Houston.

When former UT athletic director Doug Dickey became frustrated with trying to hire a basketball coach years ago, he seemingly turned to Houston out of frustration. You might remember that didn't produce spectacular results.

Never mind that Kiffin is leaving for a better job. UT is still better than 85 percent of the college coaching jobs. There's no reason it can't hire another good coach, one who might even stick around long enough to see his first recruiting class graduate.

Hamilton needs to get past the post-traumatic-departure syndrome and go about hiring a new coach just as he did after firing Phillip Fulmer in 2008.

He also needs to think big, not small.

The names that come to mind for me are the same ones that popped up when I thought Urban Meyer might be resigning as Florida's coach. I like Rich Rodriguez at Michigan, Bobby Petrino at Arkansas and maybe even Dan Mullen at Mississippi State.

Forget what Rodriguez has done at Michigan, where he clearly doesn't fit in.

Remember what he did at West Virginia.

As for Petrino, he's an outstanding offensive coach. He proved that at Louisville and he has proved it again in just two years at Arkansas.

Mullen also worked wonders with Mississippi State's offense this season.

Moreover, Florida's offense was clearly better when he was Meyer's offensive coordinator.

I realize Mullen has only been at Mississippi State for a year. But as Kiffin just reminded you, that's hardly a deal breaker.

Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com.

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Comments » 48

berryballer writes:

thought hje was our guy........whos next on the list???

vol_chaz writes:

JA... Muschamp? Calhoun? go get the scoop..

DCVol writes:

here's a best case scenario: adams gets fired by the KNS for utter incompetence and kiffin's plane crashes into the pacific ocean.

RockyToptoNeyland writes:

I feel so sorry for Mike Hamilton

DHW writes:

Way to kick us when we're down Adams. I've never agreed that you were a hack before, but now you certainly know how to change a man's mind.

Your coaching choices are pathetic and shows how much better off you'd be following that trio who are dead to me to USC....

orangeblood8456 writes:

in response to DCVol:

here's a best case scenario: adams gets fired by the KNS for utter incompetence and kiffin's plane crashes into the pacific ocean.

i'll drink to that. hooker wrote kiffin not on usc wish list, also fire that big dummy.

VolInMemphis writes:

I was on the Rich Rod bandwagon when I was itching to get rid of Fulmer. But after the way he left Dub V, I wouldn't touch him with a 10 foot pole.

bmaples writes:

As someone who lived through the Petrino era at Louisville - absolutely keep him away from the Vols.

Oh, he would take it. In fact, he's probably already called Hamilton. That's the problem: the man has no loyalty to anyone, anywhere, except himself. And maybe his family. Your little school on the Tennessee River? Just another stop on the road to the Next Great Thing.

Petrino lies so often, and so well, that I think he actually believes his own stories. But make no mistake -- he will make Lane look like a piker when it comes to having affairs with other jobs.

Go read the history of his time here. Read about his midnight trip to Auburn just after being given a ten-year contract. Read about him talking to other teams during Orange Bowl preparations.

If I had a one-year rebuilding job, I'd hire Petrino on a one-year contract where he didn't get paid till the end. Beyond that, I'd know he could leave any time -- probably answering the call from the new AD while signing the extension with his old AD.

Bitter? No -- we knew what we had after the second year. Just wish he hadn't lied along the way; would have been much better if he had just said up front "I'm going to leave whenever the Next Best Thing comes along, so enjoy the ride while it's happening and don't expect the program to be in good shape when I leave."

Just some thoughts from a long-time Vol fan who's also a Cards fan.

volsenior22 writes:

why would we hire the AF coach? He runs the whole GT triple option thing. No way. Bring in Muschamp with Kirby Smart!

deakinbi writes:

John:

A few things...Think Big is not a second tier SEC coach...really terrible suggestions. Alabama hired Nick Saban, Carolina got Spurrier, Flordia got Urban, LSU got Les. Better than 85% for sure and has a recent past of being in the top 95% for more than a decade...so we're at a low point at 85%. Think Bigger, better.

As for Lane, what a terrible terrible lack of character, and maturity. To a large part he is a product of the A.D. and the environment he has created (and the President of the University has some accountability too!)..and the A.D. has done a terrible job in promoting the University as something other than an NFL factory...all those silly comments about "not angles" rings in my ears. Shove off Lane, Monte, Ed ...you will not be missed...perhaps you could give Mike H a good reference He's going to need it.

DCVolunteer writes:

Adams -

Did you just actually mention Bobby Petrino as a viable candidate? I've spent a lot of time defending some of your ridiculous columns to friends of mine but this is too much.

We just lost our coach at the worst possible time and you listed a guy whose famous for A)meeting with Auburn's people mid-season while head coach at Louisville and B)leaving the Falcons in the lurch to take the job at Arkansas while the NFL season was still going.

Unbelievable that you would list him as a possibility after what just happened. I always assumed you were just trying to ruffle feathers with some of your far off thoughts; now I'm sure your sports knowledge is equivalent to Lane's class - exactly 0. Maybe you should follow Lane to SC where people are fans of 'celebrities' with no talent.

golfballs03 writes:

There is no way I could wish that on Miss State. Not after what we just went through.

rkastens writes:

Heck... hire Al Wilson

TXVol76 writes:

The mid year early HS graduates were on campus today and would have registered Wednesday. The big dude from SC got back in the car and drove home to South Corolina. This will be impossible to recover from.

FWBVol writes:

We ARE T-E-N-N-E-S-S-E-E. We will continue to be Tennessee. Get the right man for the job that sees Tennessee as the destination, not part of the journey.

Yes, this will hurt in the short term, but if we get a good hire as quickly as USC went from Carroll to Kiffin we will be OK in the long run.

Someone on another story suggested Jeremy Bates, and I wouldn't object to Bates. He is a native of East Tennessee, and understands the love and passion we have for the Vols.

Whoever Hamilton hires, he'd better put a $5 million plus buyout into the contract.

jsolowey writes:

vol nation is in an uproar, hurt, speechless yet so much to say. this hurts more than ever. I have never felt hurt over sports before. He earned my trust, and worst of all, the players fell in love with him. Chris Walker says its just business, i wish football was more than that to some coaches. Players, families, people are hurt by this. Kiffin got his dream its tough to blame him, USC is his school...but Notre Dame is Urban Meyer's and he didnt go? This hurts, itll be hard for players to trust a coach again.

jsolowey writes:

in response to volsenior22:

why would we hire the AF coach? He runs the whole GT triple option thing. No way. Bring in Muschamp with Kirby Smart!

that would be the only way we could have a shot at recruiting and success. good thought

BustaRhymes writes:

Fire Hamilton. Hire Fulmer as AD. Let Fulmer hire Cutcliff as HC. Put a sock in Adams - OR - hog tie Adams and put him on the first thing smoking back to the swampland of Louseyana from which he came.

MidTennVol writes:

in response to bmaples:

As someone who lived through the Petrino era at Louisville - absolutely keep him away from the Vols.

Oh, he would take it. In fact, he's probably already called Hamilton. That's the problem: the man has no loyalty to anyone, anywhere, except himself. And maybe his family. Your little school on the Tennessee River? Just another stop on the road to the Next Great Thing.

Petrino lies so often, and so well, that I think he actually believes his own stories. But make no mistake -- he will make Lane look like a piker when it comes to having affairs with other jobs.

Go read the history of his time here. Read about his midnight trip to Auburn just after being given a ten-year contract. Read about him talking to other teams during Orange Bowl preparations.

If I had a one-year rebuilding job, I'd hire Petrino on a one-year contract where he didn't get paid till the end. Beyond that, I'd know he could leave any time -- probably answering the call from the new AD while signing the extension with his old AD.

Bitter? No -- we knew what we had after the second year. Just wish he hadn't lied along the way; would have been much better if he had just said up front "I'm going to leave whenever the Next Best Thing comes along, so enjoy the ride while it's happening and don't expect the program to be in good shape when I leave."

Just some thoughts from a long-time Vol fan who's also a Cards fan.

Thanks for this. It's good to know. Wasn't Petrino also the guy who screwed the Atlanta Falcons?

Madkels writes:

"Never mind that Kiffin is leaving for a better job"?

Adams..quit and go to LA with this garbage. USC is a better job? Why? Warmer weather? Come on.

Our program is not second tiered. We are in the BEST conference in the nation, have the best facilities, and the most loyal fan base. The whale feces is going because he is a Cali boy.

The PAC 10 is not the SEC. The SEC is 6-0 in BCS title games. PAC 10, 1-1.

So shame on you for saying he is leaving for a better job. HE figured out that the SEC is to competetive and he couldn't cut the mustard. So he chose a dominate program in a lesser conference. I have news for him. The PAC 10 has more parity than when he was last at USC. So the dominance enjoyed in the early '90's are not there today. I hope if/when USC makes it to another BCS title game, he gets waxed by a SEC team. And to make it better, I hope it's against UT.

SutherlandAve writes:

On the bright side, we have a winning basketball team and a coach that bleeds orange and white. He was offered a higher paying job at a bigger program but stayed here because "it's great to be a vol." Basketball is the best sport anyway.

OrangeJuice writes:

Even the children in Tennessee know that the state and it's fans got it in the rear on this one. I cannot forgive myself for taking up for this person. What a cad..They are on the wrong side of a Tennessee hate party for years and years.

dan_walker#359588 writes:

We are not without options here....
Call Peyton, tell him we need a favor...
Ask him to call Tony Dungy and ask if he will assemble a staff and stay for a couple of years until he can hire his replacement. Frame it as football consultation.

The way a program reacts to adversity is the true mark of a winner, and we need a response to this event which will leave chris fowler scratching his......

gavol writes:

in response to RockyToptoNeyland:

I feel so sorry for Mike Hamilton

Why do you feel sorry for a man who has failed at one of his primary responsibilities. One of my responsibilities at work is recruiting and hiring. If I misjudge and hire the wrong people, I pay through my evaluations. A bad evaluation, and my job could be in jeopardy. Don't feel sorry for a man who hasn't effectively done his job.

10cvolnga writes:

You need to go back only two years to see what Petrino did to the Atlanta Falcons. At least Kiffin finished his season schedule out. Petrino will end up doing the same with the Hogs. Think before you make those recommendations Adams.

DarthVol writes:

"I want to warn you fellars...I'm a screamer" -Davy Crocket

AlpharettaVol writes:

We worked for years to get a Tennessee license plate in Georgia. If Petrino is chosen I'll turn in my Tennessee license plate and take all the Tennessee stickers off my car. He's a scum-bag. What he did to the Atlanta Falcons was even worse than what Kiffin just did to the Vols.

adimatteo#261830 writes:

I feel sorry for althe kids who signed on last year due to all the promises of Lane, his father,etc....the current students, the community that embraced him...
I love UT, always will, but getting to stop loving college football these days

99gator writes:

does anyone know how many scholarships tennessee is short of the 85?

they had how many transfers this past season and how many players are leaving the program this year (graduation and nfl)?

this is like being placed on probation.

kd45music writes:

I think there's a coach from Lubbock who is available and who has probably learned his lesson. Talk about offensive geniuses. Anyway, all he was doing was trying to teach that little snot-nosed spoiled brat a lesson. I would have been fed up with James by then, too. I know this may sound way out on a limb, but maybe not.

auttat writes:

in response to 99gator:

does anyone know how many scholarships tennessee is short of the 85?

they had how many transfers this past season and how many players are leaving the program this year (graduation and nfl)?

this is like being placed on probation.

I think we had 63 on scholarship by the end of the year. No clue what the final number will be after departures from this year.

We are set back 2-3 years, at the very least, before we are even a .500 team. As much as UT fans try to believe otherwise, we were a less than .500 team next year even with Kiffin.

99gator writes:

in response to auttat:

I think we had 63 on scholarship by the end of the year. No clue what the final number will be after departures from this year.

We are set back 2-3 years, at the very least, before we are even a .500 team. As much as UT fans try to believe otherwise, we were a less than .500 team next year even with Kiffin.

which means if they had 18 people leave the program and sign the 20.

they have around 65 players on scholly.

damn.

i said before kiffin would need time.

if i were the new head coach, i would want some serious guarantees in the contract.

the new coach should be given a heck of a lot of rope.

Carlitovol writes:

what about Jim Harbaugh from Stanford? would have even be a possibility? no ties, but he seems like a class act - he's intense, passionate, and he's clearly a solid recruiter...

rfrelin23 writes:

in response to Carlitovol:

what about Jim Harbaugh from Stanford? would have even be a possibility? no ties, but he seems like a class act - he's intense, passionate, and he's clearly a solid recruiter...

that would be a bad idea...you would probably lose him after one year. as a michigan fan i can say that we will most likely fire rich rod next year and the job would go to les miles or jim harbaugh (both are "michigan men"). careful what you ask for.

tomcat48 writes:

If you plan on naming a street after kiffen, make sure it is running out of town.

Colliervol writes:

Let's all be honest here. The vast majority of the Vol Nation supported the hire of Kiffin especially after it appeared that the rebuilding process was moving forward and no matter how much he stirred the pot. We rolled the dice and lost. Happens every day at the casinos and picking coaches isn't much different these days. No different than it was a year ago. We have to move forward and pick the best candidate.

Still doesn't change the fact that Kiffin and Orgeron are low grade pond scum. No character whatsoever. But Mike Golic on ESPN put it in perspective this morning. He said that all fans, players and parents of recruits should understand that this is the nature of the business nowadays and that there is no guarantee that a coach will be there in four years when he makes that promise in a living room or when they sign a contract. Translation: They are all mercenaries and there won't be any more Bowdens and Paternos. Get used to it. It is what it is.

Is this is when people use the term "Pearl Harbored"?
Kiffin- A Name That Will Live in Infamy (at least in Tennessee).

civilianvol_formerly_marinevol writes:

All of the coaches you named would be doing the same thing as Kiffen if they came here after only 1 or 2 years at their school. I think we should name Kippy Brown head coach immediately so he can hire a staff and try to salvage a few recruits. We need to give him plenty of time. We will be a basketball school for at least 4 or 5 years. I'm looking forward to USC getting severe penalties. They certainly didn't help their cause by hiring the guys that recruited Reggie Bush.

civilianvol_formerly_marinevol writes:

The two happiest men in America right now have to be Phillip Fulmer and Urban Meyer. On the other hand, the staff is removing all sharp objects from Mike Hamilton's office.

volky writes:

in response to Colliervol:

Let's all be honest here. The vast majority of the Vol Nation supported the hire of Kiffin especially after it appeared that the rebuilding process was moving forward and no matter how much he stirred the pot. We rolled the dice and lost. Happens every day at the casinos and picking coaches isn't much different these days. No different than it was a year ago. We have to move forward and pick the best candidate.

Still doesn't change the fact that Kiffin and Orgeron are low grade pond scum. No character whatsoever. But Mike Golic on ESPN put it in perspective this morning. He said that all fans, players and parents of recruits should understand that this is the nature of the business nowadays and that there is no guarantee that a coach will be there in four years when he makes that promise in a living room or when they sign a contract. Translation: They are all mercenaries and there won't be any more Bowdens and Paternos. Get used to it. It is what it is.

Is this is when people use the term "Pearl Harbored"?
Kiffin- A Name That Will Live in Infamy (at least in Tennessee).

Agreed! The Bowdens & Paternos of this college football world are a thing of the past unfortunately. Frank Beamer at VA Tech may be the last one. I can't think of another coach who has served with similar tenures. (At one time CPF was in that category...) Everyone is too impatient these days. Everyone is always looking over their backyard fence with envy at their neighbors lush yard. When a few dandelions appear in their own yard, they want to fire their gardener instead of putting in the time & effort to make the necessary improvements. Joe Paterno went through a similar situation several years ago but Penn State had his back. Bear Bryant went through a similar situation in the late 60s. Alabama stuck with him, Bryant made the necessary changes and the Tide enjoyed the most dominant decade in the history of college football. Mark Richt is currently facing a similar situation at Georgia. He probably won't survive another 6 or 7 win season. It is not his complete fault that he lost a boatload of talent to the NFL over the past two years, but Georgia fans probably wont tolerate waiting until he can re-load. The quick success of Meyer & Saban won't allow it. It is the new landscape of college football

asleep#212036 writes:

in response to Madkels:

"Never mind that Kiffin is leaving for a better job"?

Adams..quit and go to LA with this garbage. USC is a better job? Why? Warmer weather? Come on.

Our program is not second tiered. We are in the BEST conference in the nation, have the best facilities, and the most loyal fan base. The whale feces is going because he is a Cali boy.

The PAC 10 is not the SEC. The SEC is 6-0 in BCS title games. PAC 10, 1-1.

So shame on you for saying he is leaving for a better job. HE figured out that the SEC is to competetive and he couldn't cut the mustard. So he chose a dominate program in a lesser conference. I have news for him. The PAC 10 has more parity than when he was last at USC. So the dominance enjoyed in the early '90's are not there today. I hope if/when USC makes it to another BCS title game, he gets waxed by a SEC team. And to make it better, I hope it's against UT.

USC absolutely is a better job than UT can offer. He'll make more money, play against weaker competition, be kissed by the national sports media, be coddled and ignored by the NCAA no matter what, and all he has to do to recruit is open the front gate and welcome in another Top 5 class. That said, what he did to us is unconscionable and we should have seen it coming. The brashness, the immaturity, the arrogance. It was fun as long as it was wrapped in an orange jersey but now, not so much. I admit I was looking the other way. Now I just feel like an idiot for not seeing it sooner. Day is always darkest just before the dawn. Go Vols!!!

asleep#212036 writes:

in response to 99gator:

does anyone know how many scholarships tennessee is short of the 85?

they had how many transfers this past season and how many players are leaving the program this year (graduation and nfl)?

this is like being placed on probation.

The number I heard before the bowl game was that we had 58 scholarship players available to dress out due to defections, injuries, and dismissals. Don't know if that's accurate. What is accurate is that even with those injured players returning, we will not be able to field a full scholarship team for a couple of more years as we have had 15 players dismissed or leave and you just don't have that leeway with the NCAA to sign that many players at a time. You're right, if we lose this class, it's just like probation which, with some of Lane's activities, may not be too far behind. We should have seen it coming and need to quit whining about it now. Let's move on, get a good coach, and see what happens.

asleep#212036 writes:

in response to civilianvol_formerly_marinevol:

All of the coaches you named would be doing the same thing as Kiffen if they came here after only 1 or 2 years at their school. I think we should name Kippy Brown head coach immediately so he can hire a staff and try to salvage a few recruits. We need to give him plenty of time. We will be a basketball school for at least 4 or 5 years. I'm looking forward to USC getting severe penalties. They certainly didn't help their cause by hiring the guys that recruited Reggie Bush.

I hear what you're saying but Kippy has never even been a coordinator, let alone a head coach. I don't think we take that chance. Loyalty I understand but it is a state of mind, not a historical element. In other words, just because someone didn't play at UT or work there in the past doesn't mean they wouldn't be loyal. Do what the other big-time programs do: buy their loyalty. I say we get out our biggest check and hire a guy that can get it done immediately and to the future. Bama did it, Oklahoma did it, Florida did it, Texas did it - it's working pretty darn well for them. And not one of the guys they hired had any association whatsoever with the university beforehand. It can be done, we (Hamilton) just picked the wrong guy last time around. Let's move on. Go Vols!!!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to fasteddy41:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

<Slap, slap> Wake up! Peyton is, uh, a little busy right now, trying to get the Colts to the Super Bowl. He still has another five good years or so to play in the NFL. There is no way he could make as much coaching at UT as he makes in the NFL. There is no way anybody as rich as he is now would take a job as demanding as head football coach at a program like UT. Try to live in the real world for awhile, sorry as it seems to be in the Big Orange world right now. Oh wait, maybe you were joking. If so, Ha-Ha, that was a good one!

jawbreaker writes:

in response to johnlg00:

<Slap, slap> Wake up! Peyton is, uh, a little busy right now, trying to get the Colts to the Super Bowl. He still has another five good years or so to play in the NFL. There is no way he could make as much coaching at UT as he makes in the NFL. There is no way anybody as rich as he is now would take a job as demanding as head football coach at a program like UT. Try to live in the real world for awhile, sorry as it seems to be in the Big Orange world right now. Oh wait, maybe you were joking. If so, Ha-Ha, that was a good one!

As much as I would love to see Peyton coaching at Tennessee, I don't see him coaching anywhere, ever. I think he will slide seamlessly into sports television where he will have a very long and comfortable second career.

madcow26#524674 writes:

mr adams - usc is not a better job......
heck , go with him if you think la is all that much better...
There are not too many areas as pretty as east tennessee and there is NOT ONE BETTER place to be than the University of Tennessee..
take some cues from a real writer of sec sports..tony barnhardt..(even though he does write for the atlanta rag)...

hueypilot writes:

in response to madcow26#524674:

mr adams - usc is not a better job......
heck , go with him if you think la is all that much better...
There are not too many areas as pretty as east tennessee and there is NOT ONE BETTER place to be than the University of Tennessee..
take some cues from a real writer of sec sports..tony barnhardt..(even though he does write for the atlanta rag)...

Oh stop it. I appreciate you may like East Tennessee but for crying out loud, for a California guy, LA vs Knoxville? Wow, what a tough choice. You think Lane Kiffin goes possum hunting in the off season? This was the perfect storm for Tennessee and probably the only place in the country he would have jumped to, and all the planets were aligned. This is just an unfortunate set of circumstances and while I don't like Kiffin's leaving, the story of the year would have been him being offered the USC job, okay to bring pop and Orgeron and him saying, "Nope, Loudon Lake is just too pretty to give up." While I don't blame people for being Po'ed for being rejected, I think we need a healthy dose of reality here. The minute Kiffin was offered this job, it was over.

Now let's move on and find us a football coach. This boy got us a bunch of good recruits, like Bryce Brown and Janzen Jackson, and we'll hold on to most of the ones this year as soon as we get us a coach to talk to the new ones and calm them down. It's going to be all right.

DannyVol writes:

I have been scolded so many times for calling Adams a classless hack who hates UT. Finally after this piece of "phooey" article, I have a lot of company. He loves this, folks. Thanks for seeing the light about this idiot.

volpaul writes:

The person that needs to be lynched is Mike Hamilton. Last year he said he was going to take his time because it was critical to get this, (a new coach), right. So much for that decision. Then add to it the contracts agreed to for Kiffin and the assistant coaches. It is the AD's job to protect the university. These contracts left it totally exposed to the possibility of what happened.

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