A few days after the Lane Kiffin debacle, I got a call from Robin Kiffin, his mom and Monte Kiffin's wife. She was very upset by a sentence in a story about reaction to her son's departure:
"Lane Kiffin: I will find you, kill you, and eat your firstborn child!"
"I cannot believe any reputable paper would put that sentence in there," she said. "It is beyond my comprehension. That is like a terror threat. It's cannibalistic and evil."
The line was actually the name of a Web site that had been created after Lane Kiffin announced his departure. Writer Scott Barker quoted the title to demonstrate the level of vitriol being directed at the coach. I think the example was used appropriately, and the newspaper certainly didn't endorse the sentiment.
Robin Kiffin's call was a reminder, though, of the collateral victims of collective rage. She said her daughter-in-law received some 1,200 hateful e-mails after the announcement.
"All the threats they got, they had to take the children and leave the next day," she said. Robin would have left then, too, but had dogs she couldn't abandon. She waited for a friend to drive from Tampa to help her make the move.
The Kiffin women weren't necessarily keen on moving, anyway. Robin Kiffin said they both had worked extensively to decorate their homes in Knoxville and had gotten involved in the community.
"Layla's done the soup kitchen, and the little girl was in school," she said. "My husband gave up a great job in Tampa. This was a very hard move. I thought we were going to be here for life."
Before the announcement, "My excitement of the day was reading the newspaper." Seeing in the News Sentinel a Vol fan declaring intent to kill her son and eat her granddaughter was disturbing, to the say the least.
Well, now that a couple of weeks have passed, it's instructive to look back on our community's reaction to Kiffin's abrupt farewell.
What was all the furor about?
True, the sudden "I'm outta here" was a violation of many implied promises, to fans and athletes alike. But, in the context of big-time college football, what's to be expected?
Big Orange fans had gloried in the coach's determination to get teenagers to break their promises to other schools and "decommit." Was it such a surprise that Kiffin decommitted himself?
Then, within hours of his "betrayal," the University of Tennessee was hard at work trying to persuade some other coach to abandon his ship in the midst of the recruiting storm and take Rocky Top's helm. Derek Dooley did, leaving Louisiana Tech the next victim of the musical deck chairs.
Granted, Kiffin's brief tenure was particularly classless but not out of character. Should we say the same about our own community reaction?
In the end, I liked Gov. Phil Bredesen's take on it the best. He is pushing a plan to make UT one the nation's top 25 research universities by adding 200 scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to the faculty. The proposal has been called an economic "game changer" for Knoxville.
Bredesen described Kiffin's goodbye as "a blip on the radar."
"So somebody quit and went," he said. "Big deal."
No cause for cannibalism? That is class.