Mike Hamilton was relieved it wasn't his football program, too.
But the University of Tennessee men's athletic director said he took no satisfaction in the adversity faced by the coach who jilted UT in favor of Southern Cal last January after only 14 months on the job in Knoxville.
"I don't revel in anyone's failures or those kinds of things," Hamilton said Monday on the News Sentinel's radio show, The Sports Page. "But there's a rulebook and we have to follow the rules. When those schools don't, then there are repercussions for that.
"With the public nature of what was involved at SC. ... if the NCAA had not levied a pretty stiff penalty, I think it would have sent a wrong message to other schools around the country. So I think they had to do that."
USC's penalties included the elimination of 30 scholarships and a bowl ban for two years for extra benefits accepted by former star Reggie Bush from a sports agent.
Hamilton hired Kiffin in late 2008 to resurrect UT's fortunes, only to see Kiffin bail out after a 7-6 season when the USC job unexpectedly came open. Hamilton said the penalties Kiffin inherits will have repercussions for years - at Southern Cal and elsewhere.
"It was a gut check that we needed to have in the NCAA," he said. "Thirty scholarships over three years and a two-year postseason ban, those are serious implications."
Hamilton said he and Kiffin briefly discussed the possibility of USC's pending punishment when Kiffin called to say he was leaving to take over the Trojans. To Kiffin, the thought of such sanctions was barely a bump in the road.
"I think the reality is he wanted to leave, and I think the reality is he wanted to be at SC," Hamilton said. "I think he had made up his mind on that for sure, and was going to go there regardless.
"Now, I hope for his own sake he had asked some questions (about the ongoing NCAA investigation), and perhaps he did, but now he'll have to live with that a little bit."
Understandably, Hamilton was more comfortable talking about his current coach than his former one. Now that Hamilton has had five months to observe Derek Dooley up close, he's seen one of the coach's strongest traits: his attention to detail and hands-on approach.
"I think it's good and bad in the sense that you want to set the right kind of foundation," Hamilton said. "You want to send the right kind of message through your program, but you've got to make sure that you understand what the little things are and what the big things are and find some balance in there.
"I think a lot of this early on is setting the foundation to get out of the gate. He's always going to be a detail oriented person because that's who he is - and details win ball games.
"The margin of error in our league is very, very small, and if that leads to a win against someone that leads you to a BCS bowl or national championship several years down the road was it the right thing? Yeah, probably, but you can't be so consumed with it that you don't do some of the bigger things that you need to spend time on."