What is Lane Kiffin thinking?
This question has become one that is frequently pondered throughout the Southeastern Conference by coaches and fans who are mildly entertained and mostly irritated by the new young coach of the Tennessee Volunteers.
Kiffin has made numerous headlines in his first months on Rocky Top, but is it necessarily wise to put a bright orange target on the backs of a team that is coming off of a five win season in 2008?
Kiffin seems to subscribe to the theory that any publicity is good publicity, and has indicated that these types of headlines have helped the Vols in recruiting.
He recently told an ESPN audience that it was "a pretty neat thing for Tennessee that our logo is in Florida's locker room," referring to a Florida football team that has taken umbrage at the comments of Kiffin that he would be singing "Rocky Top" throughout the night after UT defeats the Gators in their annual showdown this Fall.
There is no denying that the brand name of Tennessee football has lost quite a bit of luster since its 1998 national championship.
The highlights of the past ten seasons have been three losses in the conference title game and a steady diet of non-BCS bowl games.
Overall the program had clearly slipped behind Florida, Georgia, LSU, Alabama, and watched SEC brethren Ole Miss, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt all make bowl appearances at the end of 2008, while the Big Orange nation watched on television.
In light of this, the school looked for the anti-Fulmer and, by all accounts, got him. The powers at UT wanted someone who would not provide more coach-speak, and politically correct answers.
They wanted someone who would stop Vols fans from spending their month of March every year more worried about Bruce Pearl and Pat Summitt than spring football practice.
And they wanted a coach who was capable of having his team play more like a contender for the SEC East than like Florida's homecoming opponent each year. The jury is still out as to whether the administration got their man.
What we do know is that they got a coach with a healthy dose of self confidence. They also got a coach who appears to be, at best, naive and, at worst, in over his head.
Confidence bordering on arrogance is nothing new among SEC football coaches, as evidenced by the likes of Urban Meyer, Nick Saban, Les Miles, and Steve Spurrier, at least in his Gainesville days.
The only difference for Kiffin and these coaches are five national championships and enough conference titles to stock a small IKEA.
Perhaps Coach Kiffin would do well to tone down his boasts and accusations until he has a football team that can back him up. Then again, considering that this is a guy who was able to make Al Davis look sympathetic, that is likely not going to happen.
The Clown Prince of Knoxville would rather do it his way.
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