Making Me Dizzy

You’re making me dizzy … my head is spinning!
Tommy Roe – Dizzy

That old tune from Atlantan Tommy Roe tells of a boy getting dizzy after being kissed by a pretty girl … no confirmation on whether the young lady was one of Lane Kiffin’s Orange Pride escorts.

Welcome back to The Campus Game where the annual college football coaching carousel is making me dizzy.

Lil Lane

“Lil Lane” Kiffin (as he’s known at The Campus Game) bolted the mountains of east Tennessee for the hills of Hollywood yesterday leaving a greasy trail across Rocky Top that will take a while to scrub clean.

I can understand why Lil Lane would take the job.

He’ll probably make quite a bit more money. The PAC-10 should be much easier to conquer than the ascendant SEC. He’s a West Coast guy and his silly “street cred” ploys play much more easily on Sunset Strip than Cumberland Strip.

Yes, he’s a shady guy with little to no scruples (kind of like Bobby Petrino only without the brains), and he’s leaving the Volunteers in a recruiting lurch … but I can understand why Lil Lane took the Trojan job.

I cannot understand why USC offered him the job.

On the field, the best one can say is that the jury is still out on Lil Lane (but it’s getting mighty close to a verdict). He was part of the golden age of Trojan football under Pete Carroll, but by most accounts played only a modest role at best. He had a disastrous stint as head coach of the Oakland Raiders (when Al Davis comes out of a spat looking better than you – well that’s ugly). He produced one mediocre 7-6 season in Knoxville, winning a single game of note (over a down Georgia team). He got taken to the cleaners in the Chick-fil-A bowl.

Off the field, Kiffin was far worse.

He cheated.

At least six NCAA infractions were reported by the Vols in Lil Lane’s fourteen month tenure (“compliance” to the Vol Athletic Department apparently meant taking bullets for boy blunder … bullets and Lane Kiffin football players is not such a stretch either).

He lied.

Lil Lane claimed Urban Meyer broke rules – false. He spewed nonsense that all his missteps were part of some grand design to keep Tennessee football in the limelight – false. Spend ten minutes listening to him at a press conference and you know Kiffin’s IQ would not allow him such scheming. Simply put, he’s not real bright. After being a college professor for sixteen years, it’s kind of easy to spot a C-minus student trying to charm and bluff his way through a course – that’s Lil Lane, only he’s bullshooting his way through a lucrative career.

He embarrassed.

Kiffin demeaned a proud program, many of his conference coaching brethren, and the citizens of at least two states (South Carolina and Florida). He recruited thugs and did not care. That whole business of using female undergraduate students in the recruting process is not unheard of certainly, but Lil Lane took it to sleazy new lows. Do you doubt Lil Lane would have run a brothel if he could have gotten away with it and landed one more five-star recruit (or that ham-handed UT AD Mike Hamilton may just have let him do so based on how he coddled Lil Lane)?

The putdowns of fellow coaches, of teenagers who would not commit to Tennessee even under the pressure of post-midnight phone calls, of high school administrators … the playing of lewd, loud music on the practice field when children were present, the shirtless screaming coaches … the insufferable sounds of chief recruiter Ed Orgeron (a somewhat endearing personality, but as much an envelope pushing, rule-bending recruiter as will be found on a college sideline) overheard on speaker phone enticing Tennessee’s committed freshmen recruits to follow the bad boys to So Cal at the same time Lil Lane was holding his team meeting … what a bunch of clowns.

I can understand why Lil Lane took the job.

I cannot understand why USC hired him.

A New Day … A New Type Athlete

The coaching carousel starts spinning crazily near the end of most every college football season, but the end of 2009 and start of 2010 may set a record for zaniness.

The strange cases of Mark Mangino, Mike Leach, and Jim Leavitt all point to a new standard for coaches in treatment of athletes.

Mangino made Kansas relevant on the gridiron for the first time since Bobby Douglass was running over and around people, even taking the Jayhawks to an Orange Bowl.

Still, his chastising, sarcastic, and mildly physical style gave his administration enough ammunition (and or reason) to show him the door in Lawrence.

Mike Leach was an even stranger case.

Leach acted foolishly with his treatment of injured receiver Adam James. A coach-to-player verbal dress down is nearly an every day occurrence in many programs even at the high school level. A coach questioning a player’s injury or desire, while less common, is certainly not unusual.

However, ordering a player confined to a dark equipment shed or electrical closet for a couple of hours crosses a line from cantankerous coach to belligerent bully.

We always knew Leach was quirky or weird; the Lubbock Lockdown showed us he can be an idiot.

Still, Leach’s treatment of Adam James did not get him fired. The act simply provided the school an excuse to get rid of him.

Leach is a straight shooter, so when he says “animosity remaining from last year’s contract negotiations” is mainly to blame for his firing, he hits the nail on the head. I’d say that animosity (and saving a whole bunch of money) is about 90% of the reason he was fired.

The Jim Leavitt case at South Florida also reeked of old-style coaching methods costing a coach his job.

South Florida’s investigation found credible evidence that Leavitt grabbed a player by the throat and quickly slapped him twice (angrily but not viciously). While Leavitt denied the charges, the report (available at various sites online) provides plenty enough corroboration to make the scenario plausible.

As a former high school and college coach, I have seen plenty of instances that in the past might have been ignored or even snickered at … but in this new day would get a coach fired.

Coming Soon

Writing for Gameday Weekly several years ago, I coined the phrase “The Warm Fire League” … a takeoff on baseball’s Hot Stove League. Check back soon for Warm Fire League topics from The Campus Game.

See you at kickoff!

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