Time heals all wounds.
Or so we’ve been told all of our lives.
Lately I’ve been wondering if enough time has passed for the night of January 12, 2010 to be nothing more than a distant indifferent memory for Vol fans.
January 12, 2010 was of course when then Tennessee Volunteers head coach Lane Kiffin abruptly announced his resignation from the University of Tennessee in order to take his “dream job” with USC.
I remember the night like it was yesterday. This was way before I was writing about the Vols, or involved with the media in any way. I was simply a fan.
I walked into my bedroom that night, the television already on ESPN as it typically is, to see the breaking news headline with the caption “Lane Kiffin Resigns from Tennessee to become coach at USC” or something along those lines.
My wife can tell you like it was yesterday as well, because she remembers the immediate rage, disappointment and anger that I displayed that night. It was one of those few times where I let sports get to me, and my emotions came out in full effect.
I was far from alone in my thoughts and actions, nearly ALL Volunteer fans reacted the same way.
And it’s understandable why they did.
When Kiffin took over in late 2008 he immediately won the fans over with his “Singing Rocky Top all night long after we beat Florida next year, it’s going to be a blast” speech at his introductory press conference. He had fire, energy and a desire to win. He began by proving himself as a top-notch recruiter, and of course there was the on-the-field product.
Kiffin had a solid season as head coach in 2009 and things seemed to be looking up for the Vols after the dismissal of long-time coach Phillip Fulmer. Kiffin finished 2009 with a 7-6 record, losing to Virginia Tech in the Chick-Fil-A bowl.
What really makes Kiffin’s one season with the Vols stand out is the fact that it was the last season where the Vols beat a team of any substantial stature. Under Kiffin that season, the Vols handled Georgia easily in Knoxville and took down the 21st ranked South Carolina Gamecocks at home as well.
The Vols also narrowly missed out on a victory over the top ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, in Tuscaloosa, when Crimson Tide defensive lineman Terrance Cody blocked Daniel Lincoln’s would be game-winning field goal.
Kiffin had managed to put a team on the field that looked capable of contending for titles in the SEC.
Former Vol turned broadcaster Charles Davis recently discussed Kiffin’s time at Tennessee, on WFNZ’s “The Drive”.
When he (Kiffin) was at Tennessee, that team played hard…They played hard and aggressively and played without fear and you liked what you saw and you thought down the road they’ve got a chance.
Naturally things weren’t as sweet as a they seemed, in fact they were quite bitter. Kiffin was saddling the university with recruiting violations, of which Tennessee is still feeling the effects.
ESPN’s Mark Schlabach wrote about Kiffin’s missteps with the Vols, immediately after Kiffin’s resignation.
In his short time in Knoxville, the Volunteers skirted the NCAA rulebook at least a half-dozen times. Kiffin improperly mentioned recruits by name on radio shows and talked about their committing to the Volunteers on his Twitter page. His coaching staff simulated game-day experiences during recruits’ visits to campus, another NCAA no-no. In November, three Tennessee players, including freshman receiver Nu’Keese Richardson (the prospect at the center of Kiffin’s cheating allegations against Meyer), were arrested and charged with trying to rob two men with an air-powered pellet gun outside a Knoxville convenience store. But the most damaging charges came near the end of Kiffin’s lone season with the Volunteers. A New York Times investigation revealed that female recruiting hostesses had crossed state lines to entice recruits to come to Tennessee. Kiffin claimed to have no knowledge of the women visiting prospects in South Carolina, but the NCAA has questioned several prospects about the hostesses’ role in their recruitment by the Vols.
On top of that there’s his 2009 recruiting class, which was ranked 10th by Rivals. Of the 22 signings to that class, 16 have departed from Tennessee, with defensive back Eric Gordon being the latest.
So while Tennessee seemed to be on the up-and-up under Kiffin, they really weren’t. Still it’s easy to see why Vol fans were upset when Kiffin bolted after one season.
After Kiffin left, the Vols were forced to scramble to find a head coach — enter Derek Dooley.
You can pretty much fast-forward through three years of disappointment, which leads us to present day.
Present day is a rejuvenated program under new coach Butch Jones. A program that is clearly on the rise and has fans excited for the first time since Tennessee ran through the T with black jerseys on and easily defeated a nationally ranked South Carolina program in 2009.
So with all of the positive energy flowing around Rocky Top, it leads me to my original thought.
Is the disdain for Lane Kiffin subsiding among Vol fans?
We took the question to Facebook and Twitter to see what Vol fans had to say. Here’s a few of the responses (that are suitable to post here).
@allfortennessee it’s more reasonable to understand that SC was Kiffin’s dream job now since there’s been time to be objective about it.
— Michael Fenner (@Fenner6) August 7, 2013
@allfortennessee but it still just stings in terms of what could’ve been with recruiting and the on-field product.
— Michael Fenner (@Fenner6) August 7, 2013
— Edward C. Dallas (@OneChess) August 7, 2013
— Lynn Kimery (@vols271998) August 7, 2013
@allfortennessee it has actually become saddening to see Kiffin. He looks so clueless on the sidelines. Pity is what I feel now.
— The Tennessee Logo (@TENNESSEE_LOGO) August 7, 2009
From Facebook: Elizabeth Stebbins Kiffin is the past, I look to the future with bUTch Jones and the VOLS, and our future is lookin pretty bright right now…..bUTch Please!!!! GO VOLS!!!
From Facebook: George Badon Yes I am as mad now! I think Kiffin is a sorry rascal! Go Butch! Go VOLS!!!!
From Facebook: Corey Snyder I stopped caring two weeks after he quit when we hired a new coach.
Those are just a few of the many responses we received, but it’s very apparent that while Kiffin’s name still invokes anger among some Vol fans, it’s nothing like it was a couple of years ago.
That can be attributed to Kiffin’s less than stellar time with USC so far, and the momentum that Butch Jones and the new coaching staff have going right now in Knoxville.
It’s definitely always best to look to the present and the future and leave the past buried. Vol fans appear to finally be moving on from Lane Kiffin.
It helps that things are finally trending up for the Vols.
As Jason Lee’s character Brian Shelby says in Vanilla Sky, “The sweet is never as sweet without the sour”.