13. Lane Kiffin leaves Tennessee for USC.
The first year after Phillip Fulmer’s firing didn’t seem to crazy. Tennessee basketball was still rolling with Bruce Pearl at the helm, and the football program appeared to be on the right track after a 7-6 season in Lane Kiffin’s first year as head coach and an elite recruiting class on the way.
But then, all the fears that came with Mike Hamilton hiring Kiffin in the first place came to fruition. Kiffin was a California guy, and everybody knew it. The USC Trojans were where his heart was. And this just happened to be the year that Pete Carroll decided to leave for the NFL.
After Carroll left, though, it took a few other coaches turning down the job before USC settling on Kiffin. And then, when they made the hire, it came less than a month before National Signing Day.
Kiffin then took half his coaching staff and numerous Tennessee football commitments with him to Los Angeles. Combine that with all the players he parted ways with his one year on Rocky Top, and he left the program in dire straits.
Yes, you could say this was partially self-inflicted. Hamilton should have done his due diligence a bit more when he brought Kiffin on board. But it still took a confluence of things that make this terrible luck. Carroll leaving, the botched USC coaching search and settling on Kiffin so late is what set the Tennessee Vols back. And it was the first of many curses to come for the program.