Tennessee will be better off without Kiffin

I’m sorry I am going to be out of the country for the next few weeks because what eventually happens at Tennessee is going to be fascinating.

The next few weeks, even perhaps he next few months, are probably not going to be a lot of fun for Tennessee fans.

Unless athletic director Mike Hamilton can pull a rabbit out of his hat and hire somebody–like Will Muschamp of Texas–who will calm down the Tennessee fan base, the Volunteers are looking at bad stretch of road coming up with the sudden departure of Lane Kiffin to USC.

It’s clear by now that Hamilton has set his sights on Muschamp and will pay him handsomely to leave Austin, where he is the coach-in-waiting to Mack Brown, who just got a new deal at $5 million per year. Hamilton will tell Muschamp that Mack is not going to retire anytime soon. He is offering a bird in the hand at a premier spot in the SEC. Muschamp’s agent will have all of the leverage in those negotiations.

Texas will tell Muschamp that if he’ll just be patient–he’s only 39–he will inherit a powerhouse program that has averaged 10 wins a year since Brown got there in 1998. Why take over a program that is now faced with more questions than answers?

But what is plan B for Hamilton if Muschamp says no? I spoke to some people close to former coach Phillip Fulmer and there is no doubt that he would like to come back as the head coach. He can offer stability, which Tennessee desperately needs right now. And even the people who fired Fulmer never questioned his love for Tennessee. The next coach will have to show Volunteer fans that he really cares about being there and is not using Tennessee as a stepping stone. Of all the things that have infuriated Volunteer fans in the past 24 hours, it is the notion that ANY Pac-10 job would be considered better than theirs.

Hamilton said during a press conference on Wednesday that Fulmer will not be a candiate for the job of head coach. I’m suggesting that this process may be taken out of Hamilton’s hands. The next 48 hours are going to be very interesting as the levers of power start getting pulled. When the smoke clears, Fulmer coould be the head coach again. And if he’s not the head coach he could pull a Tom Osborne and become the athletic director.

But if you’re a Tennessee fan, trust me on this: Over the long haul, you are not really going to miss Lane Kiffin. The guy gave a great press conference. He knew how to get under Urban Meyer’s skin. He talked in a manner that made Tennessee fans smile because he wasn’t going to back down from anybody in this league. He had that California style and sold it to recruits.

But at the end of the day, Lane Kiffin’s rise to become the head coach of the Oakland Raiders and then of Tennessee was a triumph of style over substance. He TALKED a great game. It remains to be seen if he can coach one. Now he may go to USC and win a bunch of Pac-10 championships and take the Trojans to the Rose Bowl every season. But I have my doubts, especially if the NCAA drops the hammer on the program in the coming months.

Some people took me to task last night when I said that Tennessee is a better job than USC. They talked about California and Hollywood and what USC has done the last nine years.

But remember that USC was a struggling program before Pete Carroll got there nine years ago. Remember Paul Hackett? Remember Ted Tollner? USC was very mediocre before Carroll and could well be again, especially when the NCAA gets done with the Trojans. I don’t think Pete Carroll bolted for the Seattle Seahawks because he wanted to be closer to Starbucks.

I am going to miss you all but I’ll be watching from afar. Hope to see you in a few weeks.

209 comments Add your comment

PC Police

January 13th, 2010
8:02 pm

And it’s not everyday that a female will admit to that, Watergirl.

c'mon now

January 13th, 2010
8:03 pm

i like tony barnhart, but mr college football sounds like a wino blathering about phil fulmer returning to the sidelines…furthermore, even clear-thinking ut fans would admit usc is higher on the college football pecking order – look at their accomplishments, past and present…from the sec, only alabama compares favorably…finally, chasing a coordinator with no hc experience when a proven winner like the boise coach is available makes me wonder if hamilton and barnhart aren’t both drinking from the same flask!

Mr. Football's Uncle

January 13th, 2010
8:09 pm

Count me in for wanting Big Phil back. He’s a HUGE athaletic supporter and can take the drama out of whether or not we’ll beat Florida cause UT won’t. Why not call ol’ Crazy Urban. Nah, better not, he can’t make up his mind about anything. Steve Superior? No, he can’t even get the Chickens in a bowl game every year and he’s a little long in tooth. Gunslinger Saban? Stay away! He’ll have another job in the pros in a year or two. Only names left: Jackie “The Steer-a-Lizer” Sherrill or, the president of MENSA at Clemson: Danny Ford!

Paul's Johnson

January 13th, 2010
8:20 pm

Happy and safe travels, Tony. Wonderful insight, as usual.

One question I have is whether Coach Boom has a buyout in his coach-in-waiting deal, as Jimbo Fisher did. I have a feeling that Tejas will be a tough situation to walk away from at this time. But UT is a premier job. Methinks that Fulmer will be working again at UT, and soon.

Dr. Phil

January 13th, 2010
8:49 pm

Good article, Tony. If UT can get Muschamp, they will be far better off. If not, they should bring back Pumpkin Butt. He clearly loved the school and ran a clean program in comparison. The AD should be sent packing for bringing a twit like Kiffen there in the first place.

Tide Rising

January 13th, 2010
9:11 pm

I think Tony summed up Kiffin best with the addage “All style no substance”. Truer words were never spoken. This clown got the Oakland job, then the UT job, and now the USC job with a lot of big smack talking and sure enough there were people dumb enough to buy into the BS. You have to be a consumate BSer to get the USC job after going 12-21 in your 2 previous jobs.

Bob in SF

January 13th, 2010
9:15 pm

You can’t underestimate how much Layla Kiffen influenced this decision. You don’t have to be genius to figure out what a hot young SoCal will girl given a choice of going back to LA and being in the limelight or staying in Knoxville. Seriously, The Sunsphere or Hollywood/Beverly Hills etc. etc.? We all know what we would choose too.


January 13th, 2010
9:19 pm

Tide Rising,

That’s life. Status quo or whatever. Kiffin is like W Bush to me. They are who they are because of their dads.

Muschamp or Smart has a better resume and more substance than Kiffin, that’s for sure.


January 13th, 2010
9:31 pm

Muschamp should jump at the chance to leave Austin to coach in Knoxville. Being the HC at Texas in the future is not a better job than Tennessee by any measure.

Remember that Texas was a struggling program before Mack Brown got there 11 years ago. Remember David McWilliams? Remember John Mackovic? Texas was very mediocre before Mack Brown and could well be again.


January 13th, 2010
9:34 pm

Do the writers at the AJC not have spell check. So frustrating reading garbage.

Watch List « Vols in the Fall

January 13th, 2010
10:03 pm

[...] Mike Hamilton’s Number One target. Tony Barnhart says it is clear that Hamilton has set his sights on Muschamp, will pay him big money, and will [...]


January 13th, 2010
10:10 pm

Kiffin is trash, the Bernie Madoff of college athletics. He and his crew put their own interest over those of the student athletes, and there should be something done to sanction the lot of them. Tony, can the NCAA sanction individual coaches? I hope USC gets H A M M E R E D.

Tide Rising- LA media also caught him in a lie

January 13th, 2010
10:17 pm

It was priceless.

First, they drilled him as to why a recruit would trust anything he says.

Next, they asked him about the Coach O calling UT recruits and telling them not to enroll. His reply: “I’ve been traveling and know nothing about it”.

Later he says “I don’t believe it to be true”

The press jumped all over that one. One guy asked “you said you were traveling, then you said the report was not accurate. If you were traveling and didn’t know anything about it, how do you know it isn’t accurate?”

His reply “um, well, um, I said your statement wasn’t accurate.” Man they drilled him on this. It was so bad the USC SID had to say “okay, lets move on”. Kiff looked like my teen aged son when he lies, although not nearly as believeable.

So it appears that only people inside Herritage Hall approve of the hire, the rest of the free word think it’s a joke.

It was priceless.


January 13th, 2010
10:41 pm

Obviously, I am not a UT fan. I agree Tony, UT will be much better off in the long run with Kiffin gone. I have rellished in some of the embarrassment he has brought upon UT since joining the SEC and this is an embarrassment to the program too HOWEVER, I am not intending to poke jabs at my neighbors to the north on this one. To me, it is like drinking a large dose of NyQuil. It is better to get that nasty taste over and done with one big gulp rather than sip on it for awhile. For Kiffin to remain in Knoxville, UT would have been tasting that bitter medicine for a long time coming (regardless of how many wins he eventually produced). Swallow hard and fast UT, then let that nasty taste be gone. UT is one of the great football programs in the country and in spite of the bitter taste now, they will be much better off in the long run with Kiffin gone.

Tide Rising

January 13th, 2010
10:59 pm

Looks like the idiot found a new village.


January 14th, 2010
2:25 am

Don’t worry about us Vol fans. Our nightmare is over and we are waking up. USC fans are just settling down for a very long night. Best of luck.

[...] Tony Barnhart says keep an eye out for the Fulmer power play. [...]

Lord of the Swamp

January 14th, 2010
8:01 am

Boy, Tenn gets rid of a first class guy (Fulmer) and really gets into a pile of you know what

Jesse James

January 14th, 2010
8:27 am

If I were Tennessee, my first choice would be David Cutcliff. The man can coach. If he wasn’t interested I would consult him on who to approach. He is familiar with the program and the SEC.

Gen Neyland

January 14th, 2010
8:39 am

Lord of the Swamp : What I have trouble understanding is how our opposition who once blasted CPF’s for supposedly being a rat now refer to him as classy guy. I dunno. Maybe ya’ll are drawing a comparison to apples and donuts. Make up your minds…

[...] Writing for the AJC, Tony Barnhart says Tennessee better off without Kiffin. [...]

Waleska Dawg

January 14th, 2010
8:58 am

Lane Kiffin reminds me so much of Jim L. Mora.

mark s.

January 14th, 2010
9:40 am

Tony have fun on your vacation,see you back here in two weeks.


January 14th, 2010
9:42 am

I’ll agree that USC caould be a great stepping stone…powerhouse of the conference, adored by voters in BCS polls, etc, etc, but Barnhart made a very good point: Carroll didn’t leave USC for the great Seattle weather, and with “Kiss My Arse” Kiffin holding press conferences, the NCAA is just about guaranteed to blast USC into a probationary stone age.

SC Rules!!!

January 14th, 2010
10:03 am


GOD i can’t WAIT too hear all the Lame @ss excuses when we win EVEN more NC’s! Especially when the SEC team (insert any name) is the VICTIM!!!!! What kind of bullsh!t excuses will y’all come up with then??? Well look at this way, y’all have a whole year to line ‘em up. We’ll be waiting.

Fight On!

p.s. I told my idiot half brother to stay away from my computer last night. We are SC!!!

p.s.s. L.A./Hollywood or the outhouse/Dollywood?? I pick L.A.!! (So do you if you had the guts to be honest)


January 14th, 2010
10:04 am

Remember Tim Floyd, one of America’s greatest failures in the basketball coaching profession. He was a medicore college mentor at Iowa State when he befriended Chicago GM Jerry Krause and suceeded Phil Jackson as the Bulls Coach. It was a disaster! A few years later, he showed up at USC, had a few medicore seasons and was relieved of his duties. It seems as if USC has a great ability to hire medicore coaches for important position. Lane Kiffin fits their qualifications!


January 14th, 2010
10:14 am

Big Tone,

You know I am a UGA homer and a UT hater. But UT fans should not be upset that Lane Kiffin has left. Did anyone see that press conference last night??? If you told me Kiffin was on meth or something I would believe it. The man couldn’t stay still, I almost got see sea sick watching him bounce from side to side. Then his face got bright red when he was caught in a lie about the early class situation at UT. This guy is a train wreck and UT should be lucky they don’t have to wait another 4 or 5 years to find out. I still can’t believe CMR let this hack beat us this year.


January 14th, 2010
10:17 am

TN has the right man right under their noses. Kippy Brown.


January 14th, 2010
10:31 am

I felt bad for the UT for just a second, until I remembered that they had no problem when they hired Lance Thompson (hired from Alabama) and he started heavily recruiting Bama committs – same thing. Just doesn’t feel as good when it’s happening to you, does it?

Wm Muschamp

January 14th, 2010
10:39 am

How many times do I have to tell people – I am not going anywhere! I am in the best City, at the best university, learning from the Master. I have the richest pool around me from which to recruit, I have incredible talent already on the roster, and I am in an incredibly stable environment. Why the hell would I want to leave all that?? Get realy guys!

Ramblin Wrecker

January 14th, 2010
10:39 am

Given the backlash of the Lane Kiffin fiasco, I wonder if Tennessee will get anybody who is a current head coach. The timing is poor. I’m sure there are lots of current head coaches who’d love the Tennessee job, if it was open in early December, but not two weeks shy of February. It just puts you at a disadvantage in recruiting and with the loss of patience, that first recruiting class is key in being successful. If you get off on the wrong foot you might be fired in 2-3 years. So Tennessee is left to comb the ranks of the unemployed college coaches or looking for hot assistants or NFL coaches to fill the vacancy.


January 14th, 2010
11:26 am

This gives new meaning to the Al Davis comment “Lane Kiffin is a flat-out liar.” And folks thought Al was becoming demented, in addition to mercurial. This quote may surpass the most famous of all Al Davis’s quotes: “Just win, baby!”

and to the blogger who said that there is no “professional football in LA,” the NCAA findings may dispute that!!!!!


January 14th, 2010
11:39 am

what a joke….

Not a limp-wristed lib

January 14th, 2010
11:42 am

You’re right, “Ed = buffoon”, we know what you are …

Steven Daedalus

January 14th, 2010
11:47 am

You all are forgetting the perfect candidate for the nearest nothing school I have ever been to or seen, Elmer Fudd, he speaks the perfect dialect,all the players and fans would understand him immediately and he he would fit right in.


January 14th, 2010
12:03 pm

UT will hire a fine head coach. The thing is that the SEC has no off season. We fans love to talk about the future, what the team looks like, what happened last year. UT fans are going to be wallowing in the unknown. The fact is that you dont know how good your team is until the first of Septemeber.

So if UT hires Kippy Brown and all the UT fans sulk and complain the whole summer, Rememeber this: nothing matters until the win-loss record begins. That being said…… nothing sucks like a big orange.


January 14th, 2010
12:04 pm

oh and UT still has Bryce Brown


January 14th, 2010
12:41 pm

Kiffin leaving is a blessing in disguise. Tony, you are right. He TALKED a great game, that’s about all he did. Fulmer’s loyalty to the university is so deep, he wouldn’t leave. The administration made him leave. Which is wrong.

Pete Carroll wanted more $. Why else leave USC? Kiffin was a California guy, so he’s where he needs to be. Muschamp would be a fool to take the Tennessee job. Kirby Smart could take it, but its not the best move. His best move would have been to come to Georgia and get out from under Saban’s shadow.

Indiana Vol

January 14th, 2010
12:42 pm

My 3 choices when before Kiffin (aka The Weasel) was hired were Brian Kelly, Jon Gruden and Chris Peterson (Boise State). With Kelly now at ND, I am replacing him with Gary Patterson (TCU). If Peterson and Patterson can recruit and win at Boise State and TCU, imagine what they could do with a much larger recruiting budget, better fan base and better facilities at Tennessee!

As for the Weasel and USC, I hope the NCAA shuts down the program because of the cheating and that sorry SOB has to rebuild the program from scratch!

Thrashers moving to Quebec City

January 14th, 2010
12:47 pm

The team garnered zero support from negroes.


January 14th, 2010
12:53 pm

You’ve really got to work at it to make Al Davis look good.

Gen Neyland

January 14th, 2010
12:53 pm

From KNS : Air Force football coach Troy Calhoun has scheduled a meeting with his players at 5:50 p.m., according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.

There were no indications what the meeting concerns.


January 14th, 2010
12:54 pm

ESPN is reporting that Derek Dooley is a possible candidate to replace Kiffin. Derek Dooley? I know he’s a fine coach but all the dead UGAs would roll over in their graves if Vince’s boy became the coach of the Volunteers.

See link below


Kiffen WINS!

January 14th, 2010
12:58 pm

Congrats to Coach Kiffen for returning to the superior USC,and LA! I hope he gets all the recruits to move with him! Nobody wants to be amongst the hicks of Tennessee! NOBODY!


January 14th, 2010
1:12 pm


I wish I could agree with you…the facts are Tennessee football is set way back by this. I was still on the fence as to whether or not Kiffin could coach…however, he could recruit and that is what TN has to have to be competitive.

Just look at the facts: Besides possible Kentucky, no SEC state produces fewer major college football players. Of the 23 committs we DID have, 1 was from the state of TN and that isn’t that unusual…that is why it was so impressive that Fulmer and Kiffin could recruit as well as they did…TN just does not have the advantages of the Florida’s, Georgia, LSU, Alabama, etc.. with in state players…that’s not sour grapes…that facts


January 14th, 2010
1:14 pm

Looks like Trou Callhoun from Air Force is our next coach…wow…can you hear the excitement in my voice….ugh..he may turn out okay…but this isn’t exactly going to put fear in anybody.

Sigh…maybe I can start rooting for the Lady Vols…I guess that’s all i have


January 14th, 2010
1:22 pm

If I was a TN fan I would be happy to get rid of Kiffin. You may lose a few recruits this year but at least you won’t be on probation next year.


January 14th, 2010
1:27 pm

Calhoun is an excellent choice for the Vols.

Hunker Down

January 14th, 2010
1:32 pm

Let’s see, USC is under probe. SEC has won 4 straight NC. But a job with the PAC Ten is better? Wonder if the Rose bowl made a change and started placing the winner of the PAC Ten against the winner of the SEC how the PAC Ten would fare.


January 14th, 2010
1:35 pm

CLK will do fine at USC…and whatever is left of the Vol recruiting class at least will be there because they want to be. I’d rather see players play for the Vols then for a top draft position anyway. Money and greed are ruining the best game there ever was.