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.