It's hard to blame Lane Kiffin for bolting Tennessee for USC. USC is a better program. It is easier to win. It is easier to recruit. His coaching staff will be sick. It is his dream job.
That doesn't mean Kiffin isn't a douche for leaving Knoxville after only a year (although it's worth noting that coaches -- notably Urban Meyer -- leave programs after 2 years regularly).
I can understand why Tennessee fans feel jilted -- after all, they think their program is at least as compelling as USC's. With time (and Kiffin's recruiting), they might have been right.
On the other hand, they knew exactly what they were getting when UT hired Kiffin. They cheered at his taunting of Urban Meyer. They lapped up the recruiting news. They loved the 7-win start.
All the while, Kiffin was still Kiffin. Still the guy who was involved in USC's mid-decade iffiness. Still the guy who failed in the NFL. Still the guy who committed violation after violation at UT.
And as soon as Pete Carroll left USC, the Vols should have been prepared for Kiffin to bolt -- not just because it's a better job or his dream job, but because that's just the kind of guy he is.
Now USC is an NCAA penalty waiting to happen (although as Wetzel points out, it's not like NCAA probation stops the juggernauts... just look at Alabama this year).
And Tennessee is left with a huge problem: They have no coach, and coach-poaching season is all but over. Their recruiting situation is in serious trouble -- which could set back the new coach years, no matter who they get. (Did you see Urban Meyer on TV smiling at a text message last night? Don't think that wasn't related to recruiting -- or perhaps schadenfreude.)
Things will work out fine for Kiffin -- they always seem to. They will work out fine for USC -- Kiffin might be one of the only coaches in the country who could salvage a Top 5 recruiting class.
Things might not work out so great for Tennessee. Maybe they brought it on themselves, but you can still feel sympathy for them.
More in today's SN column:
See the whole thing here. More later.