Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Live By The Sword, Die By The Sword

I've got some news for all the Tennessee fans and students who have acted out in anger over the news that head football coach Lane Kiffin is trading in Rocky Top for SoCal.

You asked for this and now you have to live with the consequences.

By "this" of course, I'm talking about the winning-above-all-else attitude that is so prevalent in the world of major collegiate athletics, to which Tennessee has been a willing follower. So it should really come as no surprise to anyone with half a brain that the ego-maniacal Kiffin would skip town after less than a year and a half on the job.

As universities and their athletic directors look to satisfy rabid fan bases and deep-pocketed boosters, it is inevitable that this kind of thing is going to happen. The pressure to win is getting coaches fired before they can even see their first recruiting class graduate, can you really blame coaches for always having an eye on the next best gig?

When Tennessee fired long-time head coach Phil Fullmer it traded in any chance of the Paterno-like loyalty their fans would all like to think their head coach would and should bring with him. Fullmer, as much as I didn't care for him as a coach on the field, was (and is) a loyal and steady presence. But in the end, with rival schools like Florida and Alabama asserting themselves thanks in large part to new head coaches, that stability just wasn't good enough any more.

Some Vols fans are mad at athletic director Mike Hamilton who bowed to the pressure and fired Fullmer, making way for Kiffin and his traveling circus? But even Hamilton was just doing what he thought was in the best interest of the program. Surely even he couldn't have predicted the wonderful mess his school now finds themselves in.

Like so many schools before them (ahem, Notre Dame), unrealistic expectations from nearly everyone involved led them to this point. Head coach gone, recruits jumping ship and a fan base on the verge of revolt. But in the end Tennessee, their fans and their boosters, have no one to blame but themselves.

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