Open mouth, insert foot. That’s what Lane Kiffin did this morning at a breakfast with fans at the Knoxville Convention Center. Discussing recruiting as a whole and, in particular, Tennessee signee Nu’Keese Richardson, Kiffin accused Florida head coach of recruiting violations.
Kiffin said at breakfast Thursday morning, “I’m going to turn Florida in right now in front of you. Nu’Keese [Richardson] was here on campus and his phone kept ringing. One of our coaches said, ‘Nu’Keese, who’s that?’ He said, ‘Urban Meyer.’ Just so you know, when a recruit is on another campus, you can’t call him. I love the fact that Urban had to cheat and still didn’t get him.”
Little did Kiffin know that it wasn’t a recruiting violation at all. Swing and a miss for the new Vols coach.
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley didn’t seem too pleased at Kiffin’s morning musings.
“There was no rule violation and we have confirmed this with Southeastern Conference.” said Foley in a prepared statement. “It is obvious that Coach Kiffin doesn’t know that there is not a rule precluding phone contact with a prospect during an official visit on another campus during a contact period. His allegations are inappropriate, out of line and, most importantly, totally false. It is completely unfair to Urban Meyer, our coaching staff, our football program and our institution.”
It wasn’t the first time that Kiffin had taken a jab at Florida. In his introductory press conference, Kiffin got a rise out of the crowd by guaranteeing a win vs. the Gators in The Swamp next season.
"I'm really looking forward to embracing some of the great traditions at the University of Tennessee.” said Kiffin in December. “For instance: the Vol Walk, running through the T, singing ‘Rocky Top’ all night long after we beat Florida next year. It will be a blast.”
It’s obvious that Kiffin is trying to endear himself to the Vol fan base, and that’s okay. He should do that. After all, this is the same program that has only had two other head coaches since the Carter Administration. Even the quote from his press conference in December was acceptable. But, this latest incident completely crossed the line, and really makes you wonder if Kiffin really knows what he’s gotten himself into. Everyone passed off the joke at his press conference in December as just that – a joke. But, Thursday’s incident shows that a trend is developing. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
If Kiffin wants to be one of those coaches that makes wise cracks behind the microphone, great. Anything other than the typical coach speak always makes for fun times on the internet and on talk radio. Steve Spurrier did it at Florida, Ozzie Guillen does it for the Chicago White Sox in Major League Baseball and Bobby Knight did it at Indiana and Texas Tech in college basketball. But, all of those guys have championships. Kiffin doesn’t have a single college football win as a head coach.
Kiffin issued an apology Thursday night. But, it’s probably too little, too late. He’s already poked the defending National Champions twice. And, when that happens, Florida doesn’t get angry, they get even.
The Gators came into the Worlds’ Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party vs. Georgia in 2008 out for blood, after the Bulldogs cleared the bench after their first touchdown the previous season. The Bulldogs got flagged for a much-deserved unsportsmanlike penalty, but the memory of that incident resonated for a full year. 2008 result…Florida 49 – Georgia 10…and it wasn’t even that close.
Rallying the fan base is fine. But, poking at a coach that has hoisted the crystal football two of the last three years to do so, is just not smart. After all, the Gators have beaten the Vols by 24 points and 39 points the last two seasons. Don’t be surprised if Urban Meyer goes out of his way to hang half-a-hundred on the Vols at The Swamp next season.
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