Cavalcade of Whimsy - Those Darn Coaches
USC head coach Lane Kiffin
USC head coach Lane Kiffin
Posted Jan 19, 2010

The 2009 season ended with a thud, and then came the wacky coaches and their strange situations. The biggest of the bunch was Lane Kiffin's move from Tennessee to USC, but did he really do anything wrong? Pete Fiutak comments in his belated Cavalcade of Whimsy.

Cavalcade of Whimsy

Jan. 19

Past Cavalcades
- 2008 Season | Sept. 1, Part 1 | Sept. 1 - Part 2
- Week 1 (The Bradford Shoulder) | Week 2 (Time To Boot the Big East?)
- Week 3 (The Ten New Stars)
- Week 4 (ESPN's responsibility)
- Week 5 (The incomparable Bobby Bowden) 
- Week 6 (The 10 big college football arguments)
- Week 7 .. Part 1 | Part 2 - The Ten Best Players In College Football ... so far
- Week 8 ... Part 1 | Part 2 - You're an idiot if ... 
- Week 9 ... Part 1 | Part 2 - What if players couldn't leave early for the NFL?
- Week 10 .. Part 1 | Part 2 - Every conference race broken down
- Week 11.. Part 1 | Part 2 - The 10 unsung things you need to know 
- Week 12.. Part 1 | Part 2 - Breaking Down The Award Finalists 
- Week 13 - The Notre Dame Circus | Part 2 Ten things to be grouchy about 
- Week 14 - The Texas Near Miss. Part 1 | Ten things to be grouchy about
- Week 15 - Understanding The U. | Why Texas will win the national title
- Dec. 22, Part 1 - The Holiday Wish List
- Dec. 22, Part 2 - Ten reasons why Alabama will win the national title
By Pete Fiutak

- Jan 19, Part 2 - The sucky 2009 season 

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, A column partially built around the end of the 2009 season right now is about as timely as a You Look Mahvelous reference, but you try being creative and interesting after having your soul sucked out of by the 17 straight rides of It's A Small World 17.

Sorry if this column sucks, it's not my fault … I bonked my shoulder, it went dead, and I had to throw an untested rookie out there to finish the job. Like the column, he was awful in the beginning, shocked everyone with some nice moments, and then, just about when things got really interesting, he was bad once again.

"Fifty years ago, for five minutes, you came this close. It would kill some men to get that close to their dream and not touch it. They'd consider it a tragedy. " ... Colt McCoy, understandably fighting back tears after not being physically able to play in the biggest game of his life, "I've never (pause to choke a bit) questioned God."

Uh-huh. Let's hook up the lie detector on that one.

No one deserves that. No one deserves to work an entire life for one game and one moment only to have it all go kaput in the opening minutes. There are a lot of dillholes in college football, and McCoy isn't one of them.

It's not that he didn't get a chance to win the national title; it's that he wasn't able to get a shot. That's a rest-of-the-life moment that McCoy will never, ever forget or get over, but Texas, like all teams, has to learn from this … you never rely on one player to be the difference between a win and a loss. Alabama could've lost any one player and still won.

"Thirty years I know Arthur. Good years. And what I feel right now? If I'm honest? I can't even say it it's so awful." ... Tennessee fans, you're better off. Really, you're better off. No, really, consider this a huge, HUGE break.

"We messed up big-time on Sunday. I had sponsors in the stands. I was hugging and holding hands and praying for a good showing. And we end up looking like a monkey (bleep)ing a football." ... C'mon, Tennessee. Didn't you learn anything from all the other coaching searches done across the college football world this offseason? All job interviews are to be done under the table and very hush-hush. Don't try to sell your fans a can of Spam when you thought you were getting a filet mignon.

Derek Dooley might be fine, but his arrival signals a rebuilding phase that might not have a sure-thing end to the rainbow like there was when Alabama hired Nick Saban and at Arkansas where it's a matter of time before Bobby Petrino starts to really rock. Tennessee just looked small-time.

"Head them off at the pass? I hate that cliché!" ... I'm not suggesting that Pete Carroll was dirty in any way and it's a shame that one of the good guys in the college coaching world is now sucked into the NFL vortex. However, his timing couldn't be more perfect.

Personally, I don't want USC to get nailed with NCAA violations only because the rules are ridiculous and they should be openly defied and broken, but if everyone is supposed to be playing by the same standards, and if Oklahoma, at the time of the ruling, was told to vacate wins for Rhett Bomar's no-show job and Florida State had to vacate wins for an academic issue, then most of the Carroll era, if the NCAA does any legwork whatsoever, gets wiped off the books.

And now you're bringing in Lane Kiffin.

Yeah, THAT'S the guy you want in place to turn around a program that's a heartbeat away from finally getting tagged for things it should've been punished for years ago. It's not like the ship is going to become air tight when it comes to the boosters, and watch the recruiting envelope to be pushed beyond its limits with this crew coming to town.

Daddy, what's a pickleweasel? ... All family members, especially children, should be kept out of press conferences. That goes double when there are so many questions and so many real issues to be discussed with a coach like Kiffin at his opening intro at USC. Media, you ask the questions you're supposed to ask, adorable kids on stage or not, and to any sports figure who hides behind family members, that's your fault if you're asked something you don't want to answer, but need to, in front of your loved ones.

"Come out to the coast, we'll get together, have a few laughs." ... To all the misguided mattress-burning "fans" who went batspit after Kiffin bolted for L.A., sorry, but the guy did nothing wrong.

This seems like a slimy move and there's something that feels sort of icky about leaving after one year, but in reality, no matter what you think of Kiffin, everything was done by the book.

It was in his contract that he could leave for $800,000, and it was perfectly within his right to do so. If he wants to leave for what he feels is a better job, fine. Let him go. Hopefully for the Vols, Derek Dooley thinks Tennessee is a "better job" and wants to set up camp for as long as he's successful. The last time a program of this magnitude was jilted for a perceived lateral move (and it is a lateral move after the NCAA gets done with USC … and you are going to actually do something this time, NCAA, right?) was when Dennis Franchione dared to leave Alabama for Texas A&M. In the end, how'd that all work out for all the parties involved?

But what about the players and the recruits? Of course, according to the NCAA belief system, students should want to come to Tennessee to play football because they wanted to come to the University of Tennessee, while the coach is supposedly immaterial in the equation. In today's day and age, if you're a player and you're banking your world on a head coach being in one spot for five years, then that's what we call a YP (Your Problem). You have to be smarter than that, and if you're not, welcome to the real world, son.

Coaches get fired for one down year. Coaches leave for better jobs. Coaches get sick and have to take leaves of absences. So unless you're going to Penn State, where Joe Paterno is never going away, if you're a four-star player you need to go into your college career assuming that you'll be playing for a new head coach, or at the very least a new coordinator, by the time you're done.

What was Kiffin supposed to say to recruits? How was he supposed to know that the USC job was going to come open? He didn't, so yeah, when he told players he wasn't going anywhere, at the time he probably meant it knowing that the NFL wasn't going to be an option after the Oakland fiasco and with few college jobs out there bigger than Tennessee.

A coach can never, ever, ever, ever say that there are greener pastures and that there's a chance he might jet if the right opportunity opens up. He has to say that he's going to be sticking around at his current job because if he doesn't, that means he's looking and that means the top recruit will be going somewhere with a coach who does tell the lie that no one really believes but tells anyway. And that's why I don't really have a problem with Kiffin and how this all went down.

I have a huge problem with the suddenly bizarre Urban Meyer.

Kiffin is at least being honest to himself (if no one else) in that he wanted the USC job and he's taking it. If Meyer is telling recruits that he's going to be back in August, then he had better have his burnt out ass on the practice field on the opening day of fall practices or he not only becomes one of college football's top scam artists and scumbags, he ruins his recruiting reputation for life. And if you're a top player and you're going to sign on at the University of Florida, and if Meyer isn't your coach for all five years, if at all, then that's 100% totally and completely on you if things don't turn out like you want.

Meyer was screwed after his meltdown, and he knew it almost immediately.

The pros don't want him and it's not like there are a slew of top college jobs that could compare to Florida. Basically, there was nowhere to go that was going to be better, and because of it he has Florida football in a holding pattern for the rest of his career. Now, every opposing coach worth his salt will bring up the Meyer flake and flight factor from here on. When is the next freakout session going to come? It might be soon considering the guy looked like he'd rather stick a skewer in his tongue, twist it around several times, and have it go whirring like a propeller than be on the sidelines for the Sugar Bowl.

Meyer's a football coach, and like every football coach, family, God, and health come a distant second to coaching football. One inspired practice doesn't erase the fact that the guy was so fried that he had to make an emergency run to the hospital late after the SEC Championship loss to Alabama, and that STILL wasn't enough to flip the switch in his head that should've said, "Uh, dude, you might actually die from being a college football head coach."

Order two and it comes with a free defibrillator ... It took me all bowl season to figure it out. The role of Denise, the Taco Bell chick who gives away her burritos for 89 cents, is played ESPN sideline reporter, Heather Cox.

"When someone asks you if you're a god, you say YES!" ... A note to Boise State tight end Kyle Efaw and to all Bronco players, coaches, and administrators; if someone, anyone, asks if you deserve to be No. 1 in the country or if you should be playing for the national title, there's no, "I don't know about that" answers and no, "that's for you guys to decide" dares of the media. If you want to be No. 1 and playing in the BCS Championship, act like you really believe it. Pretend, and many will buy it.

And burn the Sugar Bowl game tapes ... Cincinnati, just skip the middle man and hire newly named Central Michigan head coach Dan Enos now.

- Jan 19, Part 2 - The sucky 2009 season