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Posted: Monday February 9, 2009 5:39PM; Updated: Monday February 9, 2009 5:39PM
Andy Staples Andy Staples >
INSIDE RECRUITING

Dissecting Lane Kiffin's accusation, Signing Day rankings and more

Story Highlights

Discussing a reader's theory for why Lane Kiffin accused Urban Meyer of cheating

Dissecting the rankings, including whether UCLA is underrated and FSU overrated

More Signing Day recap: Walk-on terminology, Alabama a legitimate No. 1 class?

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The cheating accusation's Lane Kiffin leveled against Urban Meyer centered on receiving prospect Nu'Keese Richardson.
The cheating accusation's Lane Kiffin leveled against Urban Meyer centered on receiving prospect Nu'Keese Richardson.
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A relatively serene National Signing Day gave way to a wild Thursday that featured a first-year coach (Tennessee's Lane Kiffin) calling the coach who's won two of the last three national championships (Florida's Urban Meyer) a cheater for breaking a rule that, it turns out, isn't even a rule. That story -- and my response to it on SI.com -- drew plenty of mail. I received plenty of e-mail from folks who obviously see the world through orange-and-white or orange-and-blue colored glasses, but others of you had some interesting theories as to why Kiffin would attack Meyer. Today, I'll examine one of those theories, and I'll answer some of your other post-Signing Day questions.

Lane Kiffin had two goals with his actions yesterday. One is to just get Tennessee in the same discussion as the elite SEC programs ... even if it isn't in a real positive way. Mission accomplished. Second, Kiffin believes he can beat Florida. He's probably already scouted and game planned for them because he knows beating them will be huge for his program. So, he needs to add a little controversy so he ensures that his double-digit dogs are the 3:30 CBS game. He wants a national audience to watch his Vols beat the Gators on CBS. ... The problem with his plan is the Gators are loaded and [ticked] off and are going to run him out of The Swamp by halftime.
-- Larry, Atlanta

Larry makes a great point. The more I thought about Kiffin's performance Thursday, the more it reminded me of watching professional wrestling as a kid. To hype a big pay-per-view match, the combatants would grab the mike each broadcast and boast at one another. The more outrageous their statements, the more likely I was to try to watch the match through the scrambled signal, because my mom wasn't about to let me spend $19.95 to watch wrasslin'. In 30 seconds Thursday, Kiffin did what no recruiting class ever could. He inserted Tennessee into the national conversation. What was the risk? No one really expects the Volunteers, who went 5-7 last season, to win at Florida, which returns most of a national championship team. If they lose by 60, they weren't supposed to win anyway. If they play the Gators close or upset them, Kiffin looks like a wunderkind. And so what if he got reprimanded by the SEC? The Vols don't lose anything tangible as a punishment.

Still, there are a couple of problems with Kiffin's word choice. First, he could have provoked a response by saying, "We're going to whip Florida on the field the same way we did in recruiting." Kiffin wouldn't have been ripped to shreds in the national media for that statement; instead, he'd have been praised as a young upstart trying to fire up the faithful. Given the quality of Tennessee's class relative to how little time the staff had to assemble it, Kiffin and company had reason to crow. Kiffin may have gotten criticized for swiping receivers Marsalis Teague and Nu'Keese Richardson from Florida and defensive back Janzen Jackson from LSU, but not in this space. In the SEC, stealing committed players is part of the game, and Meyer certainly wouldn't have had the moral authority to chide Kiffin given his own history of recruiting players committed to other schools.

The other problem, of course, is Kiffin's televised admission that he encouraged Richardson to hide his visit to Knoxville. Meyer, Alabama's Nick Saban, LSU's Les Miles, North Carolina's Butch Davis and all the other veteran coaches who recruit against Kiffin likely will burn that video onto a DVD and show it to the parents of every recruit who considers Tennessee. Even though lots of coaches encourage recruits to be less than honest about their commitments, visit plans and potential schools, Kiffin is the only one ever caught on video bragging about it.

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