It’s time for Tennessee to take a chance. The only way to salvage the Vols’ coaching search is to be risky.
The obvious choice setting social media on fire is Lane Kiffin.
For that to happen, egos will have to be set aside, which likely won’t happen. UT athletic director John Currie and super boosters Jim and Jimmy Haslam surely were embarrassed and hurt when Kiffin bolted for USC in the middle of the night after one season as UT’s coach in 2009. They’d all have to leave their pride on the negotiating table.
Moreover, former UT coach Phillip Fulmer would certainly have to forgive and forget. It’s unclear just how much say he has in the hire since he’s just an ambassador in place for fund-raising. He surely isn’t a Kiffin fan; hey, Kiffin replaced him. Fulmer isn’t the athletic director but he has some say, especially with the Haslams.
Fulmer hasn’t spoken publicly on the hire, but it’s obvious there still are some hurt feelings there. Former UT quarterback Erik Ainge, who played for Fulmer, recently got in a Twitter exchange with Kiffin and said he didn’t want him to return; he told Kiffin “you suck.” Ainge is an admitted homer and very likely a mouthpiece for UT and Fulmer.
His odd reaction said a lot about how UT feels about Kiffin. With all due respect to Fulmer, his feelings shouldn’t be considered in any potential hire and neither should Ainge’s; Ainge will fall in line with any hire the Vols make.
UT’s fans must also be considered. They were hurt when Kiffin left. But based on the response I’ve seen, the majority of fans would support a Kiffin hire after watching UT’s hiring process become a debacle. The rest eventually would fall in line, as fans do with any coach. Remember the support that Derek Dooley and Butch Jones had early in their careers?
There’s no question in my mind that Kiffin would win at a high level at Tennessee. But the egos and pride probably won’t allow it to happen.
Kiffin also could bring along former UT quarterback Tee Martin, who is the offensive coordinator at USC; they coached together with the Trojans. Former UT receiver Donte Stallworth tweeted that there was a proposal that included Kiffin, Martin and Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. Kiffin denied that a proposal had been made on Twitter. But Steele was a player and assistant at Tennessee and certainly would be a possibility.
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