Commentary

Lane Kiffin joins the disloyalty club

Originally Published: January 14, 2010
By Thomas Neumann | Page 2

The college football world remains atwitter a day after news broke that Lane Kiffin was leaving Tennessee after one season to replace mentor Pete Carroll at USC.

Should we really be surprised? College football is undoubtedly big business, and many coaches are perceived as mercenaries. Further, this kind of disloyalty isn't exactly unheard of in the sports world. Granted, it rarely happens to a program as prominent as Tennessee football. But it seems there's always another job that can offer more money and prestige a new challenge.

Consider that Kiffin has merely become the latest member of Page 2's fraternity of disloyalty:

Lane Kiffin, January 2010: Is it possible Tennessee was slightly reckless in hiring Kiffin in the first place? Consider that his previous boss fired him for cause and subsequently held a national news conference for the sole purpose of damaging his credibility. Just sayin'. Still, Vols fans are bound to miss this kind of brilliant decision making.



Brian Kelly, December 2009: Kelly left Cincinnati after compiling a 12-0 record in 2009, the most successful season in school history. He also quit the Bearcats as they prepared to meet Florida in the Sugar Bowl, arguably the biggest game in school history. Still, it's difficult for us to denounce Kelly too badly. When Notre Dame punches your digits, you take the call.



Brett Favre, August 2009: The fabled gunslinger woefully neglected lawn care at his 460-acre ranch in Hattiesburg, Miss., to make a comeback with the Minnesota Vikings.



Jeff Jagodzinski, January 2009: Just two years after being named the coach at Boston College, Jagodzinski openly defied athletic director Gene DeFilippo by flirting with the New York Jets about their open head-coaching position in January 2009. Jagodzinski was then fired, but he landed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator job just three weeks later. The Bucs then fired him 10 days before the '09 season opener.



Gene Chizik, December 2008: Iowa State stood by Chizik after he went 5-19 in his first two seasons in Ames. Nevertheless, he bolted for Auburn, where he had the opportunity to compete in the mighty SEC and freely wear his glasses all the way down the end of his nose without any repercussions.



Bobby Petrino, 2007, 2008: Many of you posted in the comments section we should've included Petrino on this list. Indeed. Here goes: When Petrino was head coach at Louisville, he once declared "Louisville is the perfect place to raise a family, and I plan for all four of my children to graduate from high school in Louisville." Three weeks later, he was interviewing to replace Nick Saban at LSU. He signed a 10-year contract to remain at Louisville in July 2006, and five months later he was coach of the Atlanta Falcons. Eleven games into the 2007 season, he said he was staying in Atlanta and hadn't given any college jobs "one bit of thought." He coached two more games for the Falcons before leaving for Arkansas. Dizzy after reading that? We'll give you a moment to recover.



Rich Rodriguez, December 2007: After coaching for seven seasons at his alma mater, West Virginia, Rodriguez bailed on the Mountaineers to take the Michigan job in what became a messy, infamous divorce. Now, after Rich Rod piloted the Wolverines to consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1962 and '63, many Michigan fans are probably ready for him to move on to the UFL, Ypsilanti High or Big Kahuna Burger, whichever one is hiring.



Bob Huggins, April 2007: Despite coaching Cincinnati to 14 consecutive NCAA tournaments, Huggins was forced out in 2005 after pleading no contest to drunken driving and compiling a poor graduating rate. Despite this baggage, Kansas State took a flier on Huggins in 2006, and the Wildcats went 23-11. By 2007, he was coaching his alma mater, West Virginia. Do we fault him for returning to his roots? Consider the evidence.



Nick Saban, January 2007: In the weeks before accepting an offer from Alabama, the then-Miami Dolphins coach repeatedly denied interest in the Crimson Tide job. At one point, he definitively stated, "I'm not going to be the Alabama coach." Miami Herald columnist Dan Le Batard later dubbed him "OSaban bin Lying." In 1990, he ditched Toledo after one season as head coach, taking a job with the Browns as an assistant under Bill Belichick.



Dennis Erickson, December 2006: Despite winning two national championships at the University of Miami, Erickson's stock was at rock bottom in February 2006 after a 9-23 two-season stay with the San Francisco 49ers and a year out of coaching. Enter the University of Idaho, where Erickson had held his first collegiate head-coaching job from 1982 to '85. Erickson returned as coach of the Vandals and assured the school it wouldn't be just a brief stop in hopes of landing a better job. Ten months later, he was the coach at Arizona State. Erickson also bolted to Washington State in 1987 after a single season at Wyoming.



Johnny Damon, December 2005: The talented outfielder signed a four-year, $52 million contract with the Yankees, thumbing his nose at his Kansas City Royals roots and some other team.



Carlos Boozer, July 2004: Boozer signed a six-year, $68 million deal with the Utah Jazz despite a verbal agreement with Cleveland to re-sign for the mid-level exception after the Cavaliers allowed him to become a free agent. "We are both very surprised and very disappointed," Cavs owner Gordon Gund and general manager Jim Paxson said in a statement at the time.



Billy Gillispie, 2004, 2007: The former Bill Self assistant bolted Texas-El Paso after two seasons and Texas A&M after three. Gillispie was criticized for being an opportunist, but both moves are understandable. He moved from UTEP to A&M and from the Aggies to Kentucky -- both significant upward moves. Often overlooked is the fact that Gillispie's Miners beat the Harlem Globetrotters in 2003, ending a 288-game winning streak. … Do the Washington Generals need a new coach?



Boston College, 2003: Not long after leading the charge to offer Miami $45 million to remain in the Big East, the Eagles joined the Hurricanes in defecting to the ACC. Despite being a charter member of Big East football, BC agreed in less than four hours to beat a path to Tobacco Road.




Bill Belichick, 2000: "I resign as HC of NYJ."



Bill Frieder, March 1989: On the eve of the NCAA tournament, the Michigan basketball coach wasn't just drawing up plays and pondering X's and O's. He was working on a deal to take over at Arizona State. Before Frieder could quit, however, athletic director Bo Schembechler canned him, famously declaring, "A Michigan man will coach a Michigan team." Interim coach Steve Fisher promptly guided the Wolverines to six consecutive victories and the national championship.


Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson, March 1973: At the beginning of spring training, the Yankees pitchers reveal they are swapping wives … kids, cars, homes, pets and lives. Perhaps then-Yankees general manager Lee MacPhail said it best: "We may have to call off Family Day."


Larry Brown, 1972, 1974, 1979, 1981, 1983, 1988, 1992, 1993, 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006, TBA: In 13 stops as head coach in the professional and collegiate ranks, Brown has stayed more than five seasons in a job just once. His stops: Davidson, Carolina (ABA), Denver (ABA/NBA), UCLA, New Jersey Nets, Kansas, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks and the Charlotte Bobcats. (Whew!) You could say Brown is the most disloyal coach in sports history. We prefer to think he merely wore out his welcome in 12 of those places.




Marcus Junius Brutus, 44 BC: Beware the ides of March? Damn straight.





Who's got next?



LeBron James, July 2010: Buckle your safety belts, Cleveland.



Thomas Neumann is an editor for Page 2.

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