By now, unless dead or drunk in a ditch somewhere, everyone knows Lane Kiffin has bolted for Southern California.
What they might not know is just how quickly Kiffin has become public enemy number one in Knoxville, Tenn.
As news leaked out on the ESPN wire around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, the University of Tennessee campus quickly escalated into riot mode, and campus police, many of whom are Volunteer fans, had no intention of stopping it.
About 1,000 students gathered outside the football complex burning the Kiffin promotional “It’s Time” T-shirts in the street, set a mattress ablaze and blocked the exit of the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center — requiring Kiffin to be escorted out by the police, leaving his luxury car parked in the staff lot outside the building.
During that time, a group of Tennessee players began to lash out against their former coach, proclaiming “It’s great to be a Tennessee Vol,” “We are Tennessee” and “We don’t need Lane Kiffin.” They were understandably angry, in shock and looking for answers. Most of all they were defiant.
Tennessee is a proud program, one steeped in tradition, and they scoffed at the notion that Kiffin was the key to the program’s revival.
Tennessee defensive end Ben Martin started cheers of “Bring back Phil, (expletive)” in reference to former coach Phillip Fulmer.
The biggest shock, though, was from USC’s end.
Many wondered aloud why a program which just experienced one of the greatest nine-year run in college football history would hire a man with a combined 12-21 record over the last three years at Oakland and Tennessee, respectively. They understood the interest on Kiffin’s end.
After all, he’s a West Coast guy with a West Coast wife, but why, they wondered, would USC go that direction when so many proven candidates were out there.
In the end, the answer is likely the same as when Tennessee hired him: bloodlines.
By hiring Kiffin as the young brash figurehead, they get defensive guru Monte Kiffin and recruiting ace Ed Orgeron as well. That’s the type of package deal that will get an under-qualified coach a job.
But in the end, Vol fans simply hope they have the last laugh. They see Kiffin as little more than a snake in the grass, a liar and a program wrecking ball.
With the possibility of NCAA sanctions coming down the pipe in Los Angeles, they would like to see nothing more than for Kiffin to get his comeuppance.
At the very least, they’re taking solace in the mark they’ve left on the Kiffin family. As Kiffin slithers his way toward the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, he’s doing so with his year-old son — Knox.
Bradley Merritt is the sports editor of the Daily Beacon, the University of Tennessee’s daily newspaper.