Lane Kiffin is a polarizing figure in college football, lauded as a master recruiter in Los Angeles, and hated everywhere else. For the naysayers, the recent pursuit of Penn State running back Silas Redd is fuel to the fire for hating Kiffin, but isn’t that a little unfair?
Lane Kiffin is solely defined by one year of his life, which came in 2009 as the head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers. Yes, he had a weird year and a half with the Oakland Raiders in 2007-2008, but it was his lone season in Knoxville that shaped the national perception of Kiffin, and for two and a half years, he’s been trying to shake it.
At USC, he’s shadowed by Sports Information Director Tim Tessalone, kept on his best behavior by Athletic Director Pat Haden and quite frankly is more mature than he was at Tennessee. But that doesn’t help the fact that a majority of his presence in Google Images is from his time in Knoxville, or the ‘slimey’ tag that he’s had to carry from those who are unaware of the changes in his ways.
Just a week ago, it felt like a lot of that was gone, at least in Los Angeles. Reporters at Pac-12 Media Day asked Kiffin about Tennessee and then wrote articles praising him for not being a jerk. Plus, as both a coach and a recruiter, he’s gotten much praise locally, a contrasting sentiment than the ‘Fire Lane’ banter that floated around the program as recently as last September. Things were good, right?
Not so fast. In the eight days since the NCAA dropped the hammer on Penn State, Kiffin has once again been thrown through the wringer by both the national media and the fans east of the Mississippi. There was the Pete Thamel article last week that misconstrued Kiffin’s quotes on Bill O’Brien, the constant anti-Kiffin tweets by Penn State fans, and even a ridiculous call for NCAA action against Kiffin and USC over an exceedingly petty secondary violation committed by a backup quarterback, no less.
Within hours, Kiffin has gone from being praised for ‘not being a jerk’ by Jeff Miller of the Orange Country Register, to being the national villain again. It’s all one giant mess with Kiffin getting hit by lobs thrown by those still miffed by the past actions of the coach, as opposed to those who have witnessed the rapid maturation he’s endured since January 2010. More after the jump…