Lane Kiffin had a six-year contract with the University of Tennessee. He coached there for one season, and now he's off to Southern California.
It's another example of how the long-term coaching contract in college football is the world's most meaningless thing.
Yes, this is America. And if Lane Kiffin wants to pursue a new opportunity, he should be able to do so, provided that his existing employer is willing to let him go.
But why don't players get the same treatment? Under NCAA rules, if a player wants to switch schools, he can do so only after sitting out a full season. Why the double-standard?
The reasons why a coach might voluntarily leave a program before his contract expires are basically as follows:
-The chance to coach a school with more resources and prestige
-The chance to coach at their alma mater
-To avoid dealing with punishment/sanctions from the NCAA.
An athlete, on the other hand, would have a longer list of reasons for wanting to transfer, and most of them are more innocent. They include:
-Desire to move closer to home
-Desire for more playing time
-Desire for a better fit academically
-More national exposure
And last but certainly not least: BECAUSE THE HEAD COACH WHO RECRUITED HIM HAS LEFT
Let's say you are a top basketball player, and you've been recruited by several top-notch schools. And let's say you select one school based on your comfort level with the coach. You like him. Your parents trust him. He seems to like you. He likes to run an offense that suits your style and ability. And after one season, things are going great. You got plenty of playing time. You're developing as a player, and believe you can help lead the team to great things. But then, out of the blue, coach is gone. He's replaced by an new guy with a very different approach. You have a bad second season. The system is different and you're having trouble adjusting. You want to transfer, but you can't unless you're willing to sit out a year. You're unhappy and it's not your fault.
When will the NCAA realize that athletes benefit from having consistency and stability in their coaching? When will colleges realize that everything from recruiting to fundraising is made easier when coaches don't move around? And why is there a built-in disincentive for athletes to switch schools, but no such restriction governing the movement of coaches?
If there is one silver-lining for the anti-Kiffin crowd, it's that it will be Kiffin who will deal with the brunt of any punishment handed down by the NCAA over any violations that took place during Pete Carroll's tenure. Carroll, clearly seeing the writing on the wall, got out of dodge before the world came crashing down. He'll get off unscathed, while Kiffin deals with whatever punishment the NCAA might hand down.
But this exposes another inherent flaw in the way the NCAA inadvertently punishes student-athletes. It's unclear how or even if USC will be punished by the NCAA, but honest players at the school could be stripped of their past accomplishments while their former coach collects an NFL paycheck. Athletes who came to USC with dreams of playing for a national title could end up playing for a team decimated by a loss of scholarships.
This is a reality that's hard to ignore, but the NCAA has found a way.