Fulmer Blasts Kiffin on CBS
Phillip Fulmer ascended to the head coach's throne at Tennessee in 1992, most people believe, through backstabbing his predecessor. Once there, he secretly helped cripple the University of Alabama for a number of years with NCAA penalties, and then hid his crucial role in the sordid conspiracy. Now, after a year away from college football, like a gangster struggling, but ultimately failing to go legit, Fulmer is back on the attack again.
Saturday, as the unofficial spokesman for the Vol Nation, Fulmer unleashed a gruesome verbal assault on the man who succeeded him at Tennessee.
"The people of Tennessee felt betrayed to be honest with you," Fulmer said in his first of numerous opportunities, none of which were missed, to bash Lane Kiffin on College Football Today, CBS's college football pre-game show.
To be clear, Kiffin, the Alex-Keaton-in-Family-Ties imitator, probably doesn't deserve any better. Kiffin was given the Tennessee job after a host of others turned it down, and he was too immature and naive to do it effectively. That showed in his ungracious departure to take the job at all-of-the-sudden turmoil-ridden USC.
But these truths about Kiffin don't make Fulmer's hit any less gratuitous. A coach-turned-analyst with a personal conflict of interest in the story he is analyzing will generally abstain from commenting in order to keep personal bias from invading the area of legitimate criticism. At the very least ex coaches are generally diplomatic about what they say about their old rivals in the immediate aftermath of a conflict.
But not Fulmer. He went in with both guns blazing. He continued his assault by pulling out the insult that helped make him a successful coach: accusing another coach of cheating.
"Kiffin just left Tennessee with, basically, its hat in its hand and a bunch of NCAA compliance questions," he said. "Many in our community are glad that he's gone. He never really embraced the traditions, the values of the programs or the community for that matter."
Then came another line of attack. "And often his arrogant attitude turned people off," Fulmer said.
Incredibly, Fulmer pulled this one off with a straight face.
After accusing Kiffin of betrayal, cheating, and arrogance, (again, all of which might be true) Fulmer, if I'm understanding him properly, moved on to criticize Kiffin's coaching ability with a syntax-challenged conclusion to his monologue.
"The bigger question in my opinion," Fulmer said, "is how does a guy like this end up with two jobs with historic football teams like Tennessee and USC – or maybe better, you know, the lack thereof, the ability."
The oddest thing about the attack on Lane Kiffin was that it didn't end with Philip Fulmer. Pre-game show host Tim Brando, apparently unsure whether Fulmer had been able to get his point across, prodded the hatchet man Fulmer to take another swing, and this to also let analyst Spencer Tillman in on the action. It was this later exchange that raises the question of just how orchestrated this hit was. Clearly, these weren't off-the-cuff remarks that might have gotten caught up in emotion. They seemed planned; precise.
"Getting back to Kiffin for just a moment," Brando said, "there have been sweeping changes since he arrived at ‘S.C'. Pat Hayden is now the AD and that core group that hired him – they're gone. I think it's going to be difficult for Lane to see a third year in his contract. Do you guys agree?"
Fulmer, apparently thinking his part in the slaying was done, could only muster this: "I have to agree with you that the cultural differences there are going to be difficult and it'll be tough," while Tillman got in his two cents: "The panacea is that if he wins , unfortunately, he will continue to be their coach. That's the bottom line."
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