When coaches jump from one program to the next, I try to figure out the motivation and what it will mean close to home.
Is it money? As I've written in this space before, when it's not about the money, it's usually about the money.
Is it players? Is it the ability to get players? Is it a rift with the brass?
Lane Kiffin's move from Tennessee to Southern Cal gives us a chance to play with a lot of those questions and come up with some theories on the state of the Volunteers program.
Perhaps Tennessee isn't as good as advertised. For sure, it's not as good as USC.
This move was not about the money, unless you think wanting the ability to win a national championship is about the money. Perhaps it is.
It's just easier right now to win a national championship at SC than it is at UT. The Southeastern Conference is tougher than the Pac-10. Tennessee has a rougher road keeping up with Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Auburn than UCLA, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford and Cal. Kiffin just told us as much.
All you had to do was watch Kiffin's act at Tennessee to know he felt he was fighting an uphill battle. Why else would he say all of those crazy things to the media? It was a dog-and-pony show from the start in hopes of attracting attention.
It was shock and awe. And it was a slap in the face to what had been a proud, traditional football power. Obviously, Kiffin did not think he could do it at Tennessee with traditional methods.
I'm guessing he changes his act at Southern Cal. First, he doesn't need it. Secondly, he should have learned that it was a turnoff.
Some are critical of Kiffin for leaving after one year. I don't blame him. He did to Tennessee what Al Davis did to him at Oakland. It's a cruel world. Both Davis and Kiffin made business decisions. You leave, you pay the buyout. That's what the contract stipulated. If UT only had an $800,000 buyout, then that's on the Vols.
What does it mean in our backyard? What does it do to the Arkansas football program?
I want the SEC to prosper. I want money rolling toward Fayetteville with multiple BCS games each year. National championships mean better TV contracts and more revenue.
In tough economic times, the SEC has more money than any conference in the nation.
Some would argue that the conference does well when Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee are rolling. I've heard plenty say the SEC needs Kentucky basketball to be strong. There could be something to that.
I'm not buying. I shed no tears for Tennessee. Not today, not next year. I will shed no tears if the NCAA comes after Kentucky basketball in a couple of years.
When Alabama had Mike Shula as football coach, I was happy. It didn't bother me that he couldn't recruit a tailback.
I didn't cry when the Crimson Tide suffered with Mike DuBose. I didn't wince when Tommy Tuberville fired his offensive coordinator the week the Hogs went to Auburn.
This is a setback to Tennessee. It should wreck a promising recruiting class, a highly regarded bunch that might have still been around when the Hogs and Vols play again in two years. There may be defections to last year's class signed by Kiffin. The freshman and sophomore classes at UT when the Hogs come back on the Vols' schedule are probably not going to be terribly strong.
Of course, all of that assumes we have smooth sailing in the Ozarks. What will the face of the Arkansas program look like in three or four years?
You know the question? Is Bobby Petrino still here? That would be year four and five of his Arkansas stay.
If he's still here at that point, that's great news for the Arkansas program. I'm not great at predicting what's going to happen this weekend. I'm unable to predict anything in 2013.
But I'll give you one with some heavy qualifiers. I've seen enough to know where Arkansas is headed with Petrino.
It's up, up and away. If Petrino is Arkansas coach when the Vols come back on the schedule, it'll be a fun day in the Ozarks.
How is that for telling you what Kiffin to Southern Cal means in our own backyard?
State of the Hogs: Kiffin
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