Lane Kiffin's sudden decision to leave The Hill in favor of his previous college coaching stop (Southern Cal) has created the same mixture of shock, dismay and outrage among Volunteer fans that arose when Dickey bolted in '69 to take the reins at his alma mater (Florida).
That's understandable. Consider the similarities in the two situations:
- Dickey was a former college quarterback (Florida). Kiffin was a former college quarterback (Fresno State).
- Tennessee was Dickey's first head coaching job at the collegiate level. Tennessee was Kiffin's first head coaching job at the collegiate level.
- Dickey was an "outsider" (a non-UT grad) who followed two UT grads (Harvey Robinson, Bowden Wyatt) as the head coach. Kiffin was an outsider who followed two UT grads (Johnny Majors, Phillip Fulmer) as head coach.
- Dickey had incredible support from Tennessee's administration and fan base. Kiffin's support from those same groups was no less incredible.
- Dickey surrounded himself with outstanding assistants who excelled as recruiters and teachers. Kiffin surrounded himself with outstanding assistants who excelled as recruiters and teachers.
- Dickey was a radical departure from his predecessors, shifting UT from the single-wing to the I-formation and lobbying for artificial turf (dubbed Doug's Rug). Kiffin was a radical departure from his predecessors, as well, making national headlines with his brash comments and lobbying for black jerseys on Halloween.
- Dickey went 4-5-1 in Year 1 but raised Big Orange hopes by playing third-ranked Alabama to a 19-8 loss and playing seventh-ranked LSU to a 3-3 tie. Kiffin went 7-6 in Year 1 but raised Big Orange hopes by playing top-ranked Alabama to a 12-10 loss and playing top-ranked Florida to a 23-13 loss.
- Dickey closed his Tennessee run with a 14-13 Gator Bowl loss to 14th-ranked Florida. Kiffin closed his Tennessee run with a 37-14 Chick fil-A Bowl loss to 12th-ranked Virginia Tech.
- Dickey's departure led UT to promote receivers coach Bill Battle to the top job. Kiffin's departure led UT to promote receivers coach Kippy Brown to the top job (albeit on an interim basis).
Probably the principle difference between the two situations is that Dickey stuck around long enough to see the seeds he planted blossom. Following the 4-5-1 record in 1969, he went 8-1-2, 8-3, 9-2, 8-2-1 and 9-2 -- finishing with a six-year mark of 46-15-4.
Kiffin, on the other hand, planted some seeds but left before he had time to water them.
Ultimately, Battle kept the momentum he inherited from Dickey going for a while - posting records of 11-1, 10-2 and 10-2 in Years 1, 2 and 3 - before slumping to 28-17-2 in Years 4, 5, 6 and 7.
Where Tennessee football is headed in the wake of Kiffin's departure is anyone's guess.