Maybe the right move was listening to crazy old Al Davis. As the Lane Kiffin-Oakland Raiders-Tennessee Vols shenanigans unfolded a little more than a year ago, Davis hammered his former coach and capped a public rant with telling words: "I picked the wrong guy."
Now Davis can welcome Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton to his Kicked-aside-by-Kiffin club (time to make T-shirts, boys). And given Kiffin's record, it might not be long before the decision-makers at Southern California sign up for membership, too.
In maybe the strangest move of this all-time strangest set of coaching moves, Vols coach Lane Kiffin on Tuesday agreed to take over at USC. For the umpteenth time in the past two years, Kiffin and controversy end up bedfellows. The lone question left is what in the name of Reggie Bush are the Trojans thinking.
A program in dire need of stability got maybe the most unstable guy in the profession. A program set to be slapped with NCAA sanctions hired a guy who racked up what seemed a decade's worth of blatant secondary violations in one year at Tennessee.
USC lucked out nine years ago when, after getting shot down by at least three top coaches, it landed Pete Carroll. This time, after another round of rejections, the luck might have run out.
Maybe in five years, Kiffin will reign as the game's dominant personality as his predecessor and mentor did. But with his baggage and inconsistency and lack of on-field success, Kiffin, at least in the short term, makes things worse for a program that needed a boost.
There's something bigger here, too, and it touches every part of the college football. Long ago, this game became more about guys like Kiffin and less about the players under his tutelage. Long ago, money trumped talent and enthusiasm and certainly loyalty as the true fuel of the game. Recent weeks served as a reminder that of this: Too often, college football has nothing to do with either college or football.
Don't blame anybody, and feel no sympathy for any individual or institution. The Vols and Trojans will rebound on the field somewhere down the road. And the recruits at USC and Tennessee, many of whom have flip-flopped on their college choices, will find places to chase their NFL dreams.
Kiffin's performance Tuesday night, when he declined to take question during a session with the media in Knoxville, will leave him cast as a villain the next few days. In making the move, he did nothing wrong. His decision mirrors what most adults would do if presented with a similar opportunity in their lines of work.
His problems are more practical, and they all have to do with what lies ahead. He must prove his penchant for NCAA violations is history. He must prove his swagger and bravado can translate into victories, even with the prospect of coaching a program on probation.
He must show that USC's leadership didn't pick the wrong guy. Tennessee's administrators sure did. And for now, somehow, Al Davis looks like a genius.
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