published Friday, April 24th, 2009

BLOG: Colemangate could haunt Vols all season

As to precisely what was said between new Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin and departing quarterback B.J. Coleman during their closed-door meeting Thursday, Coleman is taking the high road.

Kiffin is scrambling like eggs for damage control.

Even if the coach has some double-secret taping system, he seems to be guarding it more closely than Nixon protected his Watergate tapes.

But if you want to consider whom to believe when UT’s spin doctors take over this weekend, wouldn’t you be more inclined to side with the student-athlete handpicked by Volunteers athletic director Mike Hamilton for a prestigious leadership conference than a coach who’s already wrongly accused an opponent of recruiting violations because he didn’t know the rules?

What is already clear is that Colemangate will divide the Big Orange Nation until at least the first game, and perhaps the entire season, depending on what kind of quarterback play the Vols get in 2009.

If another mediocre to poor season unfolds, the Lane Train can pull its fans around in a grocery cart. If, however, current No. 1 Jonathan Crompton or someone else steps up to spark a high-octane offense to nine or more wins, Volniacs will dismiss Coleman as a spoiled preppie who cared more about himself than the team.

That’s not the way it should be. Coleman showed the patience of Job and the grace of Reagan in dealing with a difficult, if not impossible situation. But the orangenecks from Bristol to Bolivar will see it differently if Tennessee wins big without him. That’s just sports.

Yet its immediate impact is already evident. Before I finished my second cup of coffee this morning, my daily sojourn to drop off my daughters at school was met by the following three comments.

(A) “Kiffin’s an idiot.”

(B) “Do you think B.J. really could wind up at UTC?”

(C) “I love B.J., but I think he’s making a mistake.”

Let’s briefly address each idea. Kiffin isn’t an idiot, but he does appear to be in over his head at the moment. He needlessly angered SEC opponents and some high school coaches during his first 75 days. Now he has clearly misread his best immediate hope at quarterback, compounding the problem by apparently twice putting Coleman off after scheduling a meeting with the player to discuss his future.

A coach who really wants his player to stay doesn’t stiff him twice. Moreover, if Kiffin felt Coleman wasn’t his starter, B.J. richly deserved to know that as soon as the subject was broached.

Instead, Kiffin once more behaved as if he didn’t know how to handle the situation, which can’t be comforting for anyone who bleeds orange.

As for Coleman winding up at UTC, which is also his father’s alma mater, that depends on how desperate Coleman is to play, since he’s barely seen game action for two football seasons. The Mocs could give him a chance to play immediately and become something of a hero for helping new coach Russ Huesman turn the program around.

Were he to transfer to, say, Duke and his former UT offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe, Coleman would have to sit out another year, which means he would be inactive essentially for three straight years before finally returning to game action in 2010.

On the other hand, UTC’s APR woes could keep Coleman from competing in a playoff game until his senior year. Beyond that, if you believe you can make a difference at the major college level, dropping down a division might not be appealing.

And regarding the notion that Coleman is making a mistake, only he can answer that. He’s an exceedingly bright, decent, humble young man. If five years down the road he’s as happy and content as he once was at McCallie, he made the right move, however it turns out.

Kiffin is in a different place. He was a somewhat divisive hire from the get-go, and his short-term popularity will take an Eric Berry-sized hit over this. Beyond the fans’ affection for a native son, Coleman was also exceedingly popular with the players, who won’t fall for Lame Lane’s official spin.

Not to paint a dire long-term picture here, because the man may stockpile so much talent he can’t lose, but much as Kentucky basketball realized too late that Billy Gillispie wasn’t a good fit for its program, early returns might auger a similar ending for UT and Kiffin, who often looks like a deer in headlights on unscripted subjects.

This is not to proclaim that the newest Big Orange football emperor has no clothes. At least not yet. But if Coleman’s efforts in the Orange and White game and other public scrimmages were any indication, Kiffin may indeed have no quarterback.

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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Salsa said...

Bottom line: He quit.

Its a decision he'll be second guessing for the rest of his life.

April 24, 2009 at 8:41 p.m.
tommyd said...

Wiedmer,

Man, I love to read half of your articles, and then the other half I want to burn in the fireplace (I guess that means you're doing a good job since it keeps me interested).

The problem here is that some of those on the outside are essentially right... in that the Chattanooga media may not be blinded by Orange, but you guys have built this kid into the 2nd coming of Peyton before he even set foot on the campus his freshman year.

The problem I have with Coleman's interview is that he seemed to take a few shots at a teammate, and that's not good, whether he planned on leaving or not. Crompton has been everyone's favorite whipping boy for a while now, and maybe it's deserved, but not at the expense of turning a mid-major talent into an All American before the kid ever hit the playing field in Knoxville, as some here in the press have done.

In other words, both sides have some credibility issues, and the sad thing is that Coleman may be stuck in the middle of it. Do we trust Kiffin, who could turn out to be the bad guy in this situation, or do we trust the Chattanooga media, who have been pumping this kid up like a balloon for the last two years?

I think Coleman is a pretty talented football player, but he wasn't that much better than a lot of quarterbacks to come out of this area, and even his own alma mater.

I don't remember the Times Free Press blasting the Kirkpatrick regime at UTC when they blatantly ignored backyard talented McCallie qb Penn Garvich (a kid who was quite the quarterback himself and All State himself).

April 24, 2009 at 9:33 p.m.
signalmtnman said...

"Kiffin once more behaved as if he didn’t know how to handle the situation" - on exactly what info is this statement based? The only comment I've heard from Kiffin is a PR statement - do you know something else? This seems a little lopsided to me. I like Coleman but I'm not sure how he comes out of this perfectly clean and according to you Kiffin's entire future rides on it.

Should we all quit anytime our boss has to reschedule meetings with us?

Are you the same columnist who wrote glowingly of the coach and program just three days ago when the caravan came through? If one player leaving changes all that then either you're not to be believed or you're taking it too personally that a homeboy didn't work out.

April 24, 2009 at 9:34 p.m.
tommyd said...

I forgot this in my last post...

This is reminding me more and more of the Joey Matthews situation. Matthews was probably even higher graded out of high school than Coleman, but he was a Cutcliffe commit too, if memory serves.

Nice guy, but hyped to no end by his local media for the letdown that came.

April 24, 2009 at 9:40 p.m.
tommyd said...

Now that I think about it, I'm getting more and more disgusted by this, Wiedmer (plus it may have to do with the fact that I'm actually stuck at home on a Friday night).

Seriously, I don't remember you writing article after article about how Dennis Franchione screwed the late Victor Ellis out of his starting job his senior year. Victor was one of the classiest individuals I have ever met, and you guys weren't out there bashing Fran at every opportunity. Not to mention the fact that Victor was already an established SEC talent on the college playing field, UNLIKE COLEMAN.

Going back further, I don't remember you guys criticizing golden boy Ralph Potter when he screwed a number of rising seniors out of their starting positions when he took the job at McCallie. And yet, ole Ralph gets a pass while Lane gets a fail.

Don't be such a hypocrite.

April 24, 2009 at 10 p.m.
signalmtnman said...

When you look at how Kiffin handled plenty of other players this season by being straight up with them and sending them on their way, including guys who have really contributed like Lennon Creer, it makes me think BJ just made a snap decision to quit. I don't exactly see how it's on Kiffin's shoulders, unless of course he is supposed to coddle every player and be available at their every request.

April 24, 2009 at 10:43 p.m.
moonpie said...

I can tell you all who read this post that there is more to this story.

There are people besides Kiffen and Coleman who know what really transpired between the two.

I wish I could say what I know and how I know it. But it is not my story to tell. And I don't care who believes me.

But Mark Wiedmer knows A LOT more than he is saying. And based on that, you can trust what he does say.

I am not a BJ Coleman fan. I am a Vol fan. But I am ashamed of our coach.

He has a lot of growing up to do. I hope he learns from his mistakes, because his learning opportunities are increasing daily.

Don't think the High School coaches in Tennessee don't know what transpired, either. These guys talk. If Kiffen keeps this up, he'll have a hard time recruiting in his own back yard.

I know I sound like a conspiracy theorist, but it's just not my story to tell.

April 24, 2009 at 11:30 p.m.
marc said...

Vol fans don't want to admit what the whole country knows: you threw over a coach with a .750 lifetime record and a national championship for a stunningly expensive, all-hat-no-cattle kid with no track record (unless we want to count the losing), who will be lucky if he has a .750 SEASON for the rest of his "career." Expect regular Saturday beat downs by SEC teams that are counting Kiffin's appointment among their blessings for the upcoming season. Check out their blogs. They don't even know that his real first name isn't "Lame."

April 25, 2009 at 6:40 a.m.
cleVOLand said...

You made one valid point. The problem is it was in the title; Coleman leaving may very well haunt the Vols all season. Tthe rest of the article, however, is crap.

  1. Coleman 'taking the high road.' Really? A 10 minute rant to a newspaper journalist about why bring named co - #1 in an ongoing battle for the starting job? How is this the high road?

  2. Who to believe... there is no controversy here. Period. He didn't get the job and couldn't accept it. It is the coach's prerogative to pick his players, period. Even if BJ- or others- thought he was the best man for the job the head coach did not and that is all that matters in this case.

  3. 'Lane train in a grocery cart'- I call BS. Were you there at the OWG, how about at the open practices? how about at the 5am workouts? Maybe you weren't there, but a heck of a lot of people were there. There is a renewed energy about the program that is palpable. The fans will give CLK a pass this year- and he will win more than Fulmer did last year.

  4. 9 wins as the bench mark... Where does this number come from? A seven-win season would widely be regarded as a successful season for the vols this year according to most of the national and knowledgeable k-town media. Most are actually predicting eight. Your determination of 9 as the magic number do nothing but perpetuate the controversy you are trying to instigate.

  5. "Coleman showed the patience of Job and the grace of Reagan" are you freaking kidding me?? He quit while the competition was ongoing. Listen to that rant on your own website- those are not the words of a patient man!

  6. Kiffin is over his head. Come again? He promised great recruiting. Top ten class, #1 recruit in the nation, 3 of 4 the top post NSD signees. He promised a great staff. Ummm... check. He said that there would be changes and turnover an the team- check x 7 (8?).He is doing what he was hired to do, whether MR. and Mrs. Coleman - or BJ like it.

  7. 'stiffing' BJ for a meeting. Kiffin is an important man with a busy schedule and a father in the hospital. A whining BJ Coleman, or any other player, does not automatically become his #1 priority, even if BJ thinks it should be so.

BJ Coleman is a good quarterback, but he is anything but humble.

April 25, 2009 at 9:33 a.m.
FLVOL said...

If coleman really thought he was so much better than crompton and stephens he would have stuck around until the fall,and more than likely would have taken the starting QB position, but he is another egomaniac, another T.O type who probably would divide the locker room blaming everybody but himself when they lose a game. I wasn,t to impressed with the way he looked in the few games he played last year, and he sure as heck isn't the caliber of player to lead the vols back to competing at a national level. Lane kiffen is cleaning out the kind of players that have embarrassed the team these last few seasons. As far as colemans departure from the team haunting the vols in the future, not likely because clk is going to bring in a real QB with big time talant. B.J , cry baby, coleman never would have got the job done , period. If some of you so called vol fans are going to bad mouth our new coch for making tough decisions to try and turn around a mediocre football team that was left to him by Fulmer, find yourself another team, because the volnation doesn,t need your fair weather fan attitude.

April 25, 2009 at 9:36 a.m.
harrierncd said...

Seems that part of the problem is that Mr. Coleman isn't talking to anyone other than the Chattanooga media, at least I've seen no indication that he is. It might help if he were talking to more, or if he'd just quietly gone his way. I find it odd to think that any of this matters any more than Lennon Creer or Ramone Johnson leaving the team. Maybe it's as big a deal in their respective local papers. They all are little more than a passing curiosity to me.

April 25, 2009 at 10:24 a.m.
jeremy78tn said...

Wiedmer, are you Coleman's father? Only CTFP thnks this kid is anything more than a 3rd string QB. CPF didn't think he had the talent and neither does CLK. If Coleman is so confident that he is in the right then why is he giving the exclusive to CTFP? He should be talking to anyone that will listen.

April 25, 2009 at 10:32 a.m.
sjt18 said...

Both supporters and detractors (including columnists) need to put this in perspective. BJ mentioned some facts and undoubtedly expressed some feelings that were more subjective.

But what needs to be realized is that he wasn't trying out for the same job as Crompton and Stephens. They were trying out for the 09 QB job. He was trying out for the QB of the future/savior of the program job.

Due to attrition and a general drop in recruiting during Coach Fulmer's last few years, UT is left with a team that has some talent but no depth... In 2010, much of the talent will be gone. UT will likely start 10 Srs in positions other than QB. Berry is also likely to leave early.

UT can realistically only hope to have a competitive year this year, rebuild in '10 by playing many Sophs and Fr then positioning themselves to compete in the following years.

BJ may well be the best QB UT had available this year. But would even his strongest supporters claim that he's the QB of the future that can lead UT to a championship in 11? In all honesty, he is a great kid but he doesn't seem to have that kind of ability.

April 25, 2009 at 10:46 a.m.
sjt18 said...

BTW, who do I trust more? I doubt either is infallible and know that both are under extraordinary stress at this point in their lives. BJ is emotional. Kiffin has the added stress of personal problems.

The one thing I decidedly DON'T agree with is this notion that BJ was justified in flying off the handle when Kiffin had to break meetings with him. He'd better grow up before he gets a job in the real world or he'll quit every other week.

April 25, 2009 at 10:49 a.m.
RockyTop55 said...

This has got to be the most ridiculously biased article I have ever read. I do not understand how you can write a glowing article about Kiffin and Co. a few days ago and then write this garbage. I wish we had the option to suggest the removal of this article. Kiffin has this team going in the right direction and The Hill has a heartbeat again. Good luck BJ in whatever you do. It is time to move on Wiedmer.

April 25, 2009 at 11:15 a.m.
57TexasVol said...

Not only is the article ridiculous, that "Colemangate" merits any media coverage is hilarious. BJ Coleman was not satisfied with his coaches evaluation at this time. He basically gave them a ultimatium - IMO not mature or smart to do that - the coach(s) called him on it. It didn't go his way, he went over their heads to the AD, that did not go anywhere, he then went to the media - whom had were having a slow news day obviously - and it's over. Wish him future success in life and hope he learns the real lesson from this.

April 25, 2009 at 12:08 p.m.
marc said...

At the risk of being impolite for injecting some reality, this from coverage of just a couple of days ago:

"In the three spring scrimmages that were treated as game situations and played in Neyland Stadium, Coleman was a combined 41-of-60 for 425 yards, with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

"By comparison, Crompton was a combined 31-of-70 for 324 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Rising junior Nick Stephens, who was limited by a broken right wrist, was 13-of-25 for 159 yards and two TDs."

That's bling.

April 25, 2009 at 1:30 p.m.
SouthTexasVol said...

We the taxpayers signed this BRAT to a contract to play football for the University of Tennessee in exchange for a paid education. Why are prima-donna athletes the only people in society that don't get held in breach of contract? If someone is hired to go to one of the service academies and then QUITS they have to pay the taxpayers of the United States back the money for their education.

I liked Coleman's performance last year but no Coach (except Clawson after he was fired) in almost 3 years on the playing field in Knoxville has seen this "superstar...Mr Football...blah, blah, blah" perform to the point that he should be the starter ahead of Crompton which isn't saying much. Had he sucked it up, swallowed a little pride, he would have likely been the starter very early this season. I know he is the hometown hero, but face it, another Generation Y kid didn't get his way so he took his ball and is going home. I wish him luck at UTC if that is where he ends up but don't make it sound like he did something noble, he's no hero.

April 25, 2009 at 1:40 p.m.
dalley said...

And by 3:30 Saturday afternoon, I say that YOU are the idiot. You're playing "Homer" for the hometown boy, Weirdo. It's Kiffin's call, who plays, who starts, and what's best for the team, dude. You and B.J. need to learn to live with that fact.

April 25, 2009 at 3:24 p.m.
ptpongst said...

Ive said this before and I will say it again. BJ got passed over for Crompton by Fulmer, Clawson, Kiffin, Chaney, and Reaves. Wake up Chatt, your boy AINT that good. You can keep on spewing this crap about how good he is, but quitting UT for Duke or UTC is proof in the pudding. Those are 2 pathetic choices and you dont even know if Cut will extend an offer from Duke. I hate to see BJ leave but I also hate that he will never play meaningful football again.

April 25, 2009 at 3:55 p.m.

Coleman did not ask to be penciled in as #1. He simply qualified the coach in asking if he would have a chance to win the job. With the coach's proclaimed policy that positions would be won on the field, it was only appropriate for the qb to find out where he stood, especially when considering the statistical comparison. There's nothing wrong with asking for a job review, is there?

Turning to the statistics, 44% completion percentage and a TD/INT ratio below one looks like 4-7 again. A completion percentage in the 60's in today's short passing game is a must. Coleman positioned himself well through performance. For Volniacs, it would be nice to have a qb in the 60's again.

Coleman's reported assessment was plausible, and Kiffin failed to keep his best asset for the qb position in the fold.

You say "asset"? Yes, asset. College football is a business.

April 25, 2009 at 4:02 p.m.
Tnjed said...

I'm so glad to read these comments. It appears that W is definitely a Homer by reading this totally slanted blog. I was hoping that BJ would win the starting position, but if he's gonna' quit when faced with adversity, good ridance! I wish I could quit my job every time my boss p!ssed me off. There is no controversy outside of Chattanooga, nice try W.

April 25, 2009 at 4:34 p.m.
Ace said...

I would say you probably nailed it, if UT wins 9 games no one will care. If they win 4 or 5 and miss out on a Bowl game again because they have no QB then this will hurt. I think the players know which QB was the best and if BJ was the best as it appeared this could hurt the team. We all knew Lane was a work in progress but it appears he is a bigger work than what Hamilton thought when he hired him. Winning will cure all...Losing will not....Only time will tell.

April 25, 2009 at 10:05 p.m.
Walterm140 said...

I think this column is complete crap.

This author has no idea of the real situation or how Vol fans feel about Coach Kiffin. I don't think it was a matter of CLK not knowing the rules when he called out Meyer for a cheat. I don't think CLK was a devisive hire. How many people were at the Spring Game? The second most ever. That shows that CLK was and is not devisive.

This is just a bad piece of work.

Walt

April 28, 2009 at 4:32 a.m.
JackSchitt said...

Mr. Weeniemer.....that is about the most biased article I have ever read. Its obvious you are sucking up to the Coleman family and Chattanooga locals for obvious reasons. BJ is a quitter and cry-baby who cared more about himself than the UT program. UT will be just fine without the whiner, just like this newspaper would be just fine without you! GO VOLS!!!

April 29, 2009 at 8:53 p.m.
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