Knoxville — Lane Kiffin hasn’t apologized enough to please everyone in Pahokee, Fla.
Tennessee’s first-year football coach sparked controversy with February remarks about the small South Florida town that consistently churns out top-shelf football prospects, including recent UT signee Nu’Keese Richardson.
Kiffin apologized to Pahokee High School football coach Blaze Thompson, who has said several times that he considers the matter done. School principal Ariel Alejo and Pahokee Chamber of Commerce president Lewis Pope III told the Palm Beach Post they haven’t heard enough.
Alejo asked Volunteers running backs coach Eddie Gran to leave school grounds last week, according to the Post, and he reportedly told Gran that no one from UT would be allowed on campus until Kiffin offered that apology.
The principal told the Post this week that Kiffin should fly down to Pahokee for a May 19 Student Advisory Council meeting and publicly apologize to the entire community.
“If I offended anybody in Pahokee or (anyone who) has to do with Pahokee or in the schools, I apologize,” Kiffin had told the Post after his comments from a recruiting celebration became public. “And I want to make sure it’s understood that is not what was meant by (the comments) at all. It was just an energetic breakfast with some of our donors.”
Those words didn’t satisfy Alejo.
“Coach Kiffin publicly apologized to Blaze Thompson ... but I’m still waiting, and the community is as well,” Alejo told the Post this week. “It’s what I think he owes the community of Pahokee and what he owes this school. His comments were made public, so now he needs to go publicly and retract those comments.”
Kiffin started the firestorm Feb. 4 at a breakfast in Knoxville, when he explained why UT coaches and Richardson’s family had to tread carefully after the player privately switched pledges from Florida to the Vols just before national signing day.
Kiffin said Richardson’s aunts didn’t fax their nephew’s national letter of intent from the high school because “they knew somebody at the school was going to screw it up. The fax machine wouldn’t work, or they would have changed the signatures ... you know, all the things that go on in Pahokee now.”
He told local media later that day, “You take that hour drive up from South Florida, there ain’t a gas station that works. Nobody’s got enough money to even have shoes or a shirt on.”
UT has made offers to at least six current Pahokee players, and several have said they’re still considering the Vols