published Thursday, January 14th, 2010

SEC officials quiet on Kiffin

Audio clip

Charles Bloom

Lane Kiffin is no longer in Southeastern Conference football, but the "Lane Kiffin Rule" remains.

Though he coached in the league just 14 months, the outspoken Kiffin created his share of trying times for conference officials before announcing Tuesday that he was leaving Tennessee for Southern Cal. Not surprisingly, the league office had a response to his departure that was far from outspoken.

"The SEC won't have any official comment," associate commissioner Charles Bloom said Wednesday.

There can't be much mystery to the reaction of league commissioner Mike Slive, who is in Atlanta this week for the NCAA convention. Yet for Slive to gloat about being Kiffin-free would contradict the bigger picture, which is that one of his institutions is hurting with less than three weeks before national signing day.

Tennessee had two head football coaches -- Johnny Majors and Phillip Fulmer -- from 1977 until 2008. The Vols could have three this week with Kiffin, interim coach Kippy Brown and a permanent replacement should UT athletic director Mike Hamilton score quickly.

"The league and Tennessee have a long history of success," Bloom said. "Tennessee will find a high-quality football coach and move forward. They've got so much going for them, from the facility and tradition and history and fan support, but it is a tough spot for them."

It's been tough for the SEC since last Feb. 6, when Kiffin accused Florida coach Urban Meyer of violating NCAA rules in the recruitment of receiver Nu'Keese Richardson, who had a brief and turbulent stint with the Vols. The league quickly reprimanded Kiffin, who wound up apologizing after it was discovered Meyer had done nothing wrong.

Slive used the May meetings in Destin, Fla., to warn coaches about speaking out against their counterparts, but Meyer and Kiffin were at it again following Florida's 23-13 win over the Vols on Sept. 19. After Meyer expressed that Tennessee wasn't playing to win but to keep it close against his Gators, some of whom had battled the flu, Kiffin said, "I don't know. I guess we'll wait and after we're not excited about a performance, we'll tell you everybody was sick."

Asked a couple of weeks later about round two of Meyer-Kiffin when he was speaking in Chattanooga, Slive said, "Disappointed probably isn't the right word. I thought I was pretty definite of my view in Destin."

October brought a rash of controversial calls in SEC games, and a rash of coaches speaking out about the officiating. Those loud enough to earn reprimands were Kiffin, Arkansas' Bobby Petrino and Mississippi State's Dan Mullen.

Kiffin made light of the reprimands not long after the 12-10 loss at Alabama on Oct. 24, so in came harsher punishment. Slive announced Oct. 30 that violating SEC bylaw 10.5.4, which states that coaches and players shall refrain from public criticism of officials, would result in a fine, with the amount at his discretion.

It was quickly dubbed the Lane Kiffin Rule, but the first violator was Meyer, who said Nov. 4 that officials missed a late hit by Georgia linebacker Nick Williams on Gators quarterback Tim Tebow. Slive fined Meyer $30,000.

Before leaving Knoxville, Kiffin was asked by a Rivals.com reporter if he would miss needling Meyer. He responded, "No, it's good. Now I can do it and not get fined for it."

So what did the SEC think of that parting shot?

"We're going to have to take the high road," Bloom said.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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