I have read a number of stories over the past couple of days that have discussed the difference in the perception of Lane Kiffin.
Simers take today is surprising...but you'll forgive me if don't buy into it. Simers is an opportunist who will turn his opinion on a dime to write what he thinks is a good story. Dodd takes a similar approach in his piece today...
Depending on where you are from or who you root for, the perception you have is probably based on whether or not you support Lane Kiffin.
Like it or not Kiffin is a polarizing figure...regardless of the side of the argument you are on.
The two things I have read the most in criticizing Kiffin is that 1) he wouldn't be where he is if it wasn't for his dad and 2) that he is a loose cannon with his mouth. I laugh at #1 because if we use that as a measuring stick than any kid who rode daddy's coat tails in order to advance in life should be disqualified as being successful. From sports to politics to medicine to business, kids follow their parents footsteps into life. Sometimes trading on their good name...
#2 is where people really want to focus though...Kiffin's schtic in the SEC did exactly what he wanted it to do. Gain attention for his program, he admitted as much in Part II of my interview with Kiffin at the Pac-10's media event here in NYC.
Kiffin's tactics were no different than Slick Rick's when he took over for that disaster that is UCLA football. He as much as admitted it too. He needed to create a buzz because UCLA was basically forgotten while Pete Carroll sucked all the attention out of LA during his run. You maximize your franchise's brand when you are on a roll and grab any piece of attention to turn the tide when you on the decline.
Again, we see that everyday in sports, politics and business.
Kiffin made a comment on Tuesday that seems to have ruffled some feathers. I heard it with my own ears and knew someone would make a stink.
Here is the quote...
[...] we are very fortunate to have a great quarterback, and as you guys know, you can trade the bottom 20 or 25 guys on your roster to get a great quarterback.
I heard that and thought that is sure to piss someone off...
But it really hasn't received the attention that I thought it would. Then, I read Stewart Mandel's piece in SI yesterday...
I was at Kiffin's table when he said those words about Barkley. I didn't take it as much more than a compliment about his quarterback.
On Wednesday, however, a friend from SEC country who'd seen the quote elsewhere hit me up on Instant Messenger.
You see Kifffin's QB quote? Real good way to unite a team. He'll never get it, will he?
While I doubt the "bottom 20 to 25 guys" on USC's roster are going to lose much sleep over Kiffin's quote, it's true that a more polished head coach like Mack Brown or Jim Tressel would never go there. And even if they did, no one would notice.
I thought Kiffin's honesty defined the situation well.
USC finished a close second behind Oregon in yesterday's Pac-10 media poll. Oregon is breaking in a new QB but they were voted #1 mostly because of last years record...that's fine they had a great year, but just like Wall Street past performance is not the true indicator of future results.
'SC was voted #2 for obvious reasons...talent, coaching staff and a great QB!
I think Kiffin has united this team.
The quote in Mandel's piece from his SEC friend is selective...Is the thought that trading 20-25 players for a great QB doesn't build team unity...that the coach really doesn't care about the kids? Would you say the same thing about ANY coach that over signs his roster and then casts the players that he doesn't really want aside?
cough Saban cough...cough Neuheisel cough.
I read an interesting comment from Phil Mushnick in the NY Post this morning...
At one point, Kiffin lamented that the NCAA has stripped USC of many football scholarships:
"We're down to 71, from 85."
Down to 71? Each team can play just 11 men at a time, yet 71 scholarships represent a severe sanction? After all, 85 is the NCAA's limit. You can seize a foreign embassy and East Bristol, Conn., with fewer people.
In just those few seconds, one could surmise all one has to know about big-time college athletics: that a college or university -- an institute that ostensibly serves society as a center of higher academic learning -- has determined that football players will be the most highly coveted and indulged enrollees, which makes for economic and academic fraud of the most self-evident kind. Eighty-five scholarships! To real college students -- those who can't pass, tackle, or block but would welcome and well-use a college education -- that represents roughly $15 million in scholarships.
I understand Mushnick's general premise of the Siberian gulag that is the NCAA, but that conversaition is for another time.
Kiffin constantly reminding us about the scholarship reductions...is nothing short of a rallying cry for his team. He has used the term "an us against the world mentality" numerous times.
Trust me this team is united!
The more I read, the more convinced I become that Lane Kiffin is the right guy, right now, to lead us through this. I have no idea what our record will be over the next 3-4 years...I don't even know if Kiffin will be around 3-4 years from now. But using the NFL philosophy to get this smaller roster ready for the upcoming season is the best attitude and approach for right now.
You have to walk before you can run...part of that means you have to prepare your team mentally when you see adversity is right around the bend.
Trust me Lane Kiffin knows exactly what he is doing...