You probably remember where you were when the news started to trickle out on the night of January 12th, 2010.
Lane Kiffin is leaving Tennessee? How is that even possible? Lane has only been employed at UT for one season. There’s no way he would just leave our Vols high and dry, right? RIGHT?
As we all now know, Kiffin fled Knoxville for Los Angeles quite literally in the middle of the night and his departure kicked off a series of nightmare events for Tennessee that are still being dealt with to this day.
Then Vols athletics director Mike Hamilton hired Derek Dooley in a panic after Kiffin left. Dooley stunk so Butch Jones was hired. Butch stunk too and new AD John Currie had no idea what he was doing so they both got fired and Phillip Fulmer then hired Jeremy Pruitt. Pruitt was atrocious and Fulmer went down with the Pruitt ship and, well… here we are.
Like a bad smell that’s gotten stuck in the carpets and walls of your house, the ripple effects of the Kiffin debacle continue to affect Tennessee’s once proud and powerful football program.
But the Kiffin demon could be exorcised on Saturday.
For the first time since his departure, Lane is coming back to Knoxville as the head coach of an SEC football team. His squad is good, too. Ranked No. 13 with a 4-1 record, Kiffin’s Ole Miss Rebels have one of the best offenses in America and can score in bunches. But they also appear to be beatable.
In fact, at the time of this writing, ESPN’s “matchup predictor” gives Josh Heupel’s Vols a 53.8% chance to win the game. Some national pundits are calling for an upset and with the Vols selling out Neyland Stadium for the first time in a while, the matchup is set to be one for the ages. And it’s hard to understate just how gargantuan a win over Kiffin would be for Tennessee and its fan base.
Aside from the fact that a victory over the Rebs would command instant respect for the Vols on a national stage, it would, most importantly, get the Kiffin monkey off of UT’s back. Something that is well past due.
When Tennessee AD Danny White was searching for the Vols’ new head coach in early 2021, many Big Orange fans wanted Kiffin. “Come home Lane!” they said. Even I got in on the action.
And it would have been a great hire because Kiffin is a solid coach. But wanting Kiffin back is really just Stockholm Syndrome for Vols fans at this point. His leaving the university has caused unimaginable pain for UT and yet, we still wouldn’t mind having the guy back on campus. But beating him could finally end this weird, borderline-abusive relationship with Lane.
If Heupel can slay the Kiffin beast, we would no longer have to wonder if we would want Kiffin back. You beat him, you don’t need him. The decade-long speculation of “where do you think we would be if Kiffin stayed?” can be put to bed. Heupel has a chance not just to get a signature win for himself but to help heal the psyche of the entire Big Orange fan base. Let’s win this game, break the curse, and leave Lane Kiffin behind once and for all.
Featured image via Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports and Calvin Mattheis-News Sentinel via Imagn