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Commentary by Joe Biddle: Two weeks Two hot seats

The college football season is barely two weeks old and already the wolves have started howling out West.
Two cases stand out above others.

One is Texas where longtime legend Mack Brown may, or may not, get to conclude his career on his own terms.

The other is Southern Cal, a perpetual national championship type program. Tennessee fans remember Lane Kiffin. (Hold your tongue.) He’s the coach who vamoosed when Southern Cal called and Kiffin left the Vols in his rear view mirror.

Mack Brown is a coach that is everyman’s man. He is highly likeable, a people person and has formed longtime ties with the big money movers and shakers who eventually will decide Brown’s fate.

Texas lost to BYU 40-21 last Saturday. No one believes it can get bad enough this season for Brown to get walking papers. The Longhorns still have to play five teams currently ranked in the top 25. If the bottom drops out, he could be asked to step down after the season.

Lane Kiffin? He doesn’t have anything close to the number of chips Mack Brown has piled up over the years.

The late Al Davis fired Kiffin after Davis made him the youngest coach in the NFL. Davis stunned the football world when he hired Kiffin as the Oakland Raiders’ head coach. He was 31 years old and ill prepared to coach an NFL team.

Kiffin ended up at Tennessee for one season when former Vols Athletics Director Mike Hamilton brought him to Knoxville. It was never a perfect marriage. He was a California kid who never embraced the Tennessee tradition. So it was one 7-6 record and seeya.

It wasn’t that Kiffin ran off to his alma mater, calling it his dream job. It was the way he left—with his pants on fire. It came at a time that most schools had already filled their coaching positions.

That put the onus on Hamilton.  The best he could come up with was Derek Dooley whose tenure lasted three frustrating years.

After a 10-2 season in 2011, Kiffin seemingly had it going at USC. But a 7-6 last season wasn’t cool with the Trojan Nation. It hit rock bottom last Saturday when USC lost 10-7 to underdog Washington State at the Coliseum.

Imagine USC being held to seven points. The Trojans in their glory days could score more than that in their sleep. The buck stops with Kiffin, who also serves as offensive coordinator and calls his own plays.

There were boos cascading around the Coliseum even before the game. As it became apparent USC would not win, the crowd amused themselves with a rhythmic chant of Fire Lane Kiffin… Fire Lane Kiffin. Some creative fans took spray paint to the Fire Lane spots around the parking lot and added Kiffin to the Fire Lane warnings.

“I heard them before the game,’’ Kiffin said of the boos. “I’m getting used to them.’’

It was ugly. Their last five possessions went like this: blocked field goal, missed field goal, loss on downs, a punt and their second interception of the game.

Washington State Coach Mike Leach noted that Southern Cal has everything in place to be a dynasty. The players even have their Twitter handles listed on the team website.

AD Pat Haden has supported Kiffin to this point, but with the athletics department losing revenue and the fans ready to boycott Kiffin-coached games, Haden may not have a choice.

Sport Columnist Joe Biddle is a four-time sports writer of the year in Tennessee and a 2013 inductee to the Tennessee Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. He can be reached at

Posted on: 9/11/2013


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