Lane Kiffin loaded up his truck and headed to Beverly (Hills, that is) more than a year ago. But the University of Tennessee can’t seem to exorcise his ghost from the football program.
In the last couple of weeks, word has leaked out of Knoxville that the NCAA is still digging into the Vol football program for possible violations that took place under Kiffin’s watch.
For several months, UT athletic director Mike Hamilton had passed along word to Vol fans — through the Knoxville media — that the football investigation was concluded. Only small violations had been discovered, he claimed.
Not so, apparently. First, the NCAA believes it has dirt proving that UT’s coaches were actively involved in a fall of 2009 recruiting trip taken by a pair of Vol hostesses to South Carolina. That transgression made national news and sullied UT’s reputation. If coaches were involved — like Kiffin’s own brother-in-law, former UT quarterbacks coach David Reaves — then the black eye could become a cancer.
The NCAA is still interviewing Reaves (now at New Mexico), Kiffin and Orgeron (both now at Southern Cal). If those three try to throw one another under the bus — “He knew what I was doing.” — then it’s likely going to lead to the more serious “failure to monitor” charge that’s already rumored to be headed UT’s way.
In addition, Orgeron is believed to have taken part in an illegal workout of a recruit visiting Tennessee’s campus. There are rumors (and who would doubt them at this point) that Kiffin’s staff conducted more than one illegal workout. The NCAA is simply looking for other players to admit that they had been worked out by UT’s coaches.
The NCAA is also digging to see if any other hostess trips were taken to visit any other recruits.
Tennessee’s problems exist on a couple of levels here. First, the more Kiffin, Oregon and Reaves rat each other out — or try to cut a deal with the NCAA — the more likely dirt tracks back to the Volunteer athletic department.
Second, once the NCAA’s letter of allegations finally arrives, the UT athletic department can’t simply rush a meeting with the NCAA. If the NCAA charges UT with violations under Kiffin, Oregon and Reaves, all three of those persons will also have to get their days in court, so to speak.
So even if Vol AD Mike Hamilton wanted to respond to the NCAA, defend his school and learn of his final penalties ASAP, the process still might drag out because Kiffin, Orgeron and Reaves will have up to 90 days to respond to the allegations against them.
In other words, Tennessee might not only wind up in the NCAA courthouse because of Kiffin and crew… it might also have its own defense delayed (and possibly undermined) by the same folks.
It’s doubtful Hamilton, Kiffin, Orgeron and Reaves — who was left behind when the rest of the gang went to LA — will all have a happy chat in order get their stories straight before going before the NCAA. More likely, they’ll all attempt to pass the buck to one another. And how do you think the NCAA infractions committee will feel about that?
Bottom line: Tennessee could be facing serious penalties in football, as is already the case in basketball. And all the problems could trace back to Kiffin, who can still have a negative impact on UT’s NCAA defense, too.