Randy Smith: Kiffin’s Karma

Monday, September 30, 2013
Randy Smith
Randy Smith

I would imagine it would be a very difficult task to find a single Tennessee Vol fan that is not extremely happy that Southern Cal fired Head Football Coach Lane Kiffen on Sunday. When Kiffen was in charge of the Tennessee program in 2009, he had a few supporters but most Big Orange faithful had chosen to reserve support until after he had been in Knoxville a little longer. They never really got a chance to feel one way or the other because Kiffen bolted for USC after one season in Knoxville. That move completely surprised everyone, including then U.T. Athletic Director Mike Hamilton. Kiffen escaped Knoxville and the wrath of Tennessee fans as he made his move quietly and in an almost “middle of the night” scenario.

Kiffen’s firing after his Trojans were blasted by Arizona State Saturday night, had a similar kind of feel to it. USC Athletic Director Pat Haden fired Kiffen in the airplane terminal after the team returned from Arizona, and despite a forty-five minute plea from Kiffen himself, Haden stuck to his guns and reportedly even refused to allow Kiffen to ride the team bus back to campus in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Kiffen assistant coach, former Ole Miss Head Coach Ed Orgeron was named as an interim replacement. As my daddy always said, “what goes around comes around.”

I heard that a lot as a boy, and never really understood the meaning until much later. If there was ever a picture perfect example of “Karma” the entire Lane Kiffen situation is it. Former U.T. Head Coach Derek Dooley was despised by a lot of Tennessee fans, but he was almost angelic compared to Kiffen. For the year that Kiffen ran the Tennessee program, there was always a feeling of arrogance as well as a complete disregard for the Volunteers’ fabled tradition.

After he arrived in sunny southern California, Kiffen tried to explain his actions. He talked about things like, “dream jobs” and living out his dreams of coaching at Southern Cal. While he was living out his dreams, Tennessee fans were left in the wake of his nightmare in Knoxville.

The days of one man coaching at the same school for 20 or 30 years is a thing of the past. There is simply too much emphasis on winning right away and there is also too much emphasis on money. I’m sure that Kiffen has a pretty good stock pile of cash, or at least he should be okay for a while, because he may have a hard time finding another coaching job, especially in the college ranks.

He was considered to be a “bright, shining star”  in football coaching circles. The son of an NFL defensive guru, he was an NFL head coach at 31, an SEC head coach at 33, and the head coach at USC at 34. But…..his tenure at all three places was surrounded by constant turmoil. There were feuds with owners, (Oakland Raiders) feuds with other coaches, (Tennessee) and most recently recruiting difficulties brought on by NCAA sanctions that were not of his own doing.  

That brings us back to this “Karma” thing. When you treat people, including your players the way Lane Kiffen treated them, it will always come back to haunt you. (Just ask B.J. Coleman and his family)

Today in my basement, there is a life-size poster of Lane Kiffen, as Tennessee’s head coach, holding a Coke Zero bottle. We saved it from the 2009 season, vowing one day to “burn it in effigy” when the time was right. Thanks to “Karma”, the time is now right. 



Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 43 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer. He is also an author and is a media concepts teacher at Brainerd High School in Chattanooga. He is also the Head Softball Coach at Brainerd. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 11 years. He was the first television broadcaster to ever be elected to the "Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame", in 2003. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith). They also have three grandchildren (Coleman, Boone, and DellaMae).

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