Kiffin makes debut, keeps foot out of mouth

HOOVER, Ala. – Steve Spurrier has mellowed with age. Or maybe it’s the lower winning percentage.
The 64-year-old South Carolina head coach, who’s 28-22 in four years in Columbia, can still work a press conference as well as ever, but the title of SEC’s brashest coach no longer belongs to him.
That belongs to new Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin, who sports journalists and bloggers have to thank for keeping the offseason interesting.
Both coaches took the podium on the final day of SEC Media Days on Friday. Kiffin kept his foot out of his mouth, which hasn’t always been the case since being hired in December.
For example:
– He wrongly accused Florida coach Urban Meyer of cheating on the recruiting trail;
– He ran down the town of Pahokee, Fla., after signing a recruit from there;
– He said he fired a UT athletics department staffer, a claim athletics director Mike Hamilton refuted.
Kiffin has also racked up a handful of secondary violations since being hired.
While Spurrier declined to talk about the 33-year-old Kiffin on Friday, he did opine on when a coach should flap his gums and when he shouldn’t.
“I’m often asked, ‘Do you wish you hadn’t said this years ago, done this?’ I say, ‘Yeah, probably looking back, that was a little arrogant. I probably said too many things,’” Spurrier said.
“But in life, when you’re winning a lot, you’re winning sort of big, you naturally do that,” he added. “I’m not the only coach that has done that. And then when you’re 7-6, like I am now, you don’t have much to say.”
Spurrier had plenty to say to Kiffin a couple of months ago.
In December, Spurrier reportedly questioned if Kiffin broke the rules by contacting a prospect a day before taking a recruiting certification test.
Then in May, at the annual SEC Meetings in Destin, Fla., Spurrier confronted Kiffin as they and other coaches were boarding an elevator. According to reporters on the scene, Spurrier chastised Kiffin for saying he’d accused Kiffin of cheating.
For once, Kiffin had nothing to say.
On Friday, Kiffin defended the controversial things he’d said, calling them necessary to get Tennessee on the national map with prospects.
“Do I love every single thing I’ve done for my seven months? No, I haven’t loved having to do it,” he said. “But it needed to be done, in my opinion, for us to get to where we needed to be.”
Kiffin added that none of the secondary violations Tennessee committed were intentional.
It was at the SEC Meetings that Commissioner Mike Slive warned coaches to tone down the sniping. Spurrier said Friday he didn’t want to talk about other schools “that much,” although he’d just heaped praise upon Florida.
Perhaps he was heeding that age-old advice: If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything.

Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

Click video to hear audio