Welcome to another installment of the Internet Sports Bar. Pull up a chair, pour yourself a drink, and let's talk some SEC. Today's subject, Tennessee football.
After 17 years, 152 victories and one national championship, Philip Fulmer was finally forced out as Tennessee's football coach.
Fulmer's problems started in 1997 when super recruiter Rodney Garner left for Georgia. Ironically, the Volunteers won the national championship in 1998. But when the core group of players that Garner played a major hand in recruiting left, so did Tennessee's fortunes.
When Tennessee finished 11-2 in 2001 and was fourth in the AP poll, it was the only time the Vols would finish in the Top 10 after that national title season. Almost all those problems centered on offense, beginning with coordinator David Cutcliffe's departure after the 1998 season.
A series of coordinators, starting with Randy Sanders, tried to fix the problems. Cutcliffe returned again for two years and finally Dave Clawson was brought in from Richmond. None could bring Tennessee back to its glory days and finally the plug was pulled on the Fulmer era.
Enter Lane Kiffin, a successful offensive coordinator for Southern California and an unsuccessful head coach with the Oakland Raiders.
A youthful and colorful character, Kiffin took a shot at Raiders owner Al Davis at his opening news conference. He gathered an impressive group of recruiters --- Ed Orgeron, Eddie Gran, David Reaves and Lance Thompson. He also made news by bringing in his father, Monte Kiffin from the Tampa Bay Bucs, to run the defense and pay him $1.2 million per year.
All told, the coaching staff will be paid more than $5.3 million.
It was too late to make a big recruiting splash, but he had a signing day coup by signing receiver Nu'Keese Richardson from Pahokee, Fla. Adding to the coup, Kiffin later told a group of boosters "I love the fact that (Florida coach) Urban (Meyer) had to cheat and still didn't get him."
Kiffin was talking about the fact that Meyer allegedly called Richardson while he was on his recruiting visit to Knoxville. What Kiffin didn't know is that what Meyer allegedly did is not a violation. Kiffin apologized.
Obviously, the SEC just became more interesting. While Fulmer quietly went about his business, Kiffin is a different breed of cat. Will that play in the SEC? Only if his recruiters can deliver the players.
No doubt, Kiffin will struggle this season. But with Georgia being down, it's not impossible for Tennessee to finish second in the SEC this season. That should have the Vol Nation fired up.
At least it will be interesting. Right?
Next: SEC basketball, Alabama recruiting