Kiffin 's exit was no great loss for the Vols
By Scott Michaux| Columnist
Sunday, January 17, 2010

There are times when the subject of sports seems more trivial than others. This week is one of those times.

Sizing up the Cowboys vs. Vikings or Tiger Woods' whereabouts seems grossly out of place when earthquake survivors are desperately clinging to life in Haiti. The devastation is too much to even comprehend.

While hoping that everyone in their own way can make some type of contribution to help those who have lost everything in the poor Caribbean island nation, we'll wade on through the guilty pleasure and diversion that sports provides us.

We can rest assured that we all have a better perspective on it than Tennessee football fans.

- Speaking of the Volunteers, I must have missed the memo on what makes Lane Kiffin such a coaching catch.

A loser in almost every aspect, Kiffin takes his high-water 7-6 record in one season at UT and heads to sunny Southern Cal. Why exactly is everybody so upset?

Kiffin was a loser with the Oakland Raiders (a stellar 5-15) before the Vols hired him to replace Phil Fulmer. He quickly made Bobby Petrino seem like a less vile coaching alternative in the Southeastern Conference. Despite little to back it up, Kiffin typically led with his mouth and even got a conference gag rule named after him.

Naturally, when word leaked out that he was leaving Tuesday night after only 14 months, clueless students reacted as only they can by gathering in vulgar mobs outside of the football complex and burning mattresses and effigies.

They should have been screaming "good riddance."

In spite of their boorishness, Tennessee ended up better off than it deserves after hiring Vince Dooley's son, Derek, on Friday. While similarly inexperienced, Derek Dooley is as classy as Kiffin is crude. Not only does he have the family pedigree, but he played at Virginia under honorable head coach George Welsh.

If nothing else, for the first time in more than 30 years Tennessee isn't easy to dismiss as unlikable because of its leadership. Here's hoping Dooley's class washes over the rest of the program.

- Meanwhile, Georgia Tech and Georgia took huge steps in rectifying their respective defensive issues with the hiring of new coordinators.

Fired Virginia head coach Al Groh and Cowboys assistant Todd Grantham were tapped to rebuild the Peach State programs' flagging defenses, and it's hard to argue with either choice.

As happy as Virginia fans were to see Groh go (count me among them), Georgia Tech should be just as thrilled to welcome him to Atlanta. For all of Groh's faults as a head coach, being a strong defensive mind wasn't one of them.

He passed on being reunited with his old boss, Bill Parcells, with a similar role for the Miami Dolphins to join Paul Johnson's staff.

If Georgia Tech could win the Atlantic Coast Conference with a porous defense that yielded 25 points a game, imagine what it can do when it doesn't have to score on every possession.

Georgia seems to have made the right call of its own in Grantham. After being shaken down and spurned by Alabama's Kirby Smart, Virginia Tech's Bud Foster and LSU's John Chavis, the Bulldogs settled on a young up-and-comer with the right kind of teaching to indicate his own kind of success.

So even though both schools lost their top defensive juniors to the NFL Draft (Derrick Morgan and Morgan Burnett jumped the Jackets while Rennie Curran and Reshad Jones bolted the Bulldogs), these hires offer hope to the respective fan bases for a brighter future.

- The PGA Tour season's first full-field event ends today in Hawaii, and Augusta native Charles Howell is resuming his quest to earn a place in the Masters Tournament field.

But regardless of whether or not he qualifies to play at Augusta National, the Howells have a lot to look forward to this spring. This nugget was posted from the Sony Open on Twitter by Associated Press golf writer Doug Ferguson.

"Charles Howell III looking for a big year no matter what happens on the course. His wife expecting their first (a girl) on May 30."

Congratulations to Charles and Heather.

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or scott.michaux@augustachronicle.com.

From the Sunday, January 17, 2010 edition of the Augusta Chronicle
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