By Alex Norman
Not going to lie to you, the good readers of The Knoxville Focus…
I’m concerned about what is going to happen at Neyland Stadium on October 25th, 2014.
As you certainly have heard by now, former Vols coach Lane Kiffin has been hired by Nick Saban to be the new Alabama Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks coach. And on October 25th, Tennessee will host the Crimson Tide in their annual SEC matchup.
In anticipation, I have begun building a underground shelter. And I suggest you do the same.
For the next nine months the anticipation is going to build and build and build. ESPN will announce that its popular College GameDay show will broadcast from Knoxville that day. CBS will pick the contest as their national game of the week.
Alabama coach Nick Saban will be asked approximately 10,000 questions about Lane Kiffin because Lane Kiffin won’t be allowed to meet with the press, as is Saban policy for assistant coaches. Tennessee coach Butch Jones will talk about the tradition of this game, and how the Lane Kiffin factor shouldn’t mean everything since none of Vols players or coaches was around when Kiffin was in Knoxville.
But thi game will have little to do with where both teams sit in the SEC standings, nor what it means to the future of both programs. Alabama will likely be a heavy favorite as they attempt to beat Tennessee for the 8th straight time.
This game is all about the mental psyche of the Tennessee fan.
That psyche has been bruised and battered ever since an abrupt press conference took place in the UT football complex the night of January 12, 2010. Lane Kiffin abandoned the Vols football program for the Southern California sunshine three weeks before National Signing Day. Tennessee has struggled mightily since then, finishing 21-28 in four straight losing seasons.
Lane Kiffin’s “dream job” ended with his firing as the Southern Cal head coach last September after some success, but mostly a team that didn’t live up to expectations in a little over three seasons.
However, in his tradition of “falling upwards,” Kiffin gets hired to run an Alabama offense filled with five-star recruits. He’ll succeed at Alabama. It will be really difficult to fail with all that talent, and a head coach that wins all the time.
But on October 25th, it is going to be ugly. Alabama could win by 50 and it is going to be ugly. Tennessee could win by 50 and it is going to be ugly.
For those that long for the good ‘ol days, when Neyland Stadium was an intimidating place to play, you’ll see that in full force on the fourth Saturday in October.
Kiffin’s return to Knoxville will be no Norman Rockwell painting. The t-shirts hawked by un-licensed vendors will be vulgar. The local sports talk radio shows will be frightening, even more than normal.
And when Alabama runs onto the field before kickoff, the boos from the majority of the sold out crowd will reach record levels. Fans talk about the noise made during the 1990 Notre Dame game or the 1998 Florida and Arkansas games. Those will sound like a church mouse compared to what the noise will be on Alabama’s first offensive possession.
Lane Kiffin will be in the booth, and have security as far as the eye can see.
But nearly five years of anger will be released from the bleachers on that fall afternoon. Getting that noise out will be soothing to the soul, better therapy than 10 hours with the area’s best psychiatrist. The atmosphere at Neyland Stadium is going to be electric.
A lot of this is tongue in cheek of course, and I really do have full confidence in the Tennessee fan base. Most Vols supporters will be loud but not unruly. And if a few college students or immature adults do something stupid, the security staff at Neyland Stadium will be on high alert.
That all said, I’m still building my underground bunker, just on the off chance Lane Kiffin’s return to Knoxville starts a chain reaction that leads to World War III.