The most disappointing thing about the near riot in Knoxville Saturday night isn’t the over-the-top pearl clutching reaction from establishment media types. That has become boringly predictable. Nor is it the fact that the SEC might hit UT with a fine. UT’s athletics department can find that money in Danny White’s office couch.
The worst thing is that its coverage will overshadow the farcical display of gamesmanship exhibited by Lane Kiffin inside Neyland Stadium.
Kiffin’s defense took the dark art of faking injuries to new lows. And before you start up with the “well, Tennessee was doing it too” stuff, please do us all a favor and sit this one out while the grown-ups deal with the facts. The Vols didn’t start flopping like European soccer stars until it became painfully obvious that this was a key part of Kiffin’s strategy to slow down Josh Heupel’s fast paced offense and give his defense much needed rest breaks without squandering valuable timeouts. At a certain point, if your opponent is making it clear that they have no intention of playing fair, then you either play by their rules or lose. This isn’t church league basketball. And these coaches aren’t boy scouts. The flopping situation was completely Kiffin’s making. And he forced Heupel to get down in the gutter with him. He and he alone should bear responsibility for making a mockery of the game.
The disgraceful display was egregious enough to warrant a lot of social media chatter during the game. It would have been a national talking point all this week. Maybe something would even be done about it. But now, due to a few hundred drunken fools, the story will be off the front pages and buried if it’s talked about at all. Instead, we will probably have to see a similar charade before anything changes. And with Tennessee and Ole Miss running the fastest offenses in the country, it will most likely involve one of those teams.
A simple solution would be to implement a rule that any player who requires on field medical attention must leave the field for the rest of that possession. I’m sure there are other good ideas. But those conversations will likely be put on the back burner. At the same time, the blue check brigade continues to amuse themselves by painting Vol Nation with a broad brush, which is a shame because all football fans would benefit from never having to witness another fecal blizzard like the one Kiffin conjured Saturday night.
Of all the horrendous calls made by that officiating crew, perhaps the worst was not letting Josh Heupel use the referee’s field microphone to address the crowd as the field was being showered with debris. If Heupel orders the students to stop so they can finish the game and explains that the Vols still have a chance to win, is there any question that the madness would have stopped much sooner?
There’s plenty of blame to go around, and, yes, most of it falls on the shoulders of those who disrupted the game. But the officials inability to control the game was evident from the first quarter.
This was the same crew that presided over the Mississippi State-Memphis debacle earlier this year. Their incompetence has now marred two games in the same season.