Vols' Kiffin reprimanded for saying Gators cheated


Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin (left) and Florida Head Coach Urban Meyer.

Published: Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 2:22 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 2:22 p.m.

New Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin stirred up a hornet's nest of controversy Thursday morning when he publicly accused Florida coach Urban Meyer of violating an NCAA rule in the recruitment ofPahokee wide receiver Nu'Keese Richardson.

By the end of the day, Kiffin had been reprimanded by the Southeastern Conference and had apologized to Meyer and UF for what turned out to be a false accusation.

At a breakfast function in Knoxville on Thursday morning, Kiffin accused Meyer of an NCAA violation for phoning Richardson while Richardson was on his official visit to UT this past weekend. A UF commitment for many months, Richardson signed with the Vols on Wednesday.

"Just so you know, when a recruit is on another campus, you can't call him," Kiffin said. "I love the fact that Urban had to cheat and still didn't get him."

Kiffin's accusation is false, UF and the SEC said, because there is no NCAA rule that prohibits a coach from calling a prospect while he's visiting another school during a contact period. This past weekend was a contact period.

"There is no rule that would prohibit Coach Meyer from calling a prospect at Tennessee on a Friday or Saturday during an official visit during a contact period," said Jamie McCloskey, UF's associate athletic director for compliance. "There's never been a rule. I've been doing this for a long time. Not only has there never been a rule, there's never been any discussion about having a rule.

"Unfortunately, you have someone accusing our coach of doing something improper, which is grossly unfair to him, to the program and the institution. Urban prides himself in doing things the right way. It's unfair. If a coach has a conflict with another coach in this league, this is not the way you handle it. It's not doing it out in the media, especially when we've done nothing wrong."

UF released the following statement from athletic director Jeremy Foley: "There was no rule violation and we have confirmed this with the Southeastern Conference. It is obvious that Coach Kiffin doesn’t know that there is not a rule precluding phone contact with a prospect during an official visit on another campus during a contact period. His allegations are inappropriate, out of line and, most importantly, totally false. It is completely unfair to Urban Meyer, our coaching staff, our football program and our institution. The appropriate action at this time in my opinion is for Coach Kiffin to make a public apology.

His comments not only slandered our coach, but he violated SEC rules by publicly criticizing another coach and institution."

Kiffin later issued a statement apologizing, saying he was trying to excite the crowd of donors and alumni who had gathered for a post-signing day banquet.

"I've been made aware by the Southeastern Conference that my comments this morning at a breakfast with our donors violated a conference policy,"Kiffin said in the statement. "In my enthusiasm for our recruiting class, I made some statements that were meant solely to excite those at the breakfast. I apologize to Commissioner MikeSlive and the SEC, including Florida AD Jeremy Foley and Coach Urban Meyer.

"My comments were not intended to offend anyone at the University of Florida."

The SEC said it reprimanded Kiffin for breaking the conference's code of ethics.

"SEC Bylaw 10.5.1 clearly states that coaches and administrators shall refrain from directed public criticism of other member institutions, their staffs or players,"Slive said in a statement. "The phone call to which Coach Kiffin referred to in his public comments is not a violation of SEC or NCAA rules. We expect our coaches to have an understanding and knowledge of conference and NCAA rules."

Kiffin was hired by Tennessee in November to replace Phillip Fulmer, after being fired four weeks into the the NFL season by the Oakland Raiders.

Kiffin was 5-15 in just over one season with the Raiders, but owner Al Davis said he fired the coach because of his frequent public criticisms of the organization and some of its players even after Kiffin had been ordered to stop.

Watch the video University of Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin is on video calling Urban Meyer a cheater Thursday morning.

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