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A survival guide to the SEC for outgoing Bucs coordinator Monte Kiffin

Monte Kiffin returns to college in what may be the nation’s toughest conference.

Associated Press

Monte Kiffin returns to college in what may be the nation’s toughest conference.

First thing, Monte, you're going to need a go-to story about the Bear. Everyone who coaches in the SEC has one.

If it involves football, that's good. If it involves drinking, that's better. If it involves generous portions of both, you're going to make some booster's head explode from the excitement.

The SEC is a Good Ol' Boys' league, after all. It doesn't matter that Paul Bryant has been dead for a quarter of a century, or that hounds-tooth hats have been out of style everyplace else for twice that long. If you want to coach in this conference, you're going to have to know all about Bear.

While you're at it, it wouldn't hurt to brush up on your stories about Herschel and Bo or Hacksaw and Snake or Archie and Peyton. Especially Archie and Peyton.

That's the thing to keep in mind, Monte, even as you and Lane set up that father-and-son football shop you've always dreamed of in Knoxville. The SEC is a different place. Frankly, there are towns where it even seems like a different time.

This is a league where a team nicknamed "the Tigers'' has a mascot that is an eagle, where a team nicknamed "the Crimson Tide'' has a mascot that is an elephant and a team nicknamed "the Volunteers'' has a mascot that is a dog. Don't ask. The answers just make your head hurt.

This is the league of "Punt, 'Bama, Punt'' and "Run, Lindsay, Run" and the ever popular "Rebound, Kentucky, Rebound."

This is the league where Ole Miss students yell "Hotty Toddy'' and Alabama students yell "Rammer Jammer'' and Auburn students yell "What do you mean we hired Gene Chizik?''

This is the league where you can travel on the Volunteer Navy (Tennessee) or the Cockaboose Railroad (South Carolina) or on top of Tim Tebow's shoulders (Florida).

This is a league of bad, bad music. At LSU, they play Eye of the Tiger. At Alabama, they play Sweet Home Alabama. Worst of all, in Tennessee, they play Rocky Top. You'll get tired of it after you hear it a thousand times. Just guessing, but that should get you halfway through next season's opener against Western Kentucky.

This is the league where victory is celebrated by ringing the Chapel Bell (Georgia), throwing toilet paper into the trees at Toomer's Corner (Auburn) or trying to talk Bobby Petrino out of leaving (Arkansas).

Most of all, Monte, this your home.

Welcome aboard.

Ah, don't fret, Kif. You'll do just fine. For one thing, 68 teams make it to the postseason. Just think: The Bucs would have clinched a bowl game by Nov. 2. And they would love Shreveport. Honestly, they would.

And remember all of those years you had to lobby for the defense to get the No. 1 draft pick? In college, a team gets all the No. 1 picks it wants. All it has to do is talk a guy into it.

Monte, I'll be honest. You aren't going to like recruiting. No one does. No one wants to drive to Upper Eyebrow, Ga., to convince a defensive back to wear orange instead of, say, red. But you'll be good at it. You'll walk into the room flashing that Super Bowl ring, and you'll mention Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber and John Lynch, and before you know it, the players will start following you home.

And, yeah, class work can be a distraction. So can graduation. Think of it like this: Remember how frustrating rookie mistakes can be? In college, next year's rookies will be your most experienced players.

Then, of course, there are the boosters. You know, the guys with the orange hats and the checkerboard underoos. Yeah, those guys. Don't let on you know, but they think they are your boss. Some places, they are. (This just in. What Bobby Lowder said to Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs was, "I want some Cheez-Its.'' Not Chizik. Oops.)

Of course, you've coached in college before, back when General Neyland was a sergeant. People forget that because you've been in the NFL so long. At N.C. State, though, they still remember the day you dressed up as the Lone Ranger and rode that white horse into the stadium. There was the time you jumped out of the helicopter (about 8 feet) and the time you volunteered to fight Joe Frazier (you touched gloves and left).

It was tough to win at N.C. State, however. At Tennessee, it won't be easy, either. But given the facilities, given the tradition, you have a shot.

The SEC likes to beat its chest about how tough it is, but there is reason for the swagger. Most years, it is pretty tough. Over the past 30 seasons, five SEC teams have won nine AP/UPI/BCS national titles. Who else can say that? Five of the league's coaches have won national titles.

Your job? You have to keep them all out of the end zone.

After all, you volunteered.

A survival guide to the SEC for outgoing Bucs coordinator Monte Kiffin 12/16/08 [Last modified: Friday, December 19, 2008 5:09pm]
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