University of Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin calls Gators coach Urban Meyer a cheat, then apologizes

The SEC reprimanded Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin for falsely accusing Florida’s Urban Meyer of a recruiting violation.

Associated Press

The SEC reprimanded Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin for falsely accusing Florida’s Urban Meyer of a recruiting violation.

GAINESVILLE

If you thought the Tennessee-Florida rivalry had lost its fire, take heart. First-year Vols coach Lane Kiffin threw some lighter fluid and matches on the pile Thursday and stoked the smoldering ashes.

But by the end of the day, he was stamping out the blaze.

During a speech to a group of supporters Thursday morning, Kiffin accused Florida football coach Urban Meyer of an NCAA violation in the recruitment of Nu'Keese Richardson, a four-star receiver from Pahokee who orally committed to the Gators in May but signed with the Volunteers on Wednesday.

Kiffin said that Richardson received cell phone calls from Meyer during the player's visit to Tennessee last weekend.

"I'm going to turn Florida in right now in front of you," Kiffin told an audience of about 1,000. "As Nu'Keese was here on campus, his phone keeps ringing. So one of our coaches … says, 'Who's that?' He looks at the phone, and it says 'Urban Meyer.'

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

Problem is Kiffin was wrong. NCAA bylaws do not prohibit such calls.

Kiffin's words earned a stern response from Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley and a reprimand from SEC commissioner Mike Slive.

"Coach Kiffin has violated the Southeastern Conference Code of Ethics," Slive said. "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.

"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."

Needless to say, Florida did not take kindly to Kiffin's accusation.

"There was no rule violation," Foley said in a statement released by the school. "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."

Late Thursday afternoon, Kiffin issued an apology.

"At an energetic breakfast with some of our donors and alumni, I made a statement that was solely meant to excite the crowd," he said. "If I offended anyone at the University of Florida, including Mr. Foley and Urban Meyer, I sincerely apologize. That was not my intention."

Meyer was out of town attending to a family matter. But Wednesday, he referred to the growing negativity on the recruiting trail and said much of it this year was aimed at UF.

"One thing you find out is when every school is comparing themselves to you, they take a shot at your academics, at your coaching staff, win-and-loss record, offense, defense and that we don't run the ball," he said. "You hear things and just kind of sit back and say, 'Wow.'

"I don't want to say it is all negative. It is just that guys are trying to steal our guys. And I'm convinced a couple of guys were recruited by some schools just because they said yes to Florida. I take that as a compliment."

Kiffin was 5-15 in just more than one season with the Oakland 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. Kiffin's father, Monte, resigned in December after 13 seasons with the Bucs to join his son at UT.

USF adds to class

Linebacker Jaquian Williams, a standout at Riverview High and 2008 junior college All-American, signed with USF.

Duke: Linebacker Trent Mackey was dismissed and defensive back Randez James suspended indefinitely for undisclosed violations.

Middle Tenn.: Tony Franklin, hired and fired as Auburn's offensive coordinator within a 10-month span last year, was hired for the same position.

Information from Times wires contributed to this report.

What went down Thursday

.Kiffin, at a recruiting party in Knoxville: "I'm going to turn Florida in right now in front of you. As Nu'Keese (Richardson) was here on campus, his phone keeps ringing. So one of our coaches … says, 'Who's that?' He looks at the phone, and it says 'Urban Meyer.' Just so you know, when a recruit is on another campus, you can't call him. But I love the fact that Urban had to cheat and still didn't get him."

.Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley: "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."

.SEC commissioner Mike Slive: "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: "If I offended anyone at the University of Florida, including Mr. Foley and Urban Meyer, I sincerely apologize. That was not my intention."

"Singing Rocky Top all night long after we beat Florida next year, it's going to be a blast."

Lane Kiffin, Dec. 1, his first news conference as Tennessee coach



"I love the fact that Urban had to cheat and still didn't get him."

Kiffin, Thursday morning, at a recruiting party in Knoxville

The accusation

Watch video of the speech during which Lane Kiffin accuses Urban Meyer of cheating at gators.tampabay.com.

Fast facts

Circle the date

The national champion Gators face the Volunteers in Gainesville on Sept. 19. Game time has not been determined.

University of Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin calls Gators coach Urban Meyer a cheat, then apologizes 02/05/09 [Last modified: Friday, February 6, 2009 8:04am]

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