So far, Lane Kiffin's numerous recruiting shenanigans have been adorably goofy and pointless, but his latest controversy is so serious and meaningful and worthy of mindful debate that I kind of prefer the other kind.
One of the players Kiffin is bringing to Tennessee next year is Daniel Hood, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound defensive end from Knoxville Catholic High. He is 19 years old, and a "model student on and off the field," with high grades and higher test scores. However, when Hood was 13 he was convicted of kidnapping and raping his 14-year-old cousin. His 17-year-old accomplice was tried as an adult and got 10 years in prison. Hood has been in the care of the state ever since.
Kiffin, the Volunteers, Hood's father, the dean of his Catholic school, the principal, his coaches, his teachers, the athletic director—all of them say that Hood is a stand up guy. The proverbial "nicest kid you'll ever meet," who even paid his own way through private school. He did a terrible, unconscionable thing, but has spent five-and-half years trying to make up for it. Even his victim wrote a letter to the university asking them to admit Hood to their school. But does he deserve that second chance? Would he get that chance if he wasn't so good at playing football?
Catholic Principal Dickie Sompayrak said, "Daniel's just been incredible. Football aside, as just a student and a school citizen at Knoxville Catholic … he's been a blessing to our school."
Sompayrak also went on to say, "We'll put our school's reputation on our recommendation for Daniel Hood."
His father says Daniel had 27 Division I offers, although many pulled their interest when they found out about his past. It probably doesn't help Tennessee's cause that Kiffin is already getting a reputation for playing loose with the rules. However, it's hard to argue that Hood is still the junior thug-in-training who did that awful thing over five years ago. People do grow up and I'm sure fans all over the SEC will be perfectly understanding and supportive should Hood make it into any games next year. Kiffin and the school will continue to catch heat for this, but for once, they might be doing the right thing.
Oh, one more thing: Would you be surprised to learn that Daniel Hood is white? I'm a little ashamed to admit that I was, and did not realize that fact until most of this post was written. Do you think the situation would be any different if he wasn't? More importantly, do you feel a little dirty right now?
Catholic star gets UT football scholarship despite troubled past [Knoxville News Sentinel]
Vols catch grief over football scholarship to Kingsport native convicted of rape as juvenile [Kingsport Times-News Online]
Update: Since you're dying to know, here's Super Vol Clay Travis' take, along with some more grisly details about the crime itself. You make the call. [FanHouse]