You can probably tell by the headline my thoughts on the latest of Lane Kiffin's media-fueled "missteps." Daniel Hood, a 19 year old defensive end, was convicted in juvenial court for assisting in a rape when he was 13 years old. Kiffin, for his part, has been completely transparent about the issue, stating:
"We didn't go about this lightly...We spent a lot of time researching the issue and talking to a lot of people who are well respected in the community. Everyone spoke very highly of Daniel. He's a very bright young man who wants to move past this incident and be a good representative for the team, the university and the community."
As Orson points out, there is nothing here that Kiffin and/or Tennessee is trying to sweep under the rug; no shady choices of words, and no attempt to downplay the heinosity (making up words, yo) of the crime. Instead, Kiffin is doing - gasp! - the right thing.
You see, in this country we have a penal system designed to rehabilitate offenders and make them a viable member of society. In fact, the system is specifically set up to protect juveniles from crimes becoming public - something that would have happened in this case had there not been an error made by a lawyer. In this case, a juvenile committed a crime, and he has completed his punishment as set forth by the court system. He is now a "free man" and can pursue any career path he chooses. Just because he is a destroyer of offensive tackles doesn't mean he's any less "allowed" to pursue that career. My guess is that had Hood decided to become an auto mechanic, we wouldn't be having this discussion.
I already know what you're going to say. "Auto-mechanics aren't role models to young people." Well, given Hood's apparent turnaround in behavior, doesn't that make him the ultimate role model? The victim of the crime sent a letter to Tennessee on his behalf, stating in part "He is becoming a very mature adult and will be a great asset to any college and to society as a whole." A kid made a mistake early in life. An error caused his mistake to become public which, again, there is a law designed to prevent from happening. He has done what the court system has said he needs to as punishment.
Lane Kiffin is doing the right thing by signing this kid. He's being completely transparent about Hood's past transgressions, and looks to have done his homework on Hood's character. Hood, for his part, is well aware of the situation he finds himself in:
"I don't think that it's a situation that I should try to avoid. It was heinous. It was awful. Any bad thing you could say about it would probably fit it. But I think it's not trying to put it in a corner and forget it ever happened. I think you have to take it and learn from it and grow from it. ... I've got a debt to [the victim] that I can never repay, just trying to throw it away like it never happened would be the worst thing I could do for her."
He's also aware of his short leash at Tennessee:
"I have been on a short leash and at Tennessee I am on even a shorter leash," Hood said. "If I jaywalk, I will make the front page. I think that is one of the prices that you have to pay. I honestly don't think it's that big of a price, to be disciplined and do the right thing."
Kiffin has been vilified by the media in much the same way that Rodriguez was when he first took the reigns. There is no story too small to be twisted and used against you. The bottom line here, however, is that as long as Hood is good enough to play at Tennessee (he is) then Kiffin is doing the right thing by acknowledging the past, and moving on with the future. It's how our judicial system is set up, and I'm glad Hood is getting a fair shake after being dealt an unfair blow by having his juvenile record exposed in the first place.
I will delete any "therapist" jokes in the comments, BTW. Let's not downplay the significance of the crime, but rather focus on how Hood should be treated now that he's "done the time."