Are SEC rivals turning Tennessee, Kiffin in to NCAA?

Sitting on stage, unaccompanied by blonde recruiting hostesses (good news) but still clearly devoid of a filter between his brain and mouth (oops), Lane Kiffin listened as somebody asked what he considered the toughest thing about coaching college football today.

“Following all the rules,” he said. And the room, free of NCAA investigators, broke into laughter.

I’ll say this for Kiffin: Most folks who devolve into a human punch line every 17 minutes eventually learn their lesson and know when to hit the mental mute button. Kiffin soaks it all in and wears the target proudly, like a new tan. There’s something to be said for consistency.

“I thought you guys were getting bored out there,” he said later about the rules comment. “We were answering every question politically correct, so I thought I’d give you something.”

Kiffin coaches Tennessee, at least when he’s not setting the campus on fire. The Volunteers are under NCAA investigation for recruiting violations, the most salacious of which is sending bubbly coeds off campus to high school football games to help lure hormone-raging teenage football players. There’s also all of that other stuff he has said or done since taking the job, from the occasional tweak, to accusing Florida coach Urban Meyer of cheating, to seeing three of his prize recruits arrested for armed robbery.

The good news? He’s not a schlep like Phil Fulmer, so nobody can make fat jokes.

Kiffin was in town Thursday for a news conference to help promote the Chick-fil-A Bowl game. I think Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer also was there. But Beamer’s 228 career wins just didn’t compare to Kiffin’s seven really loud and obnoxious ones. So the spotlight followed Kiffin.