You might have noticed that the Al Davis-Lane Kiffin unpaid-salary battle royale that was supposed to have been decided via arbitration in June is still not decided. And now it won't be until late 2009, when Kiffin will be begging some bowl game to schedule his 5-7 Tennessee Volunteers and Al Davis will have real pro football to worry about.
Tim Kawakami breaks the news of the delay on his Talking Points blog, in one of those long posts he does that covers like a half a dozen different topics. "I have not heard an explanation," the stealth Mercury News sportswiter notes, "Other than these sorts of things almost always get delayed."
Kiffin is trying to recover the $2.6 million in salary that he was still due for the season when Davis canned him last October.
The arbitration is being handled by Harold Henderson, Executive VP of NFL Labor Relations and one of Black Enterprise magazine's 50 Most Powerful African-Americans in Sports. You have to wonder what was going through Mr. Henderson's head when deposing these two witnesses who both behave more like bad guy professional wrestling managers than NFL front office executives.
Tough to predict how Mr. Henderson will rule on this one, because Kiffin and Davis' depositions weren't made public. And none of us really got to see Lane Kiffin's contract to assess what, if anything, he breached.
But Lowell Cohn has some good legal analysis of the grievance on his Cohn Zone Press-Democrat blog.
"When Davis fired Kiffin a lawyer told me Kiffin did not seem to have committed a material breach of his contract," Cohn notes. And every other NFL team always automatically pays the contracts of their fired coaches, and it's never an issue. Ex-49er coach Mike Nolan is living large on John York's money as you read this.
And this is not even that significant an amount of money to Al Davis. He spent more than twice this much on just a signing bonus for a half-season of DeAngelo Hall!
But Kiffin did break an unwritten rule, moronically pursuing a college job during while he still had an NFL position -- with five games still left on his rookie season! It's a profoundly unclassy thing to do to your players, and just an insane quit-lust when given the opportunity of a lifetime. I cannot actually prove that Lane Kiffin pursued that Arkansas coaching job in 2007. But there is no way on earth that I will believe Arkansas asked Al Davis permission to interview Kiffin without the coach first acknowledging to Arkansas that he was interested in the position.
The $2.6 million is a big deal to Kiffin, who makes less than that all year coaching Arkansas and has a really hot wife to keep happy. But to Al Davis, this is just fun psychological warfare. And the battle won't be resolved for several more months.
Joe Kukura is a freelance writer who will definitely take the over when Urban Meyer's Florida Gators get to play Kiffin's Razorbacks in The Swamp.