Lane Kiffin is leaving Tennessee after just one season to become the new head coach at USC, the Trojans confirmed on the school’s official football Web site. Kiffin, 34, is replacing Pete Carroll, the coach he worked under at USC from 2001 to 2006 before being hired as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders. Carroll, who coached the Trojans for nine seasons, officially accepted a job with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks on Monday.
Volunteers assistant Kippy Brown, who joined Kiffin’s staff less than four weeks ago, was promoted to interim coach.
For two seasons, Kiffin shared responsibility for the Trojans’ offense with fellow longtime Carroll assistant Steve Sarkisian, who left USC to take over at Washington after the 2008 season.
Although Kiffin’s forceful personality didn’t make him a beloved figure among players or administrators, he was a key part of the Trojans’ best years under Carroll, coordinating their passing game and providing instruction to quarterbacks Matt Leinart and John David Booty.
"This was not an easy decision," he said in a brief press conference on Tennessee’s campus. "I really believe this is the only place I would have left here to go."
He returns to USC with the school facing a yearslong NCAA investigation over events during his tenure as an assistant, including Reggie Bush’s final years at the school. While no discipline has been handed down, it’s widely expected to arrive later this year.
Going with Kiffin to Southern California will be recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach Ed Orgeron and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who was the longtime defensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and is Lane’s father. "We are really excited to welcome Lane Kiffin back to USC," Trojans athletic director Mike Garrett said in a statement on the school’s Web site. "I was able to watch him closely when he was an assistant with us and what I saw was a bright, creative young coach who I thought would make an excellent head coach here if the opportunity ever arose. …
"Lane brings a lot to the table. He has a coaching background both in the pros and in the best collegiate conferences. He has a great command of the X’s and O’s. He is familiar with the Trojan landscape and will be a great representative of our university. He keeps the game fun. And, very importantly, he has proven to be one of the finest recruiters anywhere.
Kiffin was hired in late 2008 by Tennessee, and took the Volunteers to a 7-6 record and an appearance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, where they lost to Virginia Tech.
"I know there’s a ton of excitement about what we’re doing, and we’re just getting started," Kiffin said last week. He had a short and stormy stay at Tennessee, immediately raising the eyebrows of Southeastern Conference counterparts with brash predictions of how quickly the Volunteers would return to contention. The football program came under more scrutiny in November when three of Kiffin’s prized recruits were arrested in connection with an armed robbery in Knoxville.
All three players were suspended from the team and two — Nu’Keese Richardson and Mike Edwards — were eventually dismissed by Kiffin. Richardson, pleaded guilty Monday to a reduced charge of attempted robbery.
Kiffin’s time with the Raiders was also tumultuous to say the least. He made it through just 20 games before an ugly public firing in which owner Al Davis called Kiffin a liar who brought "disgrace" on the Raiders. The Associated Press contributed to this report.