Reaction: Tennessee Rocked by Kiffin Move
Jack Carey, USA Today
January 13, 2010
Lane Kiffin's one season at Tennessee will be remembered for a series of verbal gaffes, minor NCAA rules violations and, now, his quick departure for Southern California.
Kiffin was named USC coach Tuesday night, succeeding Pete Carroll, who left to coach the NFL's Seattle Seahawks.
Kiffin, offensive coordinator for USC during its back-to-back national championships in the middle of the last decade, was given his first college head coaching job a little more than a year ago, replacing longtime Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer. Kiffin previously coached the NFL's Oakland Raiders for a little more than one season.
His quick exit for a return to Los Angeles was welcomed by USC athletics director Mike Garrett, but the reaction among Tennessee followers was less enthusiastic.
"That's unbelievable," said former Volunteers offensive lineman Steve Robinson, who was a teammate of Fulmer's at Tennessee. "I've never heard of a coach to be around a program the magnitude of Tennessee for one year and leave. I feel like I've lost a little respect (for Kiffin).
"I'm not sure I'd use the word betrayal, but some people might."
The Web site GoVolsextra.com reported that dozens of students and fans marched into the Neyland-Thompson Sports Complex on the Tennessee campus Tuesday night chanting obscenities at Kiffin.
The report said police were called to quell the crowd, fans were asked to disperse and they did so without incident.
Kiffin owes an $800,000 buyout to Tennessee for leaving early.
"I want to thank Coach Kiffin for his work with our program this past year," Tennessee athletics director Mike Hamilton said. "We have already begun a search for the new head football coach."
Assistant Kippy Brown, hired onto Kiffin's staff less than a month ago, will oversee the program in the interim.
Kiffin, 34, was 7-6 in 2009 as the youngest head coach in the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision, ending with a loss to Virginia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
"I know there's a ton of excitement about what we're doing, and we're just getting started," Kiffin said last week.
In a short statement Tuesday night in Knoxville, Kiffin said he was thankful to Tennessee and said he was leaving the program with a better team than he found 14 months ago.