KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Lane Kiffin is returning to Southern
California as the Trojans' coach after just one season at
Kiffin was chosen Tuesday to replace Pete Carroll, his mentor
and employer for six seasons. Kiffin was the Trojans' offensive
coordinator before his brief stints with the Oakland Raiders and
"This was not an easy decision," he said Tuesday night,
reading a brief statement on Tennessee's campus. "This is
something that happens very quick. We've been here 14 months, and
the support has been unbelievable here. I really believe the only
place I would have left here to go was ... Southern California."
His father, respected defensive coach Monte Kiffin, and longtime
USC assistant Ed Orgeron also will leave Tennessee to join him, USC
said in a statement. Volunteers assistant Kippy Brown, who joined
Kiffin's staff less than four weeks ago, was promoted to interim
ESPN.com first reported the surprising move by Kiffin and the
Trojans, who needed just one day to fill one of the most desirable
jobs in college football. Carroll formally took over the Seattle
Seahawks on Tuesday after winning 97 games, seven Pac-10
championships and two national titles over the past nine years.
"We are really excited to welcome Lane Kiffin back to USC,"
Trojans athletic director Mike Garrett said. "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. I'm confident he and
his staff will keep USC football performing at the high level that
The 34-year-old Kiffin is one of Carroll's top disciples from
his nine-year tenure at USC. Kiffin, a former Fresno State
quarterback, worked his way up to offensive coordinator in 2005
while also showing impressive skills as the Trojans' recruiting
coordinator after Orgeron's departure from Los Angeles.
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
Kiffin then became Al Davis' unusual choice to take over the
Oakland Raiders as a 31-year-old coach with almost no NFL
experience. He made it through just 20 games before an ugly public
firing in which Davis called Kiffin a liar who brought "disgrace"
on the Raiders.
Kiffin went 7-6 at Tennessee last season as the youngest head
coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Many credited him with
revitalizing the program, but he also brought an unwelcome
spotlight on the Vols with several minor NCAA violations.
"I know that I can walk out of here and say this, that we've
been here for 14 months and there's not one day I didn't give
everything I had to the Tennessee football program," Kiffin said.
"We're leaving here 14 months later a lot better team than we were
14 months ago."
Kiffin certainly didn't sound ready to leave after Tennessee's
season ended with a loss to Virginia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl,
saying the Vols were "just getting started" - but the Trojans
didn't have a vacancy then.
Kiffin owed an $800,000 buyout to Tennessee for leaving early.
He told his players about his abrupt departure moments before
reading his statement.
"I want to thank coach Kiffin for his work with our program
this past year," Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton said.
"We have already begun a search for the new head football coach of
the Tennessee Volunteers, and we'll complete this process as
quickly as possible to put the right person in place to lead our
great football program forward in the months and years ahead."
Kiffin 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.
Kiffin was suggested as a candidate immediately after Carroll's
departure became official Sunday, but many Trojans thought he
wouldn't be willing or able to leave Tennessee after just one year.
Yet several coaches with USC ties said they weren't interested in
the job, including NFL coaches Jeff Fisher and Jack Del Rio and
Oregon State coach Mike Riley.
Monte Kiffin will lend his defensive acumen to a school that
annually fielded an impressive defense under Carroll, while Orgeron
is likely to return to his role as the Trojans' best recruiter who
helped stack Carroll's early USC teams with a dizzying array of
"Ed did a marvelous job during his previous time at USC, and we
all know that Monte is a defensive guru," Garrett said. "I know
Lane will fill out his staff with other outstanding assistants like
them, ones who Trojan players and fans will really like."