In three weeks on the job, Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin has made a big splash.
He’s also rocked a few boats.
Shortly before Tennessee’s basketball game against Belmont on Saturday afternoon, Kiffin said he worked to convince his highest-profile hire — father and Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin — to join his staff at UT.
And he’s also unconcerned about the stir caused by Tennessee’s two other new hires, former South Carolina quarterbacks coach David Reaves, who is Kiffin’s brother-in-law, and former Oakland Raiders offensive line coach James Cregg.
Reaves angered South Carolina fans and some members of the Gamecocks’ staff by contacting several Carolina commitments after leaving for Tennessee.
Raiders interim coach Tom Cable was publicly critical of Cregg for leaving for UT with two games remaining and said he planned to confront Kiffin in the future.
“I don’t really care,” Kiffin said Saturday. “I got a job to do in our athletic department and that’s to put together the best staff we can put together and the best players we can put together. I’m not really concerned about that stuff.
“If Steve’s concerned about my test, I got 39 out of 40,” Kiffin said, responding to comments made by South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier about whether Kiffin had passed the required NCAA recruiting test before contacting prospects. “I’d like to see what he got.”
UT athletic director Mike Hamilton isn’t too concerned, either.
“I think it’s business,” Hamilton said. “Anytime guys move from here to there, you have a chance of those things happening. I think it’s just part of business. If I felt like that there was something out there that was unethical, then yeah, that would bother me, but I haven’t seen any of that at all.”
As for Monte Kiffin, who will arrive in Knoxville two days after Tampa Bay’s final game of the season, the younger Kiffin said he got the best defensive mind in football.
“We went to the top,” he said. “As we evaluated different people, we felt like this was the best defensive coordinator in all of football, college or the NFL. We were fortunate for his contract to be set up in a way where we’re really the only people that could get him.”
According to Lane Kiffin, his father’s contract includes a clause that would prohibit him from leaving for another NFL team or any college team that wasn’t coached by his son.
Still, it wasn’t a given that Monte Kiffin would have joined his son had the location been different.
“I don’t think this could have happened hardly anywhere else,” Kiffin said. “He never said, ‘I’m going with you wherever you go.’ It had to be a special place. … He doesn’t want to come here to be mediocre. He wants to come here to win national championships. Those things had to be in place and it had to be a setup from the athletic department that would make it financially secure for him as well.”
Lane Kiffin was clearly pleased with his father’s decision to join him at UT.
“It’s really amazing to be able to pull of what we were able to pull off,” said Kiffin, who also said UT was able to hire Monte Kiffin because of “the last name.”
Salary figures were not immediately available for UT’s new hires; however, Monte Kiffin, who earns $2 million with the Buccaneers, will likely become one of the highest paid coordinators in college football.
As a result, UT’s salary pool for assistants will grow significantly from the $1.9 million allocated in 2008.
Hamilton declined to provide a specific figure for Kiffin’s new staff.
“He’s got his numbers and the resources to make the hires,” Hamilton said. “Basically what we’ve talked about is different guys in different slots, and if we get those guys, then the max is there. If you look at some other folks, then maybe it’s a different number.”
UT hopes to have its complete staff in place by the second week of January, Lane Kiffin said, although that could be delayed if any of his targets are still coaching in the NFL at that time.
Reaves and Cregg haven’t been given specific positions yet.
“I’m not going to put anybody in a position right now that could possibly limit us from getting someone else,” Kiffin said.
The future of four holdovers from Phillip Fulmer’s staff — Stan Drayton, Jason Michael, Greg Adkins and Latrell Scott — remains in doubt.
“They’re getting paid by the university,” Kiffin said. “They have a job to do, and they’re doing a good job. At the same time, I’ve told them that anything that comes from anywhere else, you can go interview, and some guys have done that because they need to cover themselves as well.”
Scott interviewed with Virginia on Friday.