Dave Hooker's Audio
Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin didn’t have to think long when he went looking for strength and conditioning coach to replace Mark Smith.
“I knew that was the direction I wanted to go,” Kiffin said of hiring Aaron Ausmus. “It was very easy for me.”
And likely very easy for Ausmus to accept the job, considering he threw the shot put for UT’s track and field team before building his resume as a strength and conditioning coach.
Kiffin, however, didn’t hire Ausmus because of his connection to UT. There were other, more important ties. Kiffin worked with Ausmus at Southern California. Assistant head coach Ed Orgeron worked with Ausmus at Ole Miss.
“He fits better with the direction of where we’re going just because we’re familiar with him,” Kiffin said. “I’m not a strength coach so I don’t know exactly how to coach them down there (in the weight room).
“I know what I want. I know what we had when we won a lot of games (at USC).”
Ausmus replaced Smith, who was on the job at UT for little more than six months. The move was a costly one, as UT will be contractually obligated to pay Smith the remainder of his two-year contract, which is roughly $300,000.
“Mark Smith did some great things for us, installing discipline and accountability from the first day he got here,” Kiffin said Wednesday on the News Sentinel’s radio show, The Sports Page. “We’re real excited to have Aaron on board now. Aaron is real familiar with what we did at USC. We’re going to give them the highest level of training they can get.”
If Smith takes another job, UT would only be obligated to pay him the difference between what he would get paid elsewhere and what he was to be paid by UT.
“I think Mark’s a great coach and will continue to be a great coach,” Kiffin said. “He’s had a great career and will continue to have a great career, and we’re very thankful for what he did in his six months here.”
Kiffin said the change didn’t set UT’s football team back, even though the Vols were with a lame duck strength and conditioning coach for much of June. Ausmus’ first official day on the job was Monday. UT started summer workouts on June 1 amid reports that Smith was on the way out.
Ausmus will be one of the primary coaches who players will answer to during the coming weeks because much of UT’s staff will be on vacation.
“It’s very critical for them (the other coaches) to recharge and not to wear them out,” Kiffin said.
That directive had to come from Kiffin; or, he said, some members of his staff might not rest at all.
“If you hire the right guys that are dedicated to working and understand how hard it is to get a program to a championship level … it’s hard to burn them out,” Kiffin said. “They’re used to working as long as it takes to win.
“Our staff would be pretty hard to burn out but I still monitor it.”