Lane Kiffin leaves UT for USC
Time's up at the University of Tennessee.
Lane Kiffin is already moving on.
After a wild 14 months featuring secondary violations, a couple of arrests and a lot of promise about the future, Kiffin stunningly resigned as the Vols' head football coach Tuesday night with an agreement in principle to accept the same position with the University of Southern California.
According to a contract signed in October, UT will receive a buyout of $800,000 for his early departure. Kiffin's five-year deal would have paid him $2.375 million annually. But UT was certainly expecting more for its money when it ponied up to bring in Kiffin and his "Dream Scheme" staff led by Monte Kiffin and Ed Orgeron - who will both go with him to take over the Trojans, leaving recently named receivers coach Kippy Brown in charge of the Vols on an interim basis.
"This was not an easy decision," Kiffin, 34, said in a hastily called press conference. "It's something that happened very quick, a decision that myself and my family made. We've been here 14 months, the support has been unbelievable here, and I really believe this is probably the only place I would have left here to go was to go to Southern Cal.
"There's so many people to thank, so I'm just going to generically say I'm very thankful to all the Tennessee people for the way they welcomed myself and our family."
The Vols hardly had time to get to know them before Kiffin bolted to the program where he built his reputation as an offensive coordinator under Pete Carroll, who was introduced as coach of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks hours before Kiffin was tabbed as his successor. In a whirlwind 24 hours, the Trojans were reportedly rejected by a handful of other candidates before swooping in for Kiffin, who made nearly as many headlines off the field as on it last season.
The UT offense was vastly improved, the coaching staff assembled one of the best recruiting classes in the nation and a second-place finish in the SEC East and Chick-fil-A Bowl bid gave plenty of reason for optimism with Kiffin at the helm. But there were also some issues with hostesses, an alleged attempted armed robbery and at least six secondary recruiting violations under his watch, which helped make mixed emotions the order of the night outside the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center.
Students react to Kiffin leaving
"The first thing I heard was somebody called me and I was shocked, I didn't believe it," junior defensive end Ben Martin said. "Then the meeting was called with the guys, still kind of didn't believe it. (Kiffin) came in and talked to us, and I give him a lot of credit for coming and talking to us because that's something a real man should do.
"It's his dream job. I wish him the best when he's out there, and it's just unfortunate that it happened right now. We've just got to bond together as a team. Focus on sticking together and making sure nobody goes by the wayside"
Doing it certainly won't be easy given the timing, particularly in terms of the highly rated recruiting class leading up to National Signing Day on Feb. 3.
That will likely make a quick, efficient coaching search mandatory for UT athletic director Mike Hamilton, who didn't appear at Kiffin's press conference as he flew back from Denver. Hamilton will meet with the media today at 1 p.m.
Early candidates to succeed Kiffin could include Gary Patterson (Texas Christian University), Troy Calhoun (Air Force ) and Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, though the last search landed UT a somewhat surprising target.
"I want to thank coach Kiffin for his work with our program this past year," Hamilton said in a release. "We have already begun a search for the new head football coach of the Tennessee Volunteers.
"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."
The mission was the same a little more than a year ago.
Now it's time to do it again.
"Tennessee is a place that will always be great," Kiffin said. "... It's been an exciting time, and I know that I can walk out of here and say this - we've been here for 14 months and there's not one day that I didn't get everything I had to the Tennessee football program. I know just leaving that team room and looking around and the players coming in on this roster and what's going on in development, we're leaving here 14 months later a lot better team than they were 14 months ago," Kiffin said.
But taking the Vols to another level will soon be somebody else's job.