The budding war between Southern California and Tennessee won't be settled on the field.
At least not next year.
In the latest chapter of the growing feud between former coach Lane Kiffin and the Vols, ESPN.com's Bruce Feldman reported Wednesday that UT athletic director Mike Hamilton turned down an offer from Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game organizers to start the 2011 season against the Trojans in Atlanta.
Hamilton confirmed to the News Sentinel that the Vols are certainly open to the idea of playing the Trojans at some point in the future though, and in fact are actually still waiting for them to send a contract for a two-game series the programs have already verbally agreed to play in 2021 and '22.
"We told (USC) we could play 'em in a few years but we can't make it work with our schedule next year," Hamilton told Feldman.
The proposal and denial continue the interesting, seemingly uneasy link between the two programs that continue to be tied together since Kiffin's abrupt departure from UT in January.
In the last week alone, new Vols coach Derek Dooley secured the services of former Southern California commitment and the No. 1 punter in the country Matt Darr. Dooley followed that up by convincing defensive lineman Malik Jackson to transfer from USC with two years of eligibility remaining to take advantage of the NCAA sanctions slapped on the Trojans allowing players to leave without penalty, and it appears at this point the coaching staff isn't yet done trying to capitalize on Kiffin's situation.
One thing that is certain is that Hamilton won't give Jackson or any other Southern California transfers a chance to play their old school, though the idea of a series between the programs has been discussed since even before Kiffin left UT.
In the week leading up to last year's UCLA game, Kiffin indicated he would be open to a series with the Trojans and mistakenly said UT already had a contract for "six years from now or something like that."
Hamilton later clarified on his Twitter account that UT had a verbal agreement for a home-and-home in 2021 and '22. The first of those two games would be played in Los Angeles, which would usually make Southern California responsible for producing the contracts to make the series official. UT officials have yet to receive one from the Trojans at this point despite requesting it again within the last couple months, which leaves the status of those games somewhat in question.
There's no uncertainty about a proposed meeting next year, however.
Including marquee matchups with Cincinnati and North Carolina outside of the conference, the Vols have a full slate of games already locked in for the season.