Nearly four years to the day after he stunned Tennessee by leaving after just one season as head coach, Lane Kiffin is back in the SEC.
Kiffin, 38, was hired as the new offensive coordinator at Alabama on Friday. He replaces Doug Nussmeier, who left for Michigan earlier this week.
The job with one of Tennessee’s top rivals adds another unusual chapter to Kiffin’s coaching ledger and adds some spark to the Vols’ meeting with Alabama on Oct. 25 at Neyland Stadium.
Kiffin became the youngest head coach in NFL history when he was hired by the Oakland Raiders in 2007, but his two-year tenure was filled with acrimony and clashes with ownership.
Shortly after the 2008 season ended, Kiffin was hired to replace Phillip Fulmer. The Vols went 7-6 in his only year at the helm.
On Jan. 12, 2010, he confirmed that he was leaving to be head coach at Southern California, where he had earlier spent six years as an assistant.
But Kiffin’s “dream job” with the Trojans, who were beset by NCAA sanctions, did not go smoothly. He was fired just five games into the 2013 season, ending his brief tenure with a 28-15 record.
Kiffin reportedly spent several days earlier last month meeting with Alabama coach Nick Saban to trade ideas, suggesting Nussmeier’s departure may have been imminent even then. Once Nussmeier had formally taken the Michigan job, it took only 48 hours for Kiffin to replace him.
“He is an outstanding and creative offensive coach who has great experience both at the college and NFL level,” Saban said in a statement. “He has a very good understanding of the game and I have always been impressed with what I saw in the games he called. He coaches with a great deal of passion and enthusiasm, and also does an excellent job as a teacher.”
Alabama, then undefeated and No. 2 in the nation, edged Tennessee 12-10 on Oct. 24, 2009, Kiffin’s only meeting against Saban in the SEC.
Kiffin’s replacement, Derek Dooley, who had been a longtime Saban assistant, did not fare as well against his former boss. He was fired after three seasons at Tennessee and replaced by Butch Jones.
Now Jones and the Vols have a much-anticipated meeting with Saban and Kiffin coming up in October.
“We want to thank the University of Alabama and Coach Saban for this tremendous opportunity, and we feel humbled and honored to be a part of the Crimson Tide family,” Kiffin said in a statement. “I’ve always had the utmost respect for what Coach Saban has done with his programs ... We’ve seen the passion and support of the Alabama fans firsthand, and when that’s combined with the storied history and tradition of the program, this is a very special place to coach.”
Kiffin was part of two national championships as a USC assistant under Pete Carroll. He ran the offense from 2005-06 and was passing game coordinator the previous year, when quarterback Matt Leinart won the Heisman Trophy. The Trojans averaged 49.1 points and 579.8 total yards per game when Kiffin was offensive coordinator.
Alabama did not immediately release terms of Kiffin’s contract.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.