Alabama Hires Polarizing Lane Kiffin as Offensive Coordinator
After much speculation, Alabama head coach Nick Saban has hired Lane Kiffin to replace offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, who departed for Michigan earlier this week.
As soon as news broke on Wednesday that Nussmeier was headed north, media and fans alike began discussing the possibility of the former Tennessee head coach returning to the SEC. Conjecture began, in part, because Kiffin visited the Alabama football program in December to discuss the offense with Crimson Tide coaches.
Saban issued this statement regarding his hire of Kiffin:
We are excited to have Lane join our staff. He is an outstanding and creative offensive coach who has great experience both at the college and NFL level. 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. Lane will be an outstanding addition to our coaching staff and we look forward to him and his family joining us at the University of Alabama.
Kiffin has been a polarizing figure in the sport of football since becoming the youngest head coach in Raiders history in 2007. His NFL career lasted less than two years before owner Al Davis fired him after only 20 games.
Just two months later, the University of Tennessee hired Kiffin to replace Phillip Fulmer as head coach of the Volunteers. The hire immediately energized the fan base, but the brash Kiffin became known more for his blunders than his accomplishments. Although he only spent one year in Knoxville, Kiffin managed to publicly accuse Florida coach Urban Meyer of recruiting violations and told wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey that he’d be pumping gas after his career was over because he picked South Carolina over Tennessee.
But Kiffin was an equal-opportunity offender. After just one season, he spurned Tennessee and its optimism for the glamour of Hollywood. The night he left for the USC Trojans, students nearly rioted outside of his press conference, painted the rock with a direct (and obscene) message for the coach, and even spread the phone number of Kiffin’s wife, Layla, on the internet.
While Tennessee raged, Urban Meyer relished the news.
Heading west, Kiffin began his third job in three years when he returned to USC, a school where he had been an assistant for six years under Pete Carroll. He inherited a difficult situation as the university was staring down NCAA sanctions following the Reggie Bush case but succeeded on the recruiting trail.
His tenure peaked with a 10-2 season in 2011 that resulted in a preseason #1 ranking in 2012. But that’s when things began to fall apart. After lying that he didn’t vote his Trojans #1, USA Today released the information that he, in fact, had voted his own team to the top spot. Three months later, USC was fined $25,000 for deflating footballs in a loss to Oregon, while Kiffin denied any knowledge of the illegal tactic.
Kiffin’s downward spiral continued until it reached rock bottom following a blowout loss to Arizona State in September of 2013. Athletic Director Pat Haden pulled him off the team bus and fired him at 3 a.m. in the morning after returning to Los Angeles following that 62-41 loss.
Now back in the SEC, Kiffin has another opportunity at a prestigious football school, albeit in a lesser role. But it’s a role that provides him with the chance to rehabilitate his reputation in college football. As an offensive coordinator under Nick Saban, he’ll be able to refocus his career and work on having his actions finally match his abilities.
There’s no question he has every tool in place to be incredibly successful in Tuscaloosa and position himself for another head coaching role in the near future. If can do that, Kiffin will finally be able to exit a job and leave behind a grateful fan base.