Kiffin will take over reins of Vols today
Posted: Monday, December 1, 2008 5:46 pm
By: By BETH RUCKER, Associated Press Writer
KNOXVILLE (AP) — Lane Kiffin will become Tennessee’s next coach, two days after Phillip Fulmer’s 17-season tenure ended with a grand and victorious send-off.
Kiffin, the former Oakland Raiders coach, will be introduced at a news conference today.
“We have had unbelievable interest from great coaches,” athletic director Mike Hamilton said Sunday. “When it was all said and done, we felt like Lane Kiffin was a perfect fit for Tennessee. He’s energetic, charismatic, consumed with recruiting and has had a lifelong love affair with football.”
Kiffin, 33, replaces Fulmer, who was forced out after 17 seasons as Vols coach. Fulmer won a national championship in 1998 and two Southeastern Conference titles but had two losing seasons in the last five years, including a 5-7 mark this year.
Kiffin was the youngest coach in the NFL’s modern history when hired to lead the Raiders in January 2007 at age 31 after spending two seasons as Southern California’s recruiting and offensive coordinator.
The former backup Fresno State quarterback had a rocky relationship with Oakland owner Al Davis, who fired him Sept. 30 for what he said was insubordination after going 5-15 with the Raiders in two years.
Kiffin is charged with making the storied program competitive in the SEC once again and returning it to national prominence. Like Fulmer did, he takes over the Volunteers with no prior college football head coaching experience.
Prior to his stint as the Raiders’ coach, he spent 10 seasons as an assistant coach with USC, the Jacksonville Jaguars, Colorado State and Fresno State.
Kiffin reportedly spent Sunday working to build his staff and make contact with top recruits.
ESPN, citing multiple unidentified sources, reported Kiffin’s father, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, will follow him to Tennessee.
Monte Kiffin is believed to make more money in his current job than all of the Tennessee assistant coaches combined.
“It’s all just speculation,” Monte Kiffin said after Tampa Bay’s 23-20 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. “That’s all it is. I can honestly tell you it’s just speculation. Just like it came up with the Raiders. It came up two years ago. It came up last year. I’m still here.”
Though Tennessee officials tried to keep Kiffin’s hiring quiet until after Fulmer coached his last game, word of it leaked on Friday, the day before Fulmer closed his career with a 28-10 win over Kentucky.
That win extended the nation’s longest active winning streak by one team over another to 24 games and helped the Volunteers (5-7, 3-5) avoid becoming the first team in program history to lose eight games in a season.
In his final press conference following the game, Fulmer deftly issued a challenge to his successor.
“To me he ought to win every football game next year. How’s that for pressure on the new guy?” he said with a grin.
Fulmer said he plans to take some time to relax, though he might be interested in the Clemson coaching job should it not be offered to interim coach Dabo Swinney.
“(Tennessee) is a very special place and it would take a special place for me to go to, but being unemployed right now, I’m interested in those kinds of jobs because that’s a special place,” Fulmer said of Clemson.
He also said he plans to reflect a bit and take some time to spend with his family, who he acknowledges has paid a huge price for his commitment to coaching.
“It’s a crime to see people like that forced out of the profession,” Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said of the ousting of his SEC rival.