Alabama hired former Southern California coach Lane Kiffin on Friday as its offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Kiffin returns to the Southeastern Conference after head coaching stints with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, Alabama rival Tennessee and the Trojans. He replaces Doug Nussmeier, who left Alabama for Michigan.
“He is an outstanding and creative offensive coach who has great experience both at the college and NFL level,” coach Nick 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.”
Kiffin spent a week in Tuscaloosa, Ala., last month exchanging ideas with Saban and his staff and observing Alabama’s offense. Now, he’s the splashiest hire of Saban’s tenure at Alabama, which has won three national titles in the past five seasons.
The 38-year-old Kiffin was 28-15 in three-plus seasons with USC. He was fired five games into last season from one of college football’s marquee jobs.
Kiffin spent six seasons (2001-06) at USC under Pete Carroll as an assistant, including the final two as offensive coordinator. He also called plays during his time as a head coach. He spent the 2009 season at Tennessee, going 7-6 before leaving to replace Carroll.
“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. Having the unique opportunity to be here last month, I was able to meet some of the great players and the great people in the organization, and I’m very excited to start working with them.
“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.”
Now, Kiffin is tasked with finding a replacement for quarterback AJ McCarron, the Heisman Trophy runner-up. One potential contender, Alec Morris, posted on his Twitter page “Love it” after the hiring.
His hiring creates a high-profile pairing with Saban, who along with defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has routinely fielded one of the nation’s best defenses while also putting up solid numbers with a pro-style offense.
Kiffin was part of two national championships as a USC assistant under Carroll. He ran the offense from 2005-06 and was passing game coordinator the previous year, when quarterback Matt Leinart won the Heisman.
The Trojans averaged 49.1 points and 579.8 total yards per game when Kiffin was offensive coordinator.
The Tide’s lone meeting with Kiffin’s Volunteers proved pivotal during the 2009 national championship season.
Terrence Cody blocked two field goals in the fourth quarter to preserve a 12-10 Alabama win and the Tide’s title hopes.
Kiffin did run afoul of SEC Commissioner Mike Slive during his stay at Tennessee. After Kiffin was publicly dismissive of his second reprimand from the league, this one for criticizing officials, Slive issued a letter warning him that further such comments from he or his staff would lead to a suspension from at least one game.
Kiffin had questioned why officials didn’t penalize Cody for unsportsmanlike conduct when the defensive lineman removed and threw his helmet after his second block on the game’s final play.
He also said at the time that he decided to let the clock run down instead of trying to run another play before the kick because he was concerned about the officiating.
No terms of the deal with Alabama were released, pending formal approval by the university’s board of trustees.