KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Lane Kiffin is returning to Southern California as the Trojans' coach after just one season at Tennessee.
Kiffin was chosen Tuesday to replace Pete Carroll, his mentor and employer for six seasons. Kiffin was the Trojans’ offensive coordinator before his brief stints with the Oakland Raiders and the Volunteers.
“This was not an easy decision,” he said Tuesday night, reading a brief statement on Tennessee’s campus. “This is something that happens very quick. We’ve been here 14 months, and the support has been unbelievable here. I really believe the only place I would have left here to go was ... Southern California.”
His father, respected defensive coach Monte Kiffin, and longtime USC assistant Ed Orgeron also will leave Tennessee to join him, USC said in a statement. Volunteers assistant Kippy Brown, who joined Kiffin’s staff less than four weeks ago, was promoted to interim coach.
ESPN.com first reported the surprising move by Kiffin and the Trojans, who needed just one day to fill one of the most desirable jobs in college football.
Carroll formally took over the Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday after winning 97 games, seven Pac-10 championships and two national titles over the past nine years.
“We are really excited to welcome Lane Kiffin back to USC,” Trojans athletic director Mike Garrett said. “I was able to watch him closely when he was an assistant with us, and what I saw was a bright, creative young coach who I thought would make an excellent head coach here if the opportunity ever arose. I’m confident he and his staff will keep USC football performing at the high level that we expect.”
The 34-year-old Kiffin is one of Carroll’s top disciples from his nine-year tenure at USC. Kiffin, a former Fresno State quarterback, worked his way up to offensive coordinator in 2005 while also showing impressive skills as the Trojans’ recruiting coordinator after Orgeron’s departure from Los Angeles.
For two seasons, Kiffin shared responsibility for the Trojans’ offense with fellow longtime Carroll assistant Steve Sarkisian, who left USC to take over at Washington after the 2008 season.
Although Kiffin’s forceful personality didn’t make him a beloved figure among players or administrators, he was a key part of the Trojans’ best years under Carroll, coordinating their passing game and providing instruction to quarterbacks Matt Leinart and John David Booty.