NEW ORLEANS, La. (WALA)- Just over one year ago, Lane Kiffin was embattled, unemployed and his future was uncertain following back to back tumultuous head coaching gigs at both the University of Tennessee and USC.
Today, the gleaming and now redeemed Kiffin has a new title as Offensive Coordinator and quarterbacks coach with the University of Alabama.
Released from the “no media” Nick Saban gag order, Kiffin took questions from members of the media on Monday morning in New Orleans, just ahead of Thursday’s Sugar Bowl game against Ohio State.
When questioned on the Alabama process and his own contribution, Kiffin explained, Alabama could’ve had his services free of charge, and he would have even paid the school for the opportunity himself.
“For Coach Saban to afford me this opportunity to come here for myself and to be able to be the offensive coordinator is one thing but to be able to sit every day just like our staff meeting this morning we’ve already had and to be able to learn from somebody like him and his process, shoot, I would have done it for free. I would have paid him for it, like most people would,” Kiffin said.
For now, the 39-year-old former head coach has taken a back seat to holding the throne, and says he now considers himself a student wearing a professional hat.
“Here’s a coach that got fired, unemployed, he brings in as one of the best runs in the history of college football. So I’m just a GA (graduate assistant) sitting there trying to learn every day, no, literally taking notes from him and how he runs it and what an unbelievable opportunity to have after the great run at USC in those years being there with Pete Carroll and now to be able to be with him, it will be a good book some day,” Kiffin said.
“I am grateful for Nick Saban”
– Lane Kiffin
Kiffin didn’t stop there, he went on to praise the matriarch of College Football Coaches, and talked about how he owed everything to Saban. He insisted that feedback just wasn’t there after the USC firing, and opportunities were far and in-between even after expanding his search to assistant coaching jobs.
“The phone wasn’t ringing a lot. That’s the reality. Regardless of, we all see ourselves in a different view a lot of times than others. I thought, well, okay probably not going to get a head coaching job but it will be easy to get an offensive coordinator jobs because of what we’ve done before and places we’ve been.” “And like I said, the phone wasn’t ringing. And he called. And he took a chance. I know he thought a lot about it. Because it wasn’t going to be the popular, necessarily the media hire, as he’s referred to before,” Kiffin said.
A hire two years in the making?
By the end of September, in 2013, Lane Kiffin had been fired by USC, after a disappointing season. His fate was sealed following a frustrating 62-41 loss at Arizona State, the Trojans seventh loss in 11 games. But, Nick Saban saw something in the young coach, the coach who’s reputation was less than favorable, nonetheless the coach who’s 2009 Tennessee Volunteers team nearly ruined Saban’s first National Championship season at Alabama. But, Kiffin said, Saban believed in him and a good seed was planted four years later at Nick Saban’s home.
“He took a chance. I know he thought a lot about it. Because it wasn’t going to be the popular, necessarily the media hire, as he’s referred to before.”
“But he believed in what he thought and what the interview was and the times we had discussions before. We had met the year before, I guess two summers ago, after our bad year at USC, had came out here to meet with him at his house. Spent three, four hours with him. Just a lot of questioning for him about handling situations and different questions that I had for him. And I think that time and that discussing things with him probably made him more comfortable with the hire as well,” Kiffin said.
Alabama will play Ohio State on New Years Day, in New Orleans. The two teams are were selected by the College Football Playoff Committee to compete in a four team playoff. The winner of this game will head to Texas to play either Oregon or Florida State in the 2014 College Football National Championship, the first under the new playoff system.