Kiffin, who coach the Tennessee Volunteers last year, has agreed to become the new head coach at USC.
"This was not an easy decision. This was something that happened very quick. It was a decision me and my family made," Kiffin said at a very brief and impromptu press conference Tuesday night.
"We are really excited to welcome Lane Kiffin back to USC," Athletic Director Mike Garrett said in a statement. "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."
USC's young star quarterback Matt Barkley has said he is excited about the choice.
Kiffin has already started to assemble a staff that includes his father defensive guru Monte Kiffin — whose defense led Tampa Bay to a Super Bowl title — plus former USC assistant coach Ed Orgeron. And maybe offensive guru Norm Chow, who was the offensive coordinator at USC before going to the NFL's Tennessee Titans for a few seasons. Currently Chow is the offensive coordinator at UCLA, so stealing him away would be an early coup.
The announcement by USC came as a bit of a surprise because Kiffin had coached just one year at Tennessee after leaving the Raiders, and it was not a great year, although he had built some optimism about the program's future. The Volunteers finished the season 7-6 overall and 4-4 in the SEC. They were blown out by Virginia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl 37-14 — and Tennessee lost to UCLA earlier in the season, 19-15, at home.
When news of Kiffin's departure hit Tennessee's campus, bedlam ensued. Students carried torches on campus streets and painted slurs on a rock on-campus. Tennessee Players heckled him during the team meeting when he told them of his decision, and some stormed out of the meeting to join other students in the streets.
"They're nothing but a bunch of traitors," one player yelled as he left the meeting, according to ESPN.
Kiffin did not fare a lot better with the Raiders, going 5-15 over 20 games as the youngest head coach in NFL history.
In addition, Kiffin had the NCAA looking hard at the Volunteers program for potential violations (something that is already happening at USC when he arrives). The most famous of those scandals was having “hostesses” — pretty coed girls — go talk to high school recruits at their games and other off-campus locations. That is a clear violation of NCAA rules.
However, when he wore USC cardinal and gold, everything was good. While he was Pete Carroll’s offensive coordinator the Trojans were 23-3, the years that featured Matt Leinart at quarterback and Reggie Bush running the ball. Those may have been the glory years of the Carroll era.
Kiffin will now be charged with recreating it.