One of the more unimaginable scenarios in Southeastern Conference football has occurred.
Lane Kiffin is back.
The former Tennessee coach returned to the league Friday afternoon when he was hired by Alabama as its new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban needed less than 48 hours to replace Doug Nussmeier, who left Wednesday evening for the same position at Michigan.
"We are excited to have Lane join our staff," Saban said through a release. "He is an outstanding and creative offensive coach who has great experience both at the college and NFL level. 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.
"Lane will be an outstanding addition to our coaching staff, and we look forward to him and his family joining us."
Kiffin was Tennessee's coach in 2009, guiding the Volunteers to their only winning record since the program's last SEC East championship in 2007, but he left Knoxville after 13 months for the same job at Southern California. Tennessee went 7-6 during the '09 season, posting an impressive 45-19 win over Georgia and falling just 12-10 at Alabama in a game that was decided by Terrence Cody's block of Daniel Lincoln's 44-yard field-goal attempt on the final play.
His one recruiting class at Tennessee, however, was praised on paper but quickly unraveled, as all seven of the Rivals.com top 150 prospects Kiffin signed either left or were dismissed from the team.
After inheriting a program riddled with NCAA sanctions, Kiffin led Southern Cal to an 8-5 record in 2010 and a 10-2 mark in 2011, when the Trojans finished No. 6 in the Associated Press poll. The Trojans were the preseason No. 1 in 2012 but plummeted to a 7-6 record, and they were 3-2 this past season when Kiffin was fired just hours after a 62-41 loss at Arizona State.
Last month, Kiffin spent a week on the Tuscaloosa campus to exchange ideas with Alabama's offensive staff.
"We feel humbled and honored to be a part of the Crimson Tide family," Kiffin said in a release. "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."
Kiffin was 33 and the youngest coach in the Bowl Subdivision when he was hired at Tennessee, and he was reprimanded twice that year by league commissioner Mike Slive. The first reprimand was for accusing former Florida coach Urban Meyer of cheating in recruiting, and the second, coincidentally enough, was complaining about the officiating after the loss at Alabama.
Several months after Kiffin left for USC, Slive took a dig at him at the league's annual media days event outside Birmingham.
"The other head-coaching change took place at Tennessee when Derek Dooley's predecessor left to return to his Western roots," Slive said. "I want to welcome Coach Dooley back to the SEC, and when I say welcome, I mean welcome."
Kiffin is not expected to do much speaking out at Alabama, as Saban allows his coordinators to visit with the media once in preseason camp and not at all during the season.
Friday's hiring was received with excitement from Crimson Tide players. Not surprisingly, it caused quite a stir for those in the Tennessee family.
"As if we needed more incentive to kick Alabama's [butt]," former Vols receiver Donte' Stallworth posted on Twitter.
Kiffin has not been an assistant coach since 2006, when he was in his sixth season on Pete Carroll's staff at Southern Cal and his second as offensive coordinator. He helped lead the Trojans to averages of 49.1 points and 579.8 yards a game during his two seasons as offensive coordinator before leaving for a troubled stint as coach of the NFL's Oakland Raiders that yielded a 5-15 mark.
At Alabama, Kiffin will be challenged to mold a successor to AJ McCarron, who quarterbacked the Tide to a 36-4 record and led them to two BCS titles. His choices this spring will be senior Blake Sims, redshirt sophomore Alec Morris, redshirt freshmen Cooper Bateman and Luke Del Rio and true freshman David Cornwell, who enrolled last week.
Kiffin's most impressive achievement at Tennessee was his development of quarterback Jonathan Crompton, who got off to a slow start in '09 but wound up throwing for 2,800 yards with 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Crompton threw for 889 yards with four touchdowns and five interceptions as a junior in 2008.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...