Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin is barely 40 years old, but he’s already perhaps the most controversial figure in college football.
He had controversial tenures with Southern Cal and the Oakland Raiders before joining the Crimson Tide, but his Tennessee coaching stint is stuff of legend. Kiffin returned to the stadium on Saturday, and Vols fans took close notice.
Kiffin came into the stadium flanked with an extra security guard for obvious reasons.
Lane Kiffin arrives at Tennessee with an escort. pic.twitter.com/O6oeGwMAk9
— Michael Casagrande (@ByCasagrande) October 15, 2016
However, that was far from the only attention he got pregame. A plane toting a banner flew around with a flag that “Kiffin has small hands ask Layla,” referring to his ex-wife. Other fans painted a NSFW message on The Rock at the University of Tennessee.
There are plenty of reasons SEC fans hate Lane Kiffin, but here are five of the best.
5. His dad helped him get in the business
Many young coaches are talented, but Kiffin was born on third base in the football world. He’s the son of legendary defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who spent 13 seasons as the Tampa Bay Bucs’ coordinator before leaving to join his son at Tennessee and USC.
The younger Kiffin was able to get a quality-control job with the Jacksonville Jaguars almost right out of college, before leveraging that into a position coaching job with USC right before the Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush era took off in Los Angeles. He became the offensive coordinator in 2005 before becoming the youngest coach in the modern NFL at just 32 years old.
4. He screwed over Tennessee
Tennessee took a chance on Kiffin after he was let go by the Raiders after the 2008 season, and he quickly ingratiated himself into the program. Fans loved how he took shots at Florida coach Urban Meyer and later showed major improvements on the roster.
But after a good 7-5 season to start, Kiffin bailed on the Vols to take the job at Southern Cal. Tennessee simply isn’t a launching point — it’s a destination. Tennessee fans understandably reacted badly, with many storming the campus and setting small fires as part of a riot.
Tennessee's facilities workers wearing these buttons today, referencing Lane Kiffin. pic.twitter.com/6PBOEqajW9
— Ben Jones (@BW_Jones) October 15, 2016
3. He’s the highest-paid offensive coordinator in college football
Kiffin isn’t the first coach to get fired from multiple programs, but the man’s luster never seems to go away. First it was coaching an NFL team, which he got to do almost immediately in Oakland. He immediately got a head coaching job at one of the most historic SEC programs, before infuriating fans and leaving for another blue-blood job. Even after all the failure, he still managed to get a job at Alabama as offensive coordinator and become the highest-paid one in the college game.
It’s hard to think of any other profession – like coaching college football – where you could fail so consistently and still end up as one of its highest-paid individuals. Coaches more successful than Kiffin have been pushed out of the business. One example: Gene Chizik. He was out of college coaching for two years before getting the defensive coordinator job at North Carolina.
2. He’s willing to throw shade
Kiffin is hated and no one knows it better than Kiffin. He uses that platform to constantly troll opposing teams, even the ones that he’s wronged. While he was walking into the stadium, he clapped back at a Tennessee fan.
UT fan to Lane Kiffin: "Derek Barnett is coming. Tell your freshman QB to be ready."
Kiffin: "Barnett jumps offsides every play anyway."
— Marq Burnett (@Marq_Burnett) October 15, 2016
He’s also willing to be snarky on Twitter, throwing shade at several different teams, including the Vols. He posted a tweet in April 2016 of the split in the road heading to Knoxville and labeled it with a “Roll Tide Roll.”
— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) April 22, 2016
His best certainly came after Alabama beat USC earlier this year. Kiffin was fired from the Trojans on the tarmac at LAX airport at 3 a.m. He certainly did not forget.
Post game w the game ball!!! #3:14AM-LAX pic.twitter.com/cxQkJ89254
— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) September 4, 2016
1. He’s damn good at his job
Nick Saban didn’t need to take a chance on an inconsistent head coach who seemed to have attitude problems. The Crimson Tide could have kept winning national titles without any issue, but Saban decided he needed to evolve with college football and hired Kiffin.
Since then, Kiffin has completely revamped Alabama’s offense, adding spread and tempo concepts to complement the traditional power run that creates star running backs in Tuscaloosa. Seeing Kiffin continue to improve is infuriating for SEC fans.
Other fan reaction –
There are few people I hate more than Lane Kiffin BUT HE STILL LOSES BC HIS SON IS NAMED KNOX I will always love that
— Annie Davis (@heyannie27) October 15, 2016
— Sports Dude™ (@ImTheSportsDude) October 15, 2016
Hey @Lane_Kiffin still want to trash talk Barnett? You're surrounded by over 100,00 people who hate you. Go back to Tuscaloosa.
— Annika Simpkins (@annika_simpkins) October 15, 2016
How Lane Kiffin gets in and out of Knoxville in one piece is beyond me. GB?
— Nathan Holz (@HolzNathan) October 15, 2016
Anybody else wildly irritated the announcers are spending time talking about Lane Kiffin? Guess I still have hate in my heart there. #Vols
— Julie Ann Emery (@julieannemery) October 15, 2016