|Lane Kiffin was named Florida Atlantic’s head coach in December. (Getty)|
Kiffin out as Alabama OC, Sarkisian to coach title game
Lane Kiffin will leave his position as Alabama offensive coordinator and will not coach in the team's College Football Playoff National Championship Game against Clemson, the school announced on Monday.
Steve Sarkisian will assume coordinator duties effective immediately, the school said.
Alabama will take on the Tigers next Monday seeking their fifth national title in the last eight years.
Kiffin, who has spent the last three seasons as the Alabama offensive playcaller, accepted the head coaching job at Florida Atlantic University last month. Sarkisian was hired as the school's new OC after Kiffin was hired at FAU after being an analyst for most of the season for the Crimson Tide.
"We appreciate all that Lane has done for our football program over the last three years," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. "We sat down following the Washington game and talked about the demands of managing both jobs, and we recognized that it is best for our players, and Lane, that we allow him to turn his full attention to his new head coaching job at FAU."
Lane Kiffin will not coach for Alabama in national championship game
Alabama will have a new offensive coordinator in the College Football Playoff title game.
The program announced Monday that Lane Kiffin will immediately move on to his new role as head coach of Florida Atlantic. With that move, which Tide head coach Nick Saban said on ESPN was a decision reached mutually on both sides, Steve Sarkisian will assume the role of offensive coordinator against Clemson.
“We appreciate all that Lane has done for our football program over the last three years,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “We sat down following the Washington game and talked about the time demands of managing both jobs, and we recognized that it is best for our players, and for Lane, that we allow him to turn his full attention to his new head coaching role at FAU.
“This wasn’t an easy decision and we appreciate the way Lane handled this in terms of doing what is best for our team. At the end of the day, both of us wanted to put our players in the best position to be successful. Obviously, we are in a unique situation here where we have our next offensive coordinator already on staff. We have full confidence that Sark will step in right away and make this a smooth transition.”
Kiffin, who has been the OC at Alabama the last three seasons, accepted the head-coaching gig at Florida Atlantic last month but said he would stay on with Alabama through its College Football Playoff run. On Dec. 16, Alabama announced that Sarkisian, who has been an offensive analyst for the program this season, would succeed Kiffin as the Tide’s offensive coordinator in 2017. Now, he’ll assume those duties earlier than we thought — and on the biggest stage.
“After going through these last couple of weeks, trying to serve the best interests of two universities as an offensive coordinator and a head coach, it became apparent that both programs would be better served by me giving all my time and efforts to being the head coach at FAU,” said Kiffin.
“After meeting with Coach Saban during preparations last night and this morning, we mutually decided that it was in everyone’s best interests for the players and the program for Coach Sarkisian to take over all responsibilities as offensive coordinator for the championship game. This was a very difficult decision, but it’s a decision made in the best interests of the program. I look forward to helping Alabama win another championship, and would like to thank Coach Saban, the staff, and all the players and fans for the past three years at UA for an unforgettable time and championship run. Roll Tide!”
Kiffin coached the Alabama offensive in Saturday’s College Football Playoff semifinal win over Washington. The Tide won 24-7, but struggled on offense with just 17 points (Alabama also scored on a pick-six) and 57 passing yards. Throughout the game, Saban seemed frustrated with Kiffin and his play-calling. Alabama punted eight times in the game, including three straight times to end the first half and four straight times to open the second half.
The offense finally broke through when Bo Scarbrough reeled off a 68-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 24-7. Scarbrough rushed for 180 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.
There was apparently more behind Kiffin’s departure than just play-calling, however.
Lane Kiffin disputes that his exit from Alabama was full of drama
Lane Kiffin's surprising, sudden departure from Alabama one week before the national championship vs. Clemson was an unprecedented move. Kiffin, Alabama's offensive coordinator the past three seasons, already had one foot out the door anyway because of his new responsibilities as Florida Atlantic's coach. However, the timing and gravity of Kiffin parting ways with Alabama sparked a new set of reports and rumors.
Specifically, the growing consensus was that the relationship between Kiffin and coach Nick Saban had deteriorated -- and that the Tide's inconsistent offensive showing during a 24-7 victory over Washington in the College Football Playoff semifinal was a reflection of that.
It's no secret that Kiffin had a full plate trying to game plan for Alabama's playoff run while attempting to build his program at FAU. Splitting time between two jobs is tough for anyone. Ultimately, Kiffin agreed with Saban's comments on ESPN earlier Monday that balancing the two gigs negatively affected the Tide's game plan over the weekend. After the two met, they decided it was best for Kiffin to move on.
"Coach and I spent some time together last night and then again this morning and bounced things around." Kiffin said on SEC Network. "We reflected on the preparation for the game and trying to do both jobs. I thought it would be easier than it was.
"I rewatched the game a couple of times and I don't feel like we played great," Kiffin continued. "Those things happen. We ran the ball well, didn't turn it over. But I was wondering: 'Was I always there?' Because you are balancing two jobs, calling recruits at night."
According to Kiffin, the decision to leave one week before the title game was done with the players' interest "100 percent" in mind. The transition from Kiffin to Steve Sarkisian, the one-time coach and Kiffin's successor at USC, could benefit from the fact that Sarkisian has been on the staff for several months already.
"I just felt Sark and I are so similar. We speak the same language, call games the same way. He would give us the best chance to win because 100 percent of the day his mind would be on the game," Kiffin said. "I'll help any way I can. I can watch film and talk to Sark, but it's best for the players for Sark to call the game."
Kiffin also dismissed the notion that the eventful nature of his departure was a reflection on him with an ever-growing list of unceremonious endings with other programs.
"I can't worry about that," Kiffin said. "This is something 10 years ago I wouldn't have come up with, signing a contract here. The stuff out there, too, last year -- 'there's no way this is going to work [with him and Saban]' -- it wasn't true."
Finally, Kiffin disputed the ESPN report that Kiffin was late to meetings and wasn't enjoying his time at Alabama.
"That's not true," Kiffin said. "The missing the bus thing -- the media was there. We're sitting there at media day and I did everything I was supposed to do. I went out and bus had left. They had other cars there. That got kinda blown up. There were no distractions."
Kiffin ended the interview by saying his time at Alabama was "awesome" and ended with a "Roll Tide."