Lane Kiffin Press Conference Quotes
Jan. 13, 2010
January 13, 2010
An interview with:
COACH LANE KIFFIN
MIKE GARRETT: Whenever I think of the head football coach at USC, I think of him as being a leader. The first time I saw Lane Kiffin, I saw a leader in the making. Today I believe we have a leader who will carry on from Pete Carroll, who led us through one of the greatest periods in the history of this program.
I'd like to introduce you to the man who will lead us to continued greatness at the University of Southern California, and I have great pride in saying this, the head football coach, Mr. Lane Kiffin.
HEAD COACH LANE KIFFIN: Well, thanks, guys for coming out. Apologize that it took a little bit of time getting the family out of Knoxville. But we're extremely excited to be here. From the second that we got off the plane and the air hit us, we got on the freeway, drove over here, it was very easy to see that we're home.
Really, as we looked at this, it was a very difficult decision. One that was not easy for us. We thought a lot about it. But as we looked at being where we were at, it was a very special place we were. We're very grateful to all the people that we met there. Great relationships, especially to the athletic director, Mike Hamilton, for the opportunity he gave us.
But it became very obvious when we had the chance to come back here, we were coming back home to the greatest job in America.
So to be here today, I'm extremely fortunate, and my family, we're extremely excited to be back home.
Our number one thing that we're going to do is have a dedication to run an extremely clean, disciplined program. And that will start from today, and we'll continue that through the whole time we're here.
The staff that we put together will be the best staff in America. We have a couple of them here today, Ed Orgeron and Monte Kiffin are here today. Those are the first two members of our staff. You'll have a chance to visit with them later. We'll continue to add great members of this staff. It will take a while, bear with us. We won't get into any names out of respect to other colleges and NFL programs about what direction we're going. But I know when it's done, the Trojan family will be extremely pleased.
As I started talking to Mike about this job, and I was thinking to myself USC. And I was thinking about myself and the staff we could bring here, and it became extremely apparent to me that it's a perfect fit. And I say that because I was fortunate to be here from day one with Pete Carroll.
And I think sometimes you can be at a program when it's at the top, but you really don't understand what it's like to be there when you're at the bottom and you bring it up. And to be here from day one, coming off a 5 7 season with Coach, 6 6 our first year, and for the time I was here, five straight BCS games 4 1 in those games, was probably one of the greatest runs in football college.
So that became obvious that we knew how to take it from where it was at. We knew how to recruit here. How to develop talent here, and we knew we had the relationships that it took to be part of the Trojan family and be a championship program.
Then I looked at the recruiting aspect of it. I looked at what Coach Carroll allowed myself to do as he made me, at one point, the recruiting coordinator here and the offensive coordinator at the same time.
I had asked, Coach (Carroll), I said, Are you a little bit worried that that's too much, to be the recruiting coordinator and offensive coordinator at the same time at a great place like USC? And Coach told me, this is in preparation for you to be ready for a day like this...to be able to handle being a head coach at a major college program because of all the things that had to go together. The back to back recruiting classes and the great offense that we had when we were together here was really special and really prepared me for this date.
I also looked at it as he sent me when we first got here to do all the out of state recruiting out of California. That was extremely valuable to me. As you've seen, the great players that have come here, many have come from California. But many great players have come from out of California and around the country.
So the relationships I've been able to develop around the country and that our staff has that we'll end up bringing here, we'll be able to go anywhere in the country to get the best players to bring them here.
When I looked at our staff to talk about and Monte and Ed are here, and you'll get a chance to visit with them I wanted to make sure that I did this thing really slow. We've not only got the best coaches, but we wanted the emphasis on coaches that can develop the players.
You see all the time that guys sign great recruiting classes. You say, How come they're not winning championships? They've had great recruiting classes year after year after year. I really believe it is the development of the players and the student athlete that this staff will be able to do that we put together.
I think as it goes to recruiting and our philosophy, we're going to go anywhere to get the best players that there are, and we've got to find dynamic, explosive play makers. We've got to find guys that you've seen here for years and years and years that change the game.
So this staff will hit the road running. We'll be recruiting as soon as we can. We'll be on the road. We'll be going into every home of the best players in the country to bring them to SC.
It makes so much sense for the best players to come to USC. The tradition here, the development of the players here, an NFL offense, the NFL defense, the preparation for the NFL. And as you've seen over the last eight years, a run that's probably never been done before. How many kids have been put into the NFL by the University of Southern California?
A lot of people asked me, they said, When you got to Tennessee, you had a specific plan for that. Why was that? I said, well, I said a long time ago and I'll continue to say it. I believe every job you have, you have a specific plan of how you're going to make that job work. Depends on where you are, the school you're at, the conference that you're in.
So when I looked at it there, it is different than here. We don't need to go out and create energy about our program. We don't need to go out and grab attention because we have it.
This is a program here as you look at it as a senior in high school, I think since fifth grade, besides this year, has watched this program since fifth grade playing a BCS bowl prior to this year. So they've seen number one recruiting classes come in here. They've seen the development of Heisman Trophy winners and national championships.
So it's obvious to me, our number one thing here is to develop a student athlete and to coach football. We don't need to spend a lot of time doing other things. We need to recruit, coach football, and develop our student athletes as always and has been here since the day I've been here.
Ten years ago when I got here and I knew this would be my dream job as I got here and developed and saw the passion of SC, and the power of SC nationally, of the people around the program. That this was my dream job. And that was ten years ago. I'm here today very fortunate, and will continue to continue to do a lot of the great things that have been done here and all of our former players. We see Keyshawn in the back there. He will always be welcome back here as we continue a great tradition here. Questions?
Q. You said last night in Knoxville, you were leaving the program better than when you arrived. You have players now changing their mind. People are wondering with the events of last night, they were wondering if you could explain what you see that was improved in the program in the year that you were there?
COACH KIFFIN: Sure, we were there 14 months and it was very easy to see. The first semester there we had the highest GPA in over five years on campus for the football team. In 14 months, we had one arrest incident. On the field we improved by two wins. Improved the draft status by a number of seniors that you'll see come out of the draft from where they were when we got there, and the roster.
In our first year, we were only together for one month. It's been a long day on the plane for her, she has an excuse. We signed the Top 10 class, we signed the number one player in America, and we only had a month to do that together. So it was very easy.
As I left there last night and left that team and looked around and looked at the players that we brought in there and the future for that program, that it wasn't even close to where 14 months ago when we got there.
Q. Follow up on that. I've been asked to do some on campus reaction kind of a thing. Almost every one of them says it's not the same as it used to be. Where's the integrity now? Can you describe what it feels like? How you have to make a decision like that so quickly, and how other people will react to that?
COACH KIFFIN: Yeah. I think, first, as you go back to being at Tennessee, it is a very, very passionate place. The fan base and students are extremely passionate about sports. Especially about football.
As I look at the reaction of what happened last night, I really thought to myself. I said, you know what, they're upset that we're leaving because of what we've been doing. If they weren't upset that we were leaving, then we weren't doing anything right.
So the fact that there were a number of people upset there, because we had done so much in so little of a time. They saw where it was going. They saw the direction. It was so much excitement there, it was hard on them. And it was a hard decision for us.
As I said yesterday, I don't think there was another job I would have left for, but this is home. All three of the kids were born here. My wife loves it here. We've spent 10 of the last 11 years in California. So it became a lot easier at that point.
Q. How concerned were you that the possible NCAA sanctions that are looming will affect recruiting negatively?
COACH KIFFIN: Well, I think through my conversations I've had with people here prior to taking the job and people that have been here, I feel he very confident that it will not affect us in recruiting, and it will get resolved and we'll move forward.
Q. You talked about leaving the program, yet you had several incidents in Tennessee. How will you do things differently here?
COACH KIFFIN: When you talk about several incidences, we did have some secondary violations. I think if you look at that and you're down in the SEC and you understand down there we get a printout of conference violations. It was not a large amount of violations. It was not out of whack from the other teams in the conference.
That being said, we don't want to have any. We want to strive to have zero. I think being at Tennessee prepared me for what we need to have here, which we need to have complete attention on making sure that we are running this program with great discipline, and that we are in compliance with all the rules.
And I don't know that I could have done that 14 months ago and sat here and said I could do it as well as I could now. Because of being down there, the microscope down there in the SEC and on Tennessee. That magnifying glass that we had on us, is what we need to operate on right here right now in the situation we are here in Southern California.
Q. Did you want to say anything about Rick Neuheisel or Jim Harbaugh?
COACH KIFFIN: So you're basically saying I've been really, really boring up until this point? So Sportscenter's already turned off. Yeah, we won't let them turn back on. Um, we have great respect for every coach and every team in this conference. We're just excited to be able to play them.
Q. Do you really mean that?
COACH KIFFIN: Yes.
Q. This is obviously a package deal. Word has it that Norm Chow could join your coaching staff. Could you give us an update on that?
COACH KIFFIN: Yeah, as I said before, this staff's going to take time. We're going to put together a great staff. Out of respect to other universities and other NFL teams, I'm not giving any specifics about the search, who we're hiring. We have two coaches that we brought with us, and we're going to take our time figuring the rest out.
Q. Putting aside that aspect, what is your relationship with Norm Chow been like since he left USC?
COACH KIFFIN: I've seen Norm a couple of times. We played each other a couple of times, once in the preseason and once in the regular season maybe I bumped into him a couple of times. I think the world of Norm. And I don't have any issues with Norm.
Q. There are some who are reporting that Orgeron is already calling Tennessee recruits and trying to convince them not to register and to come here. Is that true? And if it is, is that okay?
COACH KIFFIN: First of all, I don't know if that's accurate what you've said. I've gotten off the plane and sprinted here. I'll sit down and figure that out. But the information I have is that is inaccurate.
Q. It's inaccurate?
COACH KIFFIN: Yes.
Q. How do you want to view the Tennessee recruits? How will you communicate with them?
COACH KIFFIN: There are no rules obviously about a kid being committed and going there. But I told Mike Hamilton today. He even asked me. I called him on the way to the airport. I said, I'm not going to recruit any of the players that are committed there unless they decide they don't want to go there and they call us. If they call me and he totally understands that if they were going to that place because of a head coach and assistant coach that isn't going there anymore, and they call us, then we'll look into it. But I will not be calling them until they contact us.
Q. Can you say that no one from your staff has called or contacted?
COACH KIFFIN: I cannot say that. I haven't been here.
Q. But people are saying with the staff that you're building, that anybody could coach this team. What do you think that says about the staff?
COACH KIFFIN: I think it says a lot about the staff. And my job must be really easy then if they can do it all. I think it shows the commitment of the university, by President Sample, by Max, by Mike. I think it shows the commitment to make sure they give us the resources to put together a great staff, so we can operate on a championship level like has been done here before.
Q. Can you talk about the emotional roller coaster ride you've gone through since you've left here the first time? I mean, it's a crazy road to get back here, isn't it?
COACH KIFFIN: Can I skip the first year and a half? Just go to Knoxville? No. When I left here, we were really, to me, operating on maybe the best run ever in college football. It was so exciting to see. To be here with so many great coaches, obviously with Pete, but great assistants. I really felt like there wasn't much left to do at that point in the role I was in. Offensive coordinator, recruiting coordinator, the next step was head coach.
To stay here and win another championship and put together another number one class again, I just felt it was time for the next step. I took a job that was very valuable for me to take. One that I knew would be tough. Stats show that by the coaches that were there before, but it was an experience you can't get.
I was 31 years old. To be head coach in the NFL was extremely valuable. To deal with the players and have to manage a staff of that size and all the personnel and everything that goes into an NFL team and dealing with the media, it was extremely valuable, and I would not change that decision.
After that, to go to Knoxville, Tennessee, to coach in the SEC, to play in the big games that we played in, the National Championship team, Alabama, to have them on the ropes. And really out gain them. We score a touchdown. They don't. We both kick four field goals. They make all four. We missed one.
That was a blast being there, and a great experience and helped us more and myself more for this job. To deal in that environment, and to continue to develop connections around the country with high school coaches and younger high school kids.
This job right now today is easier than December 1st when I got to Tennessee from a recruiting standpoint, because I know these kids. I had been in the NFL for two years. And I think six of our staff had come from the NFL. We didn't know any of the kids that we were trying to sign. So we had to start, get everybody together, figure it out. Go to film right away.
We know almost all these kids. Almost every kid on the board that Southern Cal's been considering, we know. We know a bunch of other kids, so that makes it a lot easier hitting the ground running.
Q. You also know a lot of your seniors next year because you recruited them and you helped build this great run. How do you feel about coaching a program that if you are not in a BCS bowl game next year, it's considered a disappointment?
COACH KIFFIN: I love it. I love the high standards of that. I like being around an environment and around people that want to be at the highest level. So that's what we've surrounded ourselves here. That's what our coaches will be like.
We're not going to hire coaches that would be happy with anything less. We're not going to recruit players that would be happy with having an average season.
So that is the expectation of the fans, the Trojan family, the former players, everyone around here. I think we fit in perfectly with that.
Q. What do you tell recruits who are worried about sanctions against the university?
COACH KIFFIN: We just tell them what we know. As we continue to research it, we tell them this is the information that we have. Which I'm not going to go into detail right now. And this is where we see it going. We just tell them the information that we have.
Q. But you tell them is there something to worry about or not?
COACH KIFFIN: It's their opinion of it. As we get the information in and it continues to develop, we just give them all the accurate information that we have, and we don't try to turn it any other direction except for what we know.
Q. You put such an emphasis on today on a clean program. I want to make sure I stand corrected. You said you didn't have time to talk to Orgeron, but you know it's inaccurate reports that he was making overtures to recruits? How do you know that?
COACH KIFFIN: I said that the way you phrased it is inaccurate from what I believe.
Q. Don't worry about the phrasing. Did he make contact with Tennessee recruits?
COACH KIFFIN: When you asked me, I responded to that. I don't know that for sure. That's inaccurate. I believe that to be inaccurate is what I said. And as I got here as I just landed and I'm going to try to develop, and go talk and figure out the situation. I do not believe it to be accurate the way you phrase that, no.
Then you asked, do you know that he has not contacted? I do not know that he has not contacted, no. I'm not going to make a statement that everyone one of the coaches on the staff have not contacted because I don't know that.
Q. You really confused me. All I asked is whether you're familiar that Orgeron has talked to your recruits. I think your response was you haven't had a chance to talk to him. Then you indicated that the comment was inaccurate. What is inaccurate?
COACH KIFFIN: I said the comment that you believed is inaccurate that he contacted the Tennessee recruits to try to talk them into leaving there.
Q. He told them don't register.
COACH KIFFIN: You know that for a fact or are you asking me?
Q. No. Do I know it as a fact, that's at the beginning of the question. That's the report. Are you aware of those, and are you aware whether or not he's done it or not?
COACH KIFFIN: You've made me aware of it.
Q. With such a convoluted answer, I can't figure out if you're saying that's inaccurate.
COACH KIFFIN: I believe that to be inaccurate what you just said; okay. That Coach Orgeron called Tennessee recruits and talked them into leaving and also not enroll for class. I believe that to be inaccurate. I have no information telling me that's happened.
I have had a conversation that I don't believe that has happened. And I'm going to go continue to try to figure it out. But like I said, I just landed off a plane, came here to have this press conference.
Q. Perfectly understand. But I'm trying to recognize your emphasis on a clean program. First words out of your mouth..trying to clean it up.
COACH KIFFIN: From my belief, I believe we are starting off a clean program. I don't have information telling me that that happened like that.
Q. Is it a fair question for people to wonder if you're a good head coach?
COACH KIFFIN: I think it's a very fair question. I think as I would evaluate, if I was hiring a head coach and I was looking at it, I would want to see what environment did he go into, what was going on, and what did he do in his time there, and I'd want to see improvement.
So you can look at his overall record and say his overall record isn't what we'd like it to be. Or you can say what was it like when he got there? You talk about two programs that he was head coach of. He went to Oakland, 2 14, having the first pick of the draft. 31st in offense. And you take that team and double the win total this your first year there. Take them from 31st to 6th in rushing. Improve the team a lot. Very competitive. Completely different than the year before.
Then you go to Tennessee. The program was 5-7 the year before. Really suffered some blowout losses to the big wigs there in Florida and Alabama. And you go there for one year. Go to 7-5.
Go down to the Swamp. Play the No. 1 team in the country. Lose by 10, but a competitive game different from the year before. You go to Alabama, comparable to the year before where it was extremely lopsided. And down there, the big rivalry. They had gotten beaten pretty handily by Georgia the year before. (No microphone).
As your question is, as I look at it, I want to look at what is happening on and off the field as far as improvement. And then I want to see what happened academically, and to have the highest GPA in five years there proved we were doing it on and off the field the right way.
Q. What do you tell recruits given that you only stayed a year after all the improvements that you just spoke of? What do you tell recruits about how long you will be here?
COACH KIFFIN: First, I explained to them exactly what I've talked about today. This is a dream job for me. This is somewhere that I was at for six years. This is a state that I went to college in. Where we had all three of our kids. This is a place that was very special to me for a long time.
Ten years ago when I first got here, as I continued to develop relationships here and see the power of SC, it became obvious to me that this was the best job in America and everybody that listened, I would tell it to.
Coaches say what's it like out there? I say it's the best place in America. I would tell them that. I'm at the best place in America, there is nowhere for me to go.
As I said, we've only hired two guys on our staff. We'll look at all options and make sure we do put together the best staff.
Q. The comments in Knoxville last night, and the passion and their reaction, do you feel like you owe any more of an explanation to Tennessee fans in the process of your decision?
COACH KIFFIN: That's a good question. I don't know how better to explain it than this. Tennessee is probably one of the Top 10, 15 programs, depending on whether you want to argue that. To me it was a Top 10 job. This is the number one job in America.
This is somewhere I had been before. This is somewhere where my children were born. This was somewhere that was very special to my wife and I, we spent a lot of time here, developed a lot of relationships.
Like I said, I don't think there is another place I would have left for. As I talk to people close to me and I said here's the situation, every one of them told me it's a no brainer. It's not even close. I don't know how to give you a better explanation than that because there is one, but I can't go into it.
There are always a lot of things into contracts, there are a lot of things into structure. There are always things how things are run around you. So I think you guys and the general public always just see records and where the place is at in the college. As you guys know, there is a lot more to that that goes into decisions when you make them.
Q. Why are you the right guy for the job? Why do you think they hired you?
COACH KIFFIN: Like I said, I think it's a perfect fit. I go back to ten years ago, and SC was coming off a 5 7 season. We got here with Coach Carroll, developed the talent, changed the roster over. We showed exactly what it took to be a championship program. Maybe make the best run in the history of college football and was right here for it.
And to have a hands on coach like Pete that develops his coaches. One of the most powerful things that Pete does is he develops his assistants. He teaches them why he does what he does. It puts you in a better position. To be the recruiting coordinator here, have number one classes, to be the offensive coordinator here. I think we scored 49 points a game, it puts you in position to do what you've done here because you've done it before.
Q. Based on the coaching staff you're assembling. Some people are referring to it as an extension of the Pete
COACH KIFFIN: If we can go to seven straight BCS bowls and go 6 1, and produce three Heisman Trophy winners, I'd love to be tagged the Pete Carroll era. I've got no problem with that. Thanks. Appreciate it.
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