Monte Kiffin announced in a news release Thursday night that he will leave USC after the Trojans’ bowl game next month to pursue a return to the NFL.
“I wanted to make this announcement now so that our players who are preparing for the bowl game and our recruits who will be visiting campus are aware,” Monte Kiffin said in a statement. “The chance to work for my son, Lane, was unique and memorable, but we always treated each other professionally on a coach-to-coach basis. Although things didn’t always go as well as we would have liked this year from a defensive and win-loss standpoint ... I see great things ahead for the USC football program.”
The 72-year-old Monte Kiffin is considered one of the most influential defensive coaches in recent football history, most notably constructing the famed Tampa 2 defense during his tenure as the Buccaneers’ defensive coordinator.
After 13 years at Tampa Bay, Monte Kiffin teamed up with his son at the University of Tennessee during the 2009 season, and then went along when Lane Kiffin abruptly left the Volunteers to return to USC three years ago.
But Monte Kiffin received withering criticism for USC’s defensive performance this season. USC yielded 178 points while losing four of its final five games this season, plummeting out of the Top 25 after beginning the year at No. 1.
“I respect my father’s decision and his desire to return to the NFL,” Lane Kiffin said. “We are very appreciative of the hard work and effort that he put in at USC these past three years. He has a tremendous passion for coaching young men, and he is a phenomenal recruiter. The timing of this allows us to move forward now in the hiring of a new coach.”
Monte Kiffin’s cautious defensive principles sometimes didn’t appear to work well against the spread formations and high-volume offensive schemes so common in modern college football. Monte Kiffin favors a bend-but-don’t-break philosophy that includes minimal blitzing and extensive protection against deep passes and big plays.
In a loss to Oregon on Nov. 3, USC had the worst defensive game in the history of a school that began playing football in the 19th century, giving up a school record-worst 62 points, 730 yards and nine touchdowns. A week earlier, USC yielded 613 yards in a 39-36 loss to Arizona.
UCLA then embarrassed its crosstown rivals with 513 yards of offense during a 38-28 victory on Nov. 17 — including Johnathan Franklin’s 171 yards rushing, the Bruins’ most in the rivalry game in a quarter-century.
Lane Kiffin stood behind his father’s work this season, but always in the context of the entire coaching staff’s responsibility for the Trojans’ poor season. Although Ed Orgeron holds the title of defensive coordinator at USC, Monte Kiffin ran the unit and devised its schemes while Orgeron focused on the defensive line and his work as the Trojans’ recruiting coordinator.
The Trojans haven’t yet learned their destination for their first bowl game since 2009, following a two-year postseason ban under NCAA sanctions.
Monte Kiffin has 47 years of coaching experience, including three years at North Carolina State’s head coach in the early 1980s. The Nebraska native and former Cornhuskers lineman won a Super Bowl ring with Tampa Bay in 2002.