In a recent interview, Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin opened up about his departure from Tennessee football in 2010, which led to one of the most memorable controversies on Rocky Top post-1998.
“It’s not like I was at Tennessee going, ‘OK, there’s 20 better jobs, and when one opens, I’m going,’” Kiffin said in an interview with Blake Toppmeyer of the USA Today Network.
Toppmeyer took Kiffin down memory lane and discussed one of his most notable moments while at Tennessee. Specifically, Toppmeyer asked Kiffin where he thought he might be coaching today had the USC job never opened up.
“If you’re at Tennessee, outside of USC, because of how special it was to me, I don’t know where you would go,” Kiffin continued on to say in the interview with the Clarion-Ledger.
So, there it is.
Ultimately, it’s near impossible to predict where a career could have ended up with the historical hindsight of that time period. Especially when there are over 10 years in between.
Plus, Kiffin did not turn USC into a powerhouse and is not still there steering the ship today. Kiffin has had his own weird and winding route through the college football landscape during that time.
What is easier to predict, however, is how the early 2010s would have gone without the immediate chaos. Even if Kiffin still didn’t wind up the long-term answer for Tennessee, multiple program-altering decisions and years might have gone differently (for better or for worse, who’s to say).
After Kiffin left in early 2010, Derek Dooley took over the head coaching role for the Vols. Dooley coached at Tennessee from 2010 to 2012.
According to Toppmeyer in the article, Kiffin did mention that had the USC job not open up that year, then he would have returned to Tennessee.
So all in all, it’s hard to say where Tennessee or Kiffin would be had the USC job not opened up after the 2009 season. But after his interview, there is a new interesting question to ponder.
Where would Tennessee be if the Dooley domino had never even been placed on the table?