Vols AD to move swiftly to hire coach

Updated: January 14, 2010, 11:06 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton said Wednesday he can describe Lane Kiffin's tenure coaching the Volunteers in just one word: "Brief."

Hamilton spoke at a news conference Wednesday discussing his second coaching search in less than two years after Kiffin announced Tuesday night his abrupt resignation to take the same job at USC. Kiffin, hired 14 months ago, coached one season at Tennessee and was 7-6.

According to Hamilton, Kiffin told him Saturday that if the USC job became available he would be interested. By Tuesday, Hamilton said Kiffin informed him that he was taking USC's offer.

Hamilton said he is disappointed after giving Kiffin a chance to be a head coach and said he hopes to have a football coach in place in the coming days.

"I feel like we gave him a chance and gave him a good job," Hamilton said when asked Wednesday if he felt betrayed at Kiffin's departure. "If I said I was anything less than disappointed, not personally disappointed ... I'm more disappointed for our kids and our fans."

For a replacement, Tennessee had planned to make a run at Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, a source close to the situation told ESPN.com's Chris Low. Texas has said that Muschamp will succeed Mack Brown as Longhorns head coach, but no timetable has been set for a transition. The source had said that Muschamp is Tennessee's No. 1 target.

Muschamp clarified his intentions Wednesday night to the Dallas Morning News.

"I'm happy at Texas and plan to be here for a long time," Muschamp told the News through a school football spokesman.

Other coaches Hamilton may consider include Duke coach and former Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe and East Carolina coach Skip Holtz.

TCU coach Gary Patterson told ESPNDallas.com on Wednesday night that neither he nor his agent had been contacted by Tennessee.

Hamilton said he could not foresee a scenario in which former longtime coach Phil Fulmer, who was replaced by Kiffin, would become a candidate.

Hamilton said the search to replace Kiffin started Tuesday and is "full blast" under way. Tennessee has a recruit weekend scheduled for this weekend, and interim coach Kippy Brown said the Volunteers will hold the event with prospects reporting Friday.

Brown called himself a candidate for the job, and he said he expects a coach to be hired by Friday. The athletic director would commit only to having a coach hired by Sunday.

"Hopefully it's going to get done before recruiting's live again," Hamilton said.

Hamilton said he has met already with the eight recruits who enrolled early and told them to "go to class." Recruits who have begun the new semester and continue to attend class would be eligible to participate in Tennessee's spring practice.

"This is not the time [to have an opening]," Hamilton acknowledged.

National signing day for high school seniors is Feb. 3, and it remains to be seen how many verbal commitments Tennessee loses now that Kiffin has departed. According to Scouts Inc., defensive tackle Brandon Willis of Duncan, S.C., has decommitted for a second time and has given a verbal commitment to North Carolina.

Scouts Inc. also reported that defensive end Delvin Jones of Miami has decommitted and is considering written offers from Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Nebraska.

Kiffin will bring his father and defensive coordinator, Monte Kiffin, and assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron to USC with him. Orgeron was with the Trojans for seven seasons before becoming the head coach at Mississippi and then an assistant with the New Orleans Saints.

Hamilton was quizzed about how much Kiffin strayed from Tennessee traditions and about the departing coaches contacting Vols recruits, trying to lure them to Southern California.

"Nothing surprises me anymore," Hamilton said about the calls to recruits.

Before coming to Knoxville for his first job as a college head coach, the 34-year-old Kiffin coached the Oakland Raiders. Before then, he was a member of the USC coaching staff from 2001 to 2006, first as wide receivers coach and then as offensive coordinator under Pete Carroll.

Carroll left USC on Monday to become head coach of the Seattle Seahawks.

"It's good that USC acted quickly to get a coach connecting with our history," Carroll said Wednesday, according to the Los Angeles Times. "The players will feel comfortable and be able to follow some of the same kinds of lines of what they're accustomed to.

"They're going to be good -- they have the best defensive coach in the history of the world. And Lane will hit it running and take pride in recruiting and the whole deal. Lane's going to do great."

Kiffin's Tennessee contract calls for him to pay an $800,000 buyout for leaving after only one season.

Lane and Monte Kiffin and Orgeron held a news conference on Wednesday at Heritage Hall Varsity Lounge at USC.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.