Alabama coach Nick Saban decided to go with his new offensive coordinator for the College Football Playoff title game, announcing Lane Kiffin will not be coaching the offense when the Crimson Tide face Clemson next Monday night.
Kiffin who accepted the head-coaching job at Florida Atlantic University last month, was expected to continue at Alabama through the playoff run after Saturday’s 24-7 win over Washington in the Peach Bowl semifinal game.
Steve Sarkisian, who already had been named Kiffin’s successor, will immediately take over play-calling responsibilities for the championship game.
“We made the decision because it was in the best interest of our players, our program and for Lane for him to assume his duties at Florida Atlantic,” Alabama coach Nick Saban told ESPN on Monday. “We mutually agreed that this was best for both programs.”
Kiffin was late to several events in the past week leading up to the Peach Bowl and some Alabama staff members said they “were done with him,” sources told ESPN’s Brett McMurphy.
Saban discussed the circumstances that led to the surprise change at offensive coordinator as Alabama seeks its fifth national title in the last eight years.
“I think the way we went about the last game, whether it was the preparation or the practice, being able to focus on what we had to do for our team, relative to the distractions that occur when you’re trying to hire a staff and recruit to another place,” Saban told ESPN. “He did the best he could. It’s a difficult circumstance. We certainly wish him well.”
Kiffin released a statement through Alabama.
“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,” Kiffin said. “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.”
Alabama was 40-3 in three seasons with Kiffin calling offensive plays.
“This wasn’t an easy decision and we appreciate the way Lane handled this in terms of doing what is best for our team,” Saban said earlier in a statement. “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.”
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