Was a Lane Kiffin sequel ever in the cards at Tennessee? Kiffin says …

Lane Kiffin
Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — During the madness of Tennessee’s football coaching search, seemingly every name involved in college football was thrown out there in connection with the opening.

Mullen! Cutcliffe! Brohm! Leach! I swear I saw a message board posting asking if Knute Rockne owned any land in east Tennessee.

One of the more popular possibilities among some Tennessee fans was for the return of Lane Kiffin. Nearly eight years after students set fire to a mattress to protest Kiffin’s leaving for the USC job, some fans were chanting his name at a Vols basketball game. Pleas for Tennessee to re-hire Kiffin were even painted on The Rock.

RELATED: The oral history of the Tennessee coaching search

Did this sequel ever have a chance of happening?

I spoke with Kiffin about this and other topics for a book that will be available in June. Kiffin said UT wasn’t interested in bringing him back to Knoxville.

“What normally happens in those things is when jobs come open, there is usually communication with the agent and the athletic director,” Kiffin said in a phone interview earlier this week. “The agent says something like, ‘Hey, I got these eight to 10 guys; what do you think about this guy here or there?’ … Then the AD says, ‘I want to interview those two guys; those sound good.’

“In that conversation with (agent) Jimmy Sexton — who has a million guys obviously, so it’s not just about me, it’s about all the guys — … (then-Tennessee athletic director) John Currie says, ‘Lane will never be the head coach as long as I’m the athletics director here.’ So once he said that, I didn’t think about it. So that kind of answered that.”

Sexton also represents Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, and that’s who Currie was interested in hiring. As it turned out, a fan revolt led to the pulling of the job offer to Schiano.

RELATED: Tennessee AD Phillip Fulmer on Vols’ recruiting efforts: ‘We finished really good from where we were’

Currie was fired a few days later.

Kiffin won 11 games and a Conference USA title in his first season at FAU. He’ll get another chance at a Power Five coaching job eventually. But Tennessee in late 2017 was never going to be the place or the time.

(You can follow Mark Nagi on Twitter @MarkNagi)

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