Tennessee sets its sights on Kiffin

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton took some heat from donors and boosters for announcing Phillip Fulmer's firing before the season had ended.

That said, the last thing Hamilton is going to do is upstage Fulmer's final game at Tennessee, which is being dubbed "Phillip Fulmer Appreciation Day" on Saturday against Kentucky.

With reports circulating Wednesday that former Oakland Raiders coach Lane Kiffin had been offered the Tennessee job, Hamilton was adamant that he hadn't offered the job to anybody.

In the end, that may be just a formality.

The 33-year-old Kiffin has been at the forefront of Tennessee's search for some time, and barring some sort of snag in the process, will likely be announced as the Vols' next coach early next week.

Already, Kiffin has been talking to people about coming with him, including his father, Monte Kiffin. The elder Kiffin is the defensive coordinator with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and one of the foremost defensive minds in all of football.

Getting his dad to come with him would be a coup, and it's not all that farfetched, either. Sure, Monte Kiffin makes far more with the Bucs than Tennessee could ever afford to pay him, but the lure of getting the whole family back together again may be too hard to pass up.

Kiffin has also talked with former Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron, who's now an assistant on the New Orleans Saints' staff. Orgeron and Kiffin worked together on the Southern California staff earlier this decade, and both are renowned for their recruiting abilities.

How realistic it is that Kiffin would be able to get both his father and Orgeron remains to be seen. Orgeron may also have some other opportunities, possibly at LSU if Les Mies makes some changes on his defensive staff.

The Vols gauged the interest of a wide array of coaches, including current NFL head coaches Jon Gruden and Lovie Smith and former NFL coach Bill Cowher.

Kiffin, though, emerged as the leader from a short list that also included Cincinnati's Brian Kelly and TCU's Gary Patterson.

And you want to talk about great ironies.

Kiffin is 5-15 as a head coach in 1 ½ seasons with the Raiders (albeit an impossible situation with Al Davis) and would be replacing a guy who's 151-52 in 17 seasons and was in the SEC Championship Game last season ... and got fired.