Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kiffin Confirms He's Leaving Bucs For Tennessee
ATLANTA - Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin finally told the football world Sunday what most of its residents have suspected for weeks - he's leaving the team at the end of the season to join his son Lane at the University of Tennessee. Kiffin informed the Bucs' hierarchy, his staff of assistant coaches and his players of his decision Wednesday after making up his mind the weekend before. "I tried to be honest with everybody all along, and when I told you I didn't know at one point, when the speculation came out, it's because I did not know at that time what I was going to do," Kiffin said. "I really didn't. I made the decision last weekend and it was very, very hard, because of our players and our fans. When you've been at a place since 1996, you know, you don't just jump ship." In his 13 years with the Bucs, Kiffin has established himself as perhaps the preeminent defensive coordinator in football. His defensive units have finished ranked in the top 10 in points allowed and yards allowed 10 times in the past 11 years, an NFL record.Kiffin called the Bucs franchise his "alma mater," but he said the opportunity to coach with Lane was too much to pass up. "It just boiled down to, it was your son and that's what it is," he said. "When I told the team, I said this is kind of like, well, there's a lot of really good fathers in that room." The players have had a few days to absorb the news but it was obvious most had mixed feelings. While all support Kiffin's decision, they can't help but wonder how the change will affect them. "It's his decision and it's a great decision for him," cornerback Ronde Barber said. "He hasn't left yet and as long as he hasn't left, I'm going to continue to enjoy Monte being here," linebacker Derrick Brooks said. Kiffin's defense has struggled the past two weeks, but Kiffin said his focus has been solely on the opponents the Bucs have faced and the ones they have coming up. "Let me tell you something right now," Kiffin said. "At that time [when he told the team of his decision] I hadn't called a recruit for Tennessee and I still haven't called a recruit for Tennessee. "My focus has been on the Atlanta Falcons and my focus next week will be on the San Diego Chargers and then the Oakland Raiders. That's just who I am. I'm not recruiting. "I'm telling our players to keep their heads up. It's not about the Tennessee Vols, with all due respect. All I care about is getting back to One Buc Place and getting going."
Reporter Roy Cummings can be reached at (813) 259-7979.
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