"We went to the top," Lane Kiffin said. "As we evaluated different people, we felt like this was the best defensive coordinator in all of football – college or the NFL. We were fortunate for his contract to be set up in a way where we're really the only people that could get him."
The son says his father's contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers includes a clause preventing him from leaving for another NFL or college team UNLESS that team is coached by Lane. Monte elected not to join Lane when the latter was coaching the Oakland Raiders in 2007 and 2008. That probably was due to the meddlesome nature of Raiders owner Al Davis.
When Davis fired Lane Kiffin four games into the '08 season, however, reports leaked out that the Kiffins might be interested in working together at the collegiate level. Tennessee found the package deal appealing and introduced Lane as the Vols' new head coach just two days after Phillip Fulmer guided his final game at UT.
So, there will be a father/son reunion taking place at Tennessee, although Monte Kiffin won't officially join the staff until two days after the Bucs play their final game of the 2008-09 season.
"I don't think this could have happened hardly anywhere else," Lane Kiffin said. "He never said, ‘I'm going with you wherever you go.' It had to be a special place."
After making an arctic tour that included coaching stops in Buffalo, Minnesota and Green Bay – three of the coldest places on the planet – Monte decided to finish his career in warm-weather climates. Thus, his two most recent jobs were with the New Orleans Saints and the Bucs. Knoxville's mild weather was a key factor in landing the elder Kiffin.
"It had to be a place that was warm No. 1," Lane Kiffin said. "No. 2, it had to be a place where we could have the ability to go get the best recruits. He doesn't want to come here to be mediocre. He wants to come here to win national championships."
Monte Kiffin wanted to be paid well, too. He is one of the highest-paid coordinators in football, as well as being one of the most respected coordinators.
Lane conceded that "it had to be a setup from the athletic department that would make it financially secure for him, as well."
Ultimately, the opportunity to work alongside his son at a quality college program without taking a huge pay cut from his NFL salary convinced Monte Kiffin, a former head man at North Carolina State, to return to the NCAA ranks.
"There's been people that have tried for years and years to get Monte out of Tampa," Lane Kiffin noted. "He's basically been offered two head jobs ... both jobs were just a matter of getting on the plane to go accept the job, and he turned down both of those.
"He's had a number of substantial contracts thrown at him when he was in free agency by his contract running out. Every time people have made runs at him with a lot of money, but he's always stayed there. It's really amazing to be able to pull off what we've been able to pull off."
So, what was the key to accomplishing this "really amazing" coup? Lane Kiffin summed it up in three words:
"The last name."