The Nick Saban-Lane Kiffin arrangement was a success beyond both sides’ wildest dreams that ended the only way it could end — abruptly and confusingly, fueled by years of dust ups.
As we know, in three years on Saban’s staff Kiffin helped Alabama win three straight SEC championships and reach three straight College Football Playoffs with three SEC Offensive Players of the Year at three different positions. The arrangement ended last season between Alabama’s CFP semifinal win over Washington and its championship loss to Clemson, with Kiffin off to the head coaching job at Florida Atlantic.
But we’re just now getting some of the stories behind the breakup, the cracks in the wall we could only see from far away when the whole thing burst in two.
First, there’s this story from former Crimson Tide defensive lineman Jonathan Allen. Making the rounds before the NFL Draft, Allen told ESPN Radio’s Russillo & Kanell the Alabama defense would spend its practices trying to goad Saban into screaming at Kiffin, and the head coach would often oblige.
“At practice… it was our goal to see how many times we could get Coach Saban to MF Kiffin. I mean that was our goal,” Allen said, via SDS. “We would just try to blow it up and just destroy it and kill the offense and then you would know Kiffin’s just…gonna get it, after you just blow it up in the backfield. That’s probably the most fun we had at Alabama during practice this year, just watching Coach Saban lay into Kiffin.”
Turns out that Kiffin didn’t like being Saban’s verbal punching bag.
“Kiffin was the only guy I’ve ever seen respond to Coach Saban, but I mean at the end of the day, Coach Saban, it’s his world, so he’s gonna get the last word,” Allen said.
In an interview with SiriusXM’s College Sports station on Wednesday, Kiffin said he wouldn’t treat his assistants the way Saban treated him.
“No, that’s not really how I do it. Greg (McElroy) knows about those,” Kiffin said via AL.com. “Those things come up, and everybody has different ways of dealing with them. It’s just not really how I do it. I’m not really big on humiliating assistant coaches in front of everybody. I write down notes. In the staff meeting, I explain what we want to get done.”