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Alabama's Saban not interested in having Kiffin be with Tide in Tampa

New FAU head coach suggested possibility of joining team from press box

Nick Saban (right) says former offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin won't be with his team for the national championship game in Tampa.
Nick Saban (right) says former offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin won't be with his team for the national championship game in Tampa. (UA Athletics/Crimson Tide Photos)

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – Alabama head coach Nick Saban said Tuesday that his recently departed offensive coordinator won't be with the team in Tampa for the national championship game.

Lane Kiffin, who was hired last month as head coach at Florida Atlantic, told ESPN's "Mike & Mike" radio show earlier in the day that he was trying to find a way to join the top-ranked Crimson Tide in next week's College Football Playoff National Championship against Clemson.

Kiffin said he would like to be with the team, though it wouldn't be on the field at Raymond James Stadium.

"The press box would be ideal," Kiffin said.

However, Saban dispelled that notion Tuesday during a teleconference with reporters.

"No, it's really not even possible, from a legal standpoint, for him to do those things," Saban said. "That's not something that we're interested in pursuing."

Kiffin and Saban announced Monday that incoming offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian would run the offense and call plays in place of the new FAU coach. A statement attributed to Kiffin by Alabama said he and Saban "mutually decided" that it was in the best of interest of the team.

"This was not something that Nick Saban forced me to do, by any means," Kiffin said. "If I wanted to coach this game, I would have coached this game."

Saban said Sarkisian, who was fired as head coach at Southern California five games into the 2015 season, spent the fall as an analyst for the Crimson Tide, but he hasn't been directly involved with the team.

"Well, if you understand the rules, you know, he's not allowed to be involved with the team," Saban said. "They're involved in the planning. They're involved in the organization. That's where they make their contribution, in the coaching meetings. They're not really allowed to be involved with the team."

Kiffin said he has a great relationship with Saban and believes that he would have returned in 2017 had he not taken the FAU job.

However, the timing of the decision seems to raise a red flag about their relationship.

"Well, I try to make the decisions based on what's best for helping our players be successful, and at the time there was no anticipation that, or thought that, there would be any kind of problem relative to managing having two jobs at once, and when we sort of saw that that was and agreed that that was a little bit of a tough thing, then we decided to move in a different direction," Saban said.

Alabama has won 26 consecutive games with Saban at the helm and Kiffin calling the plays, including a 45-40 victory against the Tigers in last season's title game, but the offense was lackluster against No. 4 Washington in the Peach Bowl semifinal on New Year's Eve.

Running back Bo Scarbrough bailed out the offense with 180 rushing yards and two touchdowns as freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts passed for a season-low 57 yards without a touchdown.

The anemic aerial performance might have been enough to give Kiffin -- and Saban -- pause.

Kiffin said that if Alabama had lost the game because he wasn't 100 percent focused on the players, "I couldn't live with that."

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said Tuesday that he doesn't anticipate a dramatic change from Kiffin to Sarkisian.

"It's not like they're going to come out and run the triple option," Swinney said.


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