Much to the shock of many and delight of some, Alabama announced back in January of this year that Nick Saban had hired Lane Kiffin — he of the one-and-done at Tennessee that left myriad burned SEC bridges in its wake — as his new offensive coordinator at Alabama.
Even as some praised the hiring, many more were confused, bemused, befuddled or downright giddy that such an unlikely Saban/Kiffin marriage could and would actually come to fruition. Still others were downright suspect about the move, a group that, it turns out, would include the head of Alabama’s athletic department.
In a Q&A with the Anniston Star, Bill Battle was asked about his thoughts on the hiring of Kiffin as coordinator. Much to Battle’s credit, he didn’t shy away from his initial reaction.
“My first reaction, because I didn’t know Lane, wasn’t very positive,” the AD stated bluntly.
Thanks to a little nudging from Kiffin’s new boss, however, Battle began to dig deeper into the whole “Kiffin Experience” and came away thinking highly of the hiring.
“I talked to Coach Saban about it. He asked me if I had ever met him and I said no. He said, “Why don’t you meet him?” He had him in for a visit, I spent about an hour with him and I was very impressed. I followed up and talked to several different people. I called (athletics director) Pat Haden at Southern California. I talked to David Blackbird, who’s the AD at UT-Chattanooga. David was the compliance officer for football at Tennessee when Lane was there. They both told me that they thought he would be a great fit here, and I got really comfortable with it. Now that I’ve spent a fair amount of time with Lane, I’m really impressed. Our players are impressed and I think our coaches are impressed with how he’s gone about things. I think he’ll be very successful here.”
Whether Battle — or even Saban — feel the same way about the addition a year from now remains to be seen. Then again, if Kiffin can rebuild his battered image with a successful stint in Tuscaloosa, he may not be around for long as another head coaching gig could be just around the corner for a coach who won’t turn 40 until May of next year.