Staff photo by Angela Lewis UT coach Lane Kiffin, left, and his father, defensive coordinator Monty Kiffin, right, watch the field during the game against Vanderbilt at Neyland Stadium on Saturday.
By hiring his father as defensive coordinator, University of Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin had an opportunity for more family bonding.
With the Volunteers preparing for Saturday's regular-season finale at the University of Kentucky, it hasn't worked out that way.
"It's pretty much all work," Lane Kiffin said. "Except for when Mom needs more tickets. Then he comes to me and asks me."
Lane and Monte Kiffin, who are together at Thanksgiving for the first time in 15 years, are the latest in a busy decade of father-son coaching combinations in Southeastern Conference football.
University of South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has employed Steve Spurrier Jr. as his receivers coach over the past five seasons, and the school's former coach Lou Holtz had son Skip on his offensive staff.
Former University of Georgia coach Jim Donnan hired his son Todd as quarterbacks coach in April 2000, but the two were unemployed eight months later after the Bulldogs lost to the University of Florida, Auburn University and Georgia Tech.
"Todd was more concerned about me," Jim Donnan said. "That had never happened to me before, and it's a tough thing for all the families involved."
There have been father-son coaching combinations this decade in SEC basketball as well. Current Auburn and former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach Jeff Lebo has his father Dave on staff, and former Georgia basketball coach Jim Harrick was joined on the bench by Jim Harrick Jr.
The Harricks were fired in 2003 after running afoul of NCAA rules and landing the Bulldogs on four years' probation.
Father-son coaching alliances "can go either way," Steve Spurrier said. "It depends on if you're winning or losing or how that particular phase is playing -- the offense or defense and so forth. I think that's really when it becomes a problem, obviously."
Steve Spurrier gave his son more play-calling duties last year and gave him the added title of passing-game coordinator before this season, but he has taken back some of the calls this season.
Skip Holtz was his father's offensive coordinator in 2000-01, when the South Carolina Gamecocks won consecutive Outback Bowls over Ohio State University, but he was demoted to quarterbacks coach by his dad after a 63-17 loss to Clemson University in 2003.
Because the Kiffins spend their hours on opposite sides of the ball, there is less chance of such awkward decisions. Tennessee has a 6-5 record after going 5-7 last season, and Lane Kiffin credits his father for having an immediate impact.
"We gave up one defensive touchdown combined in the three weeks we played Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina," Kiffin said. "The play has been unbelievable to be in the first year of a system and to have so many injuries to work through. That's been great, and it's been unbelievable from the recruiting aspect, too.
"When kids come here and meet him, and he sits down and shows them how he can coach them and get them to the next level, the reaction has been unbelievable. We're even having to put offensive recruits with him, because they're so blown away by him."
Before Lane Kiffin hired his father and brother-in-law, quarterbacks coach David Reaves, the Tennessee athletic department changed its reporting structure for assistant coaches to avoid conflicting with the university's nepotism policy. Instead of reporting to the head coach, Vols assistants now report to the football operations director, who reports to a senior administrator.
To avoid Georgia's nepotism policy, Todd Donnan was hired to a joint employment position in the athletic association's development office. He worked as one of the nine on-field assistant coaches but also assisted with fundraising.
"We had a good relationship that was a little bit different from the standpoint that I got to coach him in college, too," Jim Donnan said. "I learned a lot from him as a coach because he had a tendency to tell me more than most quarterbacks would, and the same thing was true when we were coaching.
"I wish it had worked out longer, but I'm glad we had that time together."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...