Houston board of regents chairman Tilman Fertitta said Friday night that Lane Kiffin was never close to becoming the Cougars’ head coach, stating that Kiffin “was not a safe hire.”
Multiple reports late this week stated that Lane Kiffin was on the verge of being named Houston’s head coach. Apparently, that wasn’t the case.
The school’s board of regents chairman Tilman Feritta called into the the “Gallant At Night” sports radio show on KILT-AM in Houston on Friday night and said Kiffin never was offered the job and that the two sides did not enter contract negotiations.
Fertitta was part of the committee that interviewed Kiffin, who has been linked to multiple jobs along the coaching carousel. Houston promoted offensive coordinator Major Applewhite to head coach Friday, replacing Tom Herman, who bolted after two seasons to take the job at Texas.
“Lane Kiffin did not show me anything that Major Applewhite did not show me,” Fertitta said on the show. “Sure, he’s been a head coach and he’s been an OK head coach, but I can tell you this – [Kiffin] was not a safe hire.”
Fertitta said he originally did not intend to hire internal candidates Applewhite or defensive coordinator Todd Orlando, who was named interim coach immediately following Herman’s departure. Fertitta was set on hiring a “brand-name coach” and confirmed that Kiffin, former LSU coach Les Miles and Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley all interviewed for the job before Houston ultimately chose Applewhite.
Fertitta said Kiffin, who currently is Alabama’s offensive coordinator, didn’t stand out above the other candidates.
“He was no closer than anybody else,” Fertitta said. “Those [reports] are all put out by his agents, because that’s they way they play the game.”
Rumors also circulated that Kiffin-to-Houston was held up by the buyout amount Houston wanted in the contract, reportedly a large figure designed to prevent the next coach from leaving after two years like Herman. Fertitta denied that claim, saying Kiffin seemed prepared to accept any contract terms Houston were to offer, but official negotiations never took place.
“… [Applewhite] has great relationship with coaches and high school football in Texas. Lane does not,” Fertitta said. “That was an ‘X’ against Lane compared to Major.”