The Wolfpacker

July-August 2020 Issue

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 48 of 51

JULY/AUGUST 2020 ■ 49 plane and told me to get back to Raleigh, they wanted to offer me the job," Kiffin said. He was eager to get started and to playfully compete for attention on campus with NC State's other new head coach, Jim Valvano, who had just taken over as men's basketball coach for the departed Norm Sloan. In the early days, Kiffin won out with antics that caught the eye of local and national m e d i a , e s p e c i a l l y when he took his team to play national powers like Penn State and Miami and the ACC powers of the time, Maryland, Clemson and North Carolina. Kiffin's first team finished 6-5, thanks in part to a win over un- ranked Clemson and back-to-back victories over Duke and East Carolina to end the season. In his second season, Kiffin's Pack won four of its first five games and was leading fourth-ranked and de- fending ACC champion North Carolina 10-0 at the half, when Kiffin made a coaching decision that haunted the rest of his stay in Raleigh. After noticing that the Tar Heel blockers would always drop im- mediately back on every kickoff, Kiffin called for an onside kick to start the second half at Carter-Finley Stadium. The kick took one hop into the arms of a UNC blocker, and the Tar Heels scored just a few plays later to completely shift the game's momentum in a 21-10 victory. The Wolfpack didn't win another game that season. In his third cam- paign, the Wolfpack lost games to five op- ponents that were all ranked at one point in the season: Maryland, North Carolina, Clemson, Penn State and Miami. It didn't help that Tigers coach Danny Ford, whose team won the school's first national championship in 1981 and immediately drew the attention of NCAA investigators, accused Kiffin and his staff of turning the Tigers in for violations. At midfield of Carter-Finley, the two coaches got into a heated exchange that was caught on audio tape. "My ass you didn't turn us in," Ford said. "I didn't tell them. … I didn't tell them," Kiffin answered. "Who did?" Ford asked. "I never did," Kiffin said. "I never turned you in. … They came up here. I don't know." Afterwards, the two coaches seethed over the in- cident, especially when the tape was played on local airwaves. Kiffin maintained he never reported Clem- son to the NCAA. "But if I had," he said back then, "I wouldn't have been wrong." The next week, the Wolfpack whipped South Caro- lina, but bookend blowout losses to Penn State (54-0) and Miami (41-3) with a win over Duke in between put Kiffin's job in jeopardy. "We needed one more year," Kiffin said. "We thought we could be successful. We had a good team coming back." Immediately after the season, Kiffin asked for a one-year contract extension while some of the school's biggest donors pressured Casey to make a coaching change. Eventually, Kiffin chose to resign after he got salary guarantees for his assistants. At the time, he cited the lack of athletic administra- tion support. Even today, while he holds no grudges against the late Casey, he believes that to be true. "I'll be honest with you, we didn't win enough games," Kiffin said. "But, with all respect to Mr. Casey, when I was hired, he was sick in the hospital and I was always the guy he didn't hire." Kiffin was never a head coach again. He went to the NFL, where he became one of the most influential defensive minds in college and pro football history. He currently serves as a player personnel analyst for his old- est son Lane, who is set to begin his first year as the head coach at Mississippi after three years at Florida Atlantic. His youngest son Chris, who was born in Raleigh during Kiffin's NC State tenure, is the defensive line coach for the NFL's Cleveland Browns. ■ After going 16-17 at NC State, Kiffin made several coaching stops in the NFL, where he became one of its most well-known defensive coordinators and the father of the "Tampa Cover 2" defense. PHOTO COURTESY NC STATE MEDIA RELATIONS " I've got a little Lou Holtz, a little Bo Rein and a lot of Monte Kiffin in me. " Kiffin during his introductory press conference at NC State in December 1979

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolfpacker - July-August 2020 Issue