USC head coach Lane Kiffin said he doesn't care about a past comment… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
New USC receivers coach Tee Martin and the man who hired him, Lane Kiffin, both laughed when asked about comments Martin made two years ago after Kiffin bolted from Tennessee to USC.
Kiffin’s exit, after only 14 months in Knoxville, Tenn., sent Volunteers alums and fans into an uproar.
Martin, the quarterback for Tennessee’s 1998 national championship team, told the Sporting News at the time that he was “embarrassed by the timing of it all” and that Kiffin “wanted everyone to buy into what he was selling, and then he left after one year.”
Kiffin said this week that he was unaware of Martin’s comments until Martin brought them up during a daylong interview on campus on Feb. 13.
“He said, ‘I want to let you know that was kind of out of context,’” Kiffin said. “But really, I could care less about what he said back then.”
Martin, 33, said it was difficult to leave his job as receivers coach and passing game coordinator at Kentucky, but the chance to work at USC under Kiffin was too attractive.
“I remember when Coach Kiffin did his first interview in Tennessee -- I was one of the first people he called once he got off the podium,” Martin said. “I respected that. So when he left, I was upset about the move. It was just about the timing.
“He was doing good things…. If he had stayed, then my alma mater was going to be good. At the time everybody was emotional around the Tennessee family and I made emotional comments. Now we’re grown men and I have an opportunity to work for him. He’s my boss now and all is good.”
Martin said that although he is from Southeastern Conference territory, he grew up watching former Trojans stars Rodney Peete, Keyshawn Johnson and Curtis Conway on television.
“When you grow up in the South,” he said, “USC is the one school in the West you know about.”
Still, he was wavering about whether to move his family to California once Kiffin offered him a job.
That was until Kiffin’s wife Layla closed the deal by calling Martin’s wife, Toya, a recording artist who had a 2001 hit “I Do” and was familiar with Los Angeles from recording and touring.
“Once Layla called my wife,” Martin said, laughing, “it was over.”
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