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Lane Kiffin will not coach in national title game against Clemson, Alabama announces

January 2, 2017 GMT

Seven days before Clemson and Alabama will square off in Tampa for a rematch of last year’s national title game, Alabama has announced a major change to its coaching plan.

Lane Kiffin, the school’s offensive coordinator who was named the head coach at Florida Atlantic in December, will not coach in the national championship game, Alabama announced Monday.

Instead it will be incoming offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian who will assume the role Jan. 9, as Kiffin leaves the program to head to FAU.

“We appreciate all that Lane has done for our football program over the last three years,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said in a statement released by the school.

“We sat down following the Washington game and talked about the time demands of managing both jobs, and we recognized that it is best for our players, and for Lane, that we allow him to turn his full attention to his new head coaching role at FAU.”

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Kiffin’s sudden departure raises some questions about how this change might affect Alabama’s ability to handle Clemson’s dominant defense — a unit that stifled Ohio State in a 31-0 Fiesta Bowl blowout on Saturday.

Clemson’s defense is one of the best in the country, ranked No. 8 for total defense, and will be the best Alabama has seen all year since its SEC championship matchup with Florida.

Sarkisian, who worked for the Crimson Tide as an offensive analyst this season, will now only have a week with true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts ahead of the national championship.

Kiffin joined the Alabama staff in January of 2014 and was responsible for helping develop former Alabama quarterback Jake Coker and former Heisman winner Derrick Henry ahead of the Crimson Tide’s championship a season ago.

Kiffin said he and Saban met Sunday night, as well as Monday morning.

“After going through these last couple of weeks, trying to serve the best interests of two universities as an offensive coordinator and head coach, it became apparent that both programs would be better served by me giving all my time and efforts to being the head coach at FAU,” he said in a statement.

“This was a very difficult decision but it’s a decision made in the best interests of the program. I look forward to helping Alabama win another championship, and would like to thank Coach Saban, the staff, and all the players and fans for the past three years at UA for an unforgettable time and championship run.”