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Nick Saban replaces Lane Kiffin heading into national title game

By The Sports Xchange

Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban signals a touchdown against the Washington Huskies during the 2016 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl NCAA semifinal playoff at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on December 31, 2016. Photo by David Tulis/UPI
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Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban disputes a call during the second half of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl NCAA playoff semifinal football game against the Washington Huskies in Atlanta, December 31, 2016. Alabama defeated Washington 24-7. Photo by David Tulis/UPI
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Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick (29) intercepts the ball from the Washington Huskies late in the second half of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl NCAA playoff semifinal football game in Atlanta, December 31, 2016. Alabama defeated Washington 24-7. Photo by David Tulis/UPI
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Alabama coach Nick Saban decided to go with his new offensive coordinator for the College Football Playoff title game, announcing Lane Kiffin will not be coaching the offense when the Crimson Tide face Clemson next Monday night.
Kiffin who accepted the head-coaching job at Florida Atlantic University last month, was expected to continue at Alabama through the playoff run after Saturday's 24-7 win over Washington in the Peach Bowl semifinal game.
Steve Sarkisian, who already had been named Kiffin's successor, will immediately take over play-calling responsibilities for the championship game.
"We made the decision because it was in the best interest of our players, our program and for Lane for him to assume his duties at Florida Atlantic," Alabama coach Nick Saban told ESPN on Monday. "We mutually agreed that this was best for both programs."
Kiffin was late to several events in the past week leading up to the Peach Bowl and some Alabama staff members said they "were done with him," sources told ESPN's Brett McMurphy.
Saban discussed the circumstances that led to the surprise change at offensive coordinator as Alabama seeks its fifth national title in the last eight years.
"I think the way we went about the last game, whether it was the preparation or the practice, being able to focus on what we had to do for our team, relative to the distractions that occur when you're trying to hire a staff and recruit to another place," Saban told ESPN. "He did the best he could. It's a difficult circumstance. We certainly wish him well."
Kiffin released a statement through Alabama.
"After going through these last couple of weeks, trying to serve the best interests of two universities as an offensive coordinator and a 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," Kiffin said. "After meeting with Coach Saban during preparations last night and this morning, we mutually decided that it was in everyone's best interests for the players and the program for Coach Sarkisian to take over all responsibilities as offensive coordinator for the championship game."
Alabama was 40-3 in three seasons with Kiffin calling offensive plays.
"This wasn't an easy decision and we appreciate the way Lane handled this in terms of doing what is best for our team," Saban said earlier in a statement.
Kiffin appeared on "The Paul Finebaum Show" later Monday and offered his own explanation.
"I re-watched the game a couple times last night and I was kind of thinking, 'I don't feel like we played great.' ... It was just ... I was wondering was I always there because you are bouncing between two jobs," Kiffin said. "You're interviewing guys at night, calling recruits at night. I was just talking with coach. That game, we had a month to prepare for doing both things. Now we have a little over a week for this game. Coach and I were just kind of bouncing it around and just felt that really, for the players, that you can do (two jobs) 100 percent. You try.
"... So as we discussed it, just felt like Sark and I are so similar, we kind of speak the same language, call games the same way, that he would probably give us the best chance to win because 100 percent of his mind all day long is on the game."
Kiffin said he'll always think of his time at Alabama as "awesome."
"When we signed the paper three years ago to come here, that initial contract, I don't know that anybody could have imagined it would go this good with three SEC championships, three SEC Offensive Player of the Year (winners) and now got one game left to win back-to-back national championships."

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