And his exit from Knoxville to USC in 2010 still makes tempers boil in SEC country.
But with Alabama, Georgia and Florida still in the mix for the Bowl Championship Series title, coaches and fans across the South will be rooting for Kiffin and the Trojans on Saturday when they play top-ranked and unbeaten Notre Dame at the Coliseum.
A USC victory opens the door, perhaps, for another all-SEC title game.
Notre Dame is No. 1 in the BCS standings. A loss to the unranked Trojans could end the Fighting Irish's bid for their first national title since 1988.
Alabama is No. 2 in the BCS standings, Georgia No. 3 and Florida No. 4. All have 10-1 records, as do Oregon and Kansas State.
"I had an Alabama coach text me," Kiffin said Thursday.
Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban?
"Nick doesn't know how to text," Kiffin said. "I've texted him before."
The message from the Alabama assistant?
"Just win Saturday," Kiffin said. "Beat the Irish."
Kiffin said he also received a text message from Oregon coach Chip Kelly, who has a stake in the BCS equation.
"He said we're going to win," Kiffin said.
Kiffin is nearly three years removed from his stint at Tennessee, but he cannot escape the aftermath of his exit.
He said someone recently joked that UCLA coach Jim Mora was going to become coach at Tennessee, which fired Derek Dooley.
"I said, 'Jim just bought a house in Manhattan Beach; why would he go to Tennessee?' " Kiffin said. "They said, 'They'll do whatever it takes to hire him -- because he beat you.'"
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