USC: Tobias Harris

USC-Tennessee: Kevin O'Neill's return

December, 21, 2010
12/21/10
6:58
AM PT
Kevin O'NeillAP Photo/Danny MoloshokKevin O'Neill coaches Tennesee for three seasons in the early 90's and compiled a 36-47 record.

What do Lane Kiffin and Kevin O'Neill have in common?

Well, first of all, they are friends. And they're colleagues at USC, where O'Neill coaches basketball and Kiffin football.

But they're also fellow escapees of the University of Tennessee, with both men jumping ship with years left on their contracts to coach another school.

The similarities pretty much end there. While Kiffin left in January to replace Pete Carroll and take his "dream job" at USC, O'Neill fled UT for Northwestern in 1997 after a feud with his athletic director.

At 4 p.m. PT today, O'Neill returns to Knoxville for the first time since his departure, but it doesn't exactly sound like it's the first thing on his mind -- "I don't have any feelings one way or another," he said last week, before admitting that he felt he had improved the program dramatically during his three years there -- considering the circumstances.

Those circumstances? O'Neill's team lost in heartbreaking fashion on the road to Kansas on Saturday and now faces the prospect of heading back to Los Angeles with a 0-2 road trip, 6-6 overall record and little-to-no qualifications for an NCAA Tournament bid.

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