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Thursday, May 21, 2009
Kiffin, strength coach agree to part ways

By Chris Low
ESPN.com

The buildup to Lane Kiffin's first season at Tennessee continues to be one wild and crazy ride.

He's gigged rival coaches, pried away top recruits from rival schools, infuriated an entire community with his unflattering post-signing day comments, landed a reprimand from the SEC and accumulated a handful of NCAA secondary violations along the way.

Now Kiffin has the first turnover on his staff -- all in about six months' time.

Sources told ESPN.com that Kiffin and his strength and conditioning coach, Mark Smith, met on Thursday and agreed to part ways. The details of Smith's departure as strength coach were still being finalized, and Tennessee athletic department officials declined to comment.

Smith, who was previously the strength coach at South Carolina under Steve Spurrier, was one of the first hires Kiffin made after being named the Vols' coach on Dec. 1. Smith was given a $50,000 raise to come to Tennessee, bumping his annual salary up to $190,000.

The issues that led to Smith's short stay on Kiffin's staff had been brewing for some time, sources told ESPN.com. Smith was not available for comment, but told several people in and around the football program on Thursday that he would not be back.

One possible replacement is Aaron Ausmus, the strength coach at North Texas and a former All-America shot putter at Tennessee. Ausmus was the head strength coach at Ole Miss under Ed Orgeron and also worked with Orgeron and Kiffin at Southern California as strength coach.

Ausmus was a candidate for the job when Kiffin hired Smith back in December.

Chris Low is a college football writer for ESPN.com.