Jim Wyatt, The Tennessean
The Titans on Monday filed a lawsuit against the University of Southern Cal and head coach Lane Kiffin for "maliciously" interfering with the contract of running backs coach Kennedy Pola.
The lawsuit was filed in Davidson County Chancery Court and it claims Pola breached his contract with the Titans after being induced by Kiffin. Pola, hired by the Titans in January, was hired by USC over the weekend as the school's new offensive coordinator.
The lawsuit states "as a result of USC and Kiffin's tortuous conduct, Tennessee (Titans) football has been damaged in an amount proven at trial.''
Titans officials could not be reached for comment on Monday. USC officials also could not be reached for comment.
Over the weekend, Coach Jeff Fisher, a former Southern Cal player, sounded off against Kiffin, who formerly coached at the University of Tennessee, for recruiting Pola without first asking for permission to speak to him.
"I am very disappointed in Lane Kiffin's approach to this,'' Fisher said on Saturday. "Typically speaking when coaches are interested in hiring or discussing potential employment from coaches on respective staffs there is a courtesy call made from the head coach or athletic director indicating there is an interest in talking to the assistant.
"So I am very disappointed in the lack of professionalism on behalf of Lane, to call me and leave me a voice mail after Kennedy had informed me he had taken the job. It is just a lack of professionalism.''
According to the lawsuit, "USC and Kiffin maliciously intended to - and did - induce Pola to breach his contract with the Titans. The lawsuit alleges "USC and Kiffin engaged in improper means in their procedure of the breach and were not legally justified in their actions.''
According to the lawsuit, Pola agreed he would "not under any circumstance solicit discussions or entertain employment with any other person or entity during the term without given written permission to do so,'' under the terms of his contract with the Titans. Pola was not given written consent by the Titans.
"Kiffin and USC's actions through him were part of a course and pattern of conduct fostered by Kiffin and USC to use improper methods and means to the direct harm and damage of parties to contract, to interfere with an existing contract includes the breach thereof,'' the lawsuit reads.
The controversial Kiffin was hired as USC's football coach in January after serving as the head coach at the University of Tennessee for one season.
In January, Fisher hired Pola after firing running backs coach Earnest Byner, a move that raised some eyebrows, especially after Titans running back Chris Johnson led the NFL with 2,006 rushing yards in 2009. But Fisher said he couldn't pass up an opportunity to hire Pola, who had an expiring contract with the Jaguars. Pola's contract with the Titans wasn't set to expire until February, 2011.
Kiffin released a statement on Saturday giving his chain of events leading to the hiring. Kiffin could not be reached for comment on Monday.
"We reached out to Kennedy Pola yesterday to gauge whether he had any possible interest in returning to USC before we moved forward with the process," Kiffin said in a statement released by USC.
"Kennedy said he would think about it and get back to us (Saturday). Once Kennedy did call back earlier today, out of my great respect for Coach Fisher I immediately reached out to Coach to make him aware of the situation. I have spoken with Coach Fisher and he now has an accurate understanding of the timeline of events.
"We realize the timing of this isn't perfect for all parties, but this is a great opportunity and promotion for Kennedy."
Fisher said he plans to hire Pola's replacement from a member on his current staff.