Monte Kiffin is giving up the NFL to join his son on the sidelines in the Southeastern Conference. Tampa Bay's longtime defensive coordinator ended weeks of speculation, confirming he will leave the Buccaneers at the end of this season for a position on the staff of Lane Kiffin, the new coach at Tennessee.

"I think we all respect his situation. We had a pretty good indication that he was going to join his son," Bucs coach Jon Gruden said yesterday. "It's a great reunion, I think, for the Kiffin family. I'm happy for him."

Kiffin was unavailable for comment. However, he told reporters after Sunday's 13-10 overtime loss in Atlanta that he made the decision the previous weekend and informed Gruden, general manager Bruce Allen and the players last Wednesday.

"It was a very, very hard decision . . . When you've been in a place since 1996, you don't just jump ship," Kiffin said.

"I've had other opportunities. There was one that came up last year that was a great opportunity, and people don't even know for sure about the whole thing. But I stayed here, decided to sign back up for 2 years. But the club was very good about giving me the option to go with my son."

Kiffin is in his 13th season of running the Bucs' defense.

Noteworthy

* Ball State coach Brady Hoke has resigned to accept the same position at San Diego State.

Ball State went 12-1 this season, with its only loss against Buffalo in the Mid-American Conference championship game. Hoke went 34-38 in 6 years at the school, but drew national attention when his team went unbeaten into December.

It is uncertain if Hoke will coach Ball State in the GMAC bowl on Jan. 6.

Hoke replaces Chuck Long, who was fired in late November. Long was 9-27 in three seasons at SDSU.

* Connecticut tailback Donald Brown, the nation's leading rusher, will return for his senior season. Brown ran for 1,822 yards and 17 touchdowns, leading the nation with an average of more than 151 yards a game.

* Purdue defensive coordinator Brock Spack has been hired as Illinois State's next coach. *