By Alex Norman
Lane Kiffin has been the head coach of an NFL team (Oakland).
Lane Kiffin has been the head coach of two of the all-time top 15 college programs (Tennessee, Southern California).
Lane Kiffin has been the offensive coordinator for an Alabama team that has won three straight SEC titles and is poised to win their second national championship in a row, thanks in part to his tutelage of quarterbacks.
And today, Lane Kiffin is the new head coach at Florida Atlantic University, based in that tradition rich college football hotbed of Boca Raton.
So how did this (makes quotes motion with fingers) happen? Wasn’t Kiffin’s image supposed to have been rehabilitated by now after three years working for Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa?
The answer is obviously yes, but it hasn’t worked out that way. Kiffin’s name was put into the coaching echo chamber by sports media and his agent Jimmy Sexton, but it never got any traction with the people that actually matter. The athletic directors at Power 5 conference schools simply didn’t want to take the chance.
The biggest school that Kiffin got an interview with was Houston from the American Athletic Conference. The Cougars aren’t a blueblood, but they’ve proven to be capable of hanging with the big boys. They’ve also turned into a program that serves as a springboard to Power 5 conference jobs. Art Briles (Baylor), Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M) and now Tom Herman (Texas) each spent a relatively short period of time at Houston in the past decade.
But Houston promoted offensive coordinator Major Applewhite instead of giving the reigns to Kiffin. And according to Houston’s Board of Regents Chairman Tilman Fertitta, it wasn’t that tough a decision.
“He was no closer than anybody else. Those (stories about him being close) are all put out by his agents, because that’s the way they play the game. Lane Kiffin did not show me anything that Major Applewhite did not show me,” Fertitta said to a Houston radio station. “Sure, he’s been a head coach and he’s been an OK head coach. But I can tell you this. (Kiffin) was not a safe hire.”
Kiffin never got a sniff at LSU or Oregon. He couldn’t get an interview the year before at Syracuse.
Plain and simple, Lane Kiffin is still toxic.
In many respects, Lane was born on third base in the football world. His Dad is Monte Kiffin, the legendary football coach, so Lane got his foot in the door early and often. Lane was a 31 year old Southern Cal assistant coach got the head coaching job with the Oakland Raiders in 2007. He got the gig mostly because Raiders team owner Al Davis couldn’t get Steve Sarkisian to take it. So Davis walked down the hall at Southern Cal and simply hired the next assistant he could find. Fired after a little over a year, Kiffin was hired only a couple of months later by Tennessee, and we all know how that ended.
A little over three years at Southern Cal only brought more embarrassment, but somehow Kiffin kept getting chance to prove himself.
Now, at 41, Kiffin will once again have an opportunity to show everyone that he has matured, and that he is no longer the brash jerk we all saw in Knoxville and Los Angeles.
The best thing to happen to Kiffin was the Nick Saban media policy. Alabama assistant coaches are only allowed to speak to reporters once a year, that opportunity coming before the season begins. If Alabama plays in the postseason, they are required to talk to the media by the bowls. Otherwise they are quiet as a church mouse.
Kiffin got into trouble when he spoke to reporters. At Alabama all he had to worry about was coaching football. But at Florida Atlantic, that won’t be the case. The Owls haven’t been to a bowl game since 2008, and have won only 9 games in the past 3 seasons combined. They needed to do something to jump start their program and get them some attention, and hiring Lane Kiffin will do just that.
But remember, with the publicity will come criticism. The first recruit to sign with Florida Atlantic since Kiffin’s hiring is JUCO quarterback De’Andre Johnson. If the name rings a bell, it should. Johnson was kicked out of Florida State for punching a woman in a bar last year. But Kiffin is willing to give Johnson a chance, despite his mistakes. Reportedly the University president and AD signed off on the decision to bring Johnson to Boca.
Lane Kiffin and Florida Atlantic sound made for each other.