We have seen Lane Kiffin as a head coach at Tennessee and USC, but now he resurrects his head coaching aspirations at FAU. It is either considered a good starting point as he looks to redeem himself as a head coach or a complete shocker that Kiffin’s career as a head coach isn’t starting off somewhere else with a little higher profile. Is this a good situation for Kiffin to thrive? Will we see a different Kiffin?
Our college football panel sounds off on Kiffin’s current coaching situation and outlook at FAU in 2017 and beyond.
Phil Harrison: I don’t think there was much of a choice for Kiffin. If you read between the lines, his time at Alabama was about done. And although he has more experience than a lot of candidates out there, he really hasn’t done anything worth taking notice on. That in combination with his off-the-field antics leave many athletic director’s with pause, and sometimes downright aversion to giving the guy a shot. Baylor, Texas, Oregon, USF and Houston all passed him by, meaning FAU was the last remaining landing spot at a FBS program this year.
I think we’ll see somewhere between the old Kiffin and one who has learned a lot of lessons. Expect some creative uses of Twitter and media environments to keep FAU in the news, but more measured responses when it’s called for. He handled the departure from Alabama, and lashes from Saban, with more class than I think we would have seen in his younger years, so there’s proof of some growth.
My gut feeling is that this move is either a resounding success, or the swan song of Kiffin’s head coaching career. There is really no in-between. FAU wants a guy to take them to the next level and Kiffin is looking to prove himself so he can land a more visible job. Time will tell what we have here, but you get the feeling Twitter will be ablaze with Kiffin stories, so buckle up.
Bart Doan: The cool thing about failure is that it gives a person a chance to reset the deck, re-evaluate what’s important to him, and take a chance that otherwise might not be taken. In the case of Lane Kiffin, in general, people hate the “good-looking brash guy who gets to the top of his profession without going through the normal process.” But it isn’t Kiffin’s fault he’s been offered so many high level gigs. Blame the owner of the Raiders, and the ADs at Tennessee and USC. But don’t blame a guy for taking what’s offered. Most of us don’t practice the, “Hey, I know you want to give me a prestigious job with a ton of money, but I don’t think I’m ready, so keep the money and the offer.”
FAU is a great job for Kiffin as he can sort of ply his trade while not under the bright burning lights of a major program where every little decision is grated to death over local and national talk radio. FAU is a young program that doesn’t even get a ton of local attention, but Kiffin is awash in resources to help build the program. Florida is as lush of a recruiting land as you’re going to get. So this is a perfect situation for him, especially if the true love of coaching football is what gets Lane up in the morning.
And inevitably, this will make for a different Lane Kiffin than we’ve ever seen. He won’t be on national television weekly, and the details of every poor or great play call won’t be fodder for talk radio folks. I’ve never been to Boca Raton, but I’m guessing the local appetite for college football isn’t that of Tuscaloosa, Knoxville, or Los Angeles. Kiffin will never outrun the sort of brash, swashbuckling, party guy persona that he seems to have been labeled with, but this is a great chance for Lane to get back to just simply coaching football. The real challenge will be if he finds success, does he make the leap back to bigger waters too soon. But we’ll worry about that when it happens.
Kevin McGuire.: Call me Agent Mulder, because I want to believe this Lane Kiffin will be a different Lane Kiffin. It has been my thinking for a while now that the years served on the staff under Nick Saban would only help Kiffin in his head coaching future, and now we will see if that ends up being the case.
Was I surprised that Kiffin chose FAU to re-launch his head coaching future? Absolutely. But perhaps we should have seen the writing on the wall. With a good handful of interesting jobs open on the last round of the coaching carousel, the more that went by without hiring Kiffin seemed to suggest one of two things. The first was that schools simply were either not interested or hesitant to move forward with Kiffin because of his past. The other would be that maybe Kiffin simply was holding out for a job he absolutely wanted. Then he went to FAU. That was weird, to say the least. Great for FAU, even if just for a short time before Kiffin inevitably packs up and leaves for a better job. A successful season by any metric will keep Kiffin’s name in the rumor mill, and I suspect that will be the case.
All things considered, I do think this is a good spot for Kiffin to build something in a young conference with a lot of room for growth throughout. Tapping into the Florida recruiting pipeline will be difficult due to the plethora of football coache sin the state alone, but you only need to grab a few good players to start moving up in Conference USA right now, and that could bode well for Kiffin.
Matt Lichtenstader: Lane Kiffin’s odyssey as a head coach is one of the most bizarre in the recent history of the sport. His stints at USC and Tennessee can only be described as failures, as was his brief stint in Oakland with the Raiders. His fights with Nick Saban on the sidelines at Alabama as an offensive coordinator only served to add to the drama.
FAU is in some ways a perfect place for Kiffin to reset, but in other ways fittingly bizarre. FAU is out of the spotlight, even in the Florida recruiting scene, but success there will be defined entirely differently than if he was coaching even in the American or Mountain West. The Owls are still such a new program, and Kiffin brings it cache in order to attract players that would have normally ignored Boca entirely. Going to bowl games consistently and occasionally coming close to a C-USA title seems like a reasonable expectation, and if Kiffin does better, then his stock immediately rises even higher.
But Kiffin seems to love and bask in the spotlight, and just beyond I-95 in a part of Florida that is most famous for being the site of a retirement home on Seinfeld is not a place where the spotlight will find him. In many ways, the only way he can find the spotlight is if he does what he’s always done and bring the attention to himself, and he’s tried to already with some of his… interesting recruiting decisions.
Lane Kiffin is such a unique character that it’s hard to imagine him changing his MO for any reason, even at a much smaller school. But this is seemingly the best place to rehabilitate his image as he tries to climb back up the ladder, and at this point, that should be his singular goal and focus.
And when he needs to relax, he has beaches, retirement homes, and the world’s best Boomers location to take his mind off of football.