Lane Kiffin doesn't look like he's returning to the SEC yet, which ain't such a bad thing
We’re coming up on the 1-year anniversary of one of the more unfortunate blows to the SEC in recent memory.
Lane Kiffin’s departure from Alabama for Florida Atlantic was equal parts sudden and crushing.
When Alabama announced that Kiffin was fired as offensive coordinator before last year’s national championship, it took a few days for reality to settle in. No longer would we get to see Nick Saban stare down Kiffin like a dad who caught his son playing hooky. That alone was a troubling thought.
Gone was the guy who pioneered the Tide offense into the 21st century. Off to Boca Raton went one of the most unique personalities in all of college football.
We didn’t know at the time that Kiffin’s larger-than-life personality would blossom into its Kiffin-est form. From the viral unenthusiastic FAU promotion to the #RatPoison tweets, we’ve been blessed with a full dose of Kiffin this year.
On Tuesday night, he’ll coach in the Boca Raton Bowl in what will be a home game. It’s fitting. Kiffin made himself at home at FAU the last year, and barring something crazy, he’ll make himself home there for at least another year. For those of us who were hoping that Kiffin would make his return to the SEC, that’s another tough reality to accept.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that’s actually good news for the rest of us.
Well, unless you’re a Conference USA defensive coordinator or a hater of fun.
At Alabama, it felt like Kiffin was on his best behavior. It was as if he was trying to show the world that he could be an adult. Given the way things ended at USC, that was probably a smart move. Kiffin understood that his only hope of salvaging his damaged reputation in the sport was to let his on-field results do the talking. For once.
To a certain extent, he kept that approach at FAU. If the Owls were still the 3-9 team that Kiffin took over, there’s no way he’s firing off tweets of Kim Jong-un in Tennessee gear.
Call me crazy, but I don’t think we’re getting these gems on a late November night if FAU is in the toilet.
Gave them to him pic.twitter.com/ALoOMZ69VL
— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) November 23, 2017
That’s the Kiffin we need in our lives. There’s nothing malicious about that. And despite what FAU’s athletic department said, there was nothing malicious about Kiffin’s #RatPoison tweet about why his team didn’t cover the spread.
Would we get that same type of Kiffin if he came back to the SEC? Or would Kiffin’s light-hearted ways revert back to his Tennessee alter ego, when he called out Urban Meyer before ever coaching a game in Knoxville?
We can’t answer that question. The circumstances would likely dictate Kiffin’s off-field presence. If he does indeed wind up with a head coaching job in the SEC, it feels like he would need to go to a place that gave him complete control, much like FAU. He wasn’t going to get that if he went back to Tennessee.
He’d need an athletic director who gave him total support to have that kind of personality, much like Jim Harbaugh has at Michigan. But even Harbaugh dialed back his Harbaugh-ness a bit in Year 3, which was likely the result of Michigan coming up short of its B1G Championship aspirations.
After the season he just had, Kiffin can do no wrong in Boca Raton. If he really wanted to, he could decide he wants to live in beautiful weather, win a bunch of conference titles and maybe occasionally knock off one of the big boys (the Owls open at Oklahoma next year and at Ohio State in 2019) all while doing things his way.
For all we know, Kiffin plans on doing just that for the next few years. It’s not like he needs the money. And at 42 years old, he still has plenty of time to get that big job again.
Timing is everything in life. Right now, Kiffin appears to be having an experience unlike any of the pressure-filled scenarios he faced since he joined Pete Carroll’s staff at USC as a 20-something coach on the rise. Instead of worrying about what the media is saying about him, Kiffin is winning social media one tweet at a time. Go figure, he’s inviting every media member/celebrity he can to #cometothefaU.
— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) December 16, 2017
Kiffin’s travels definitely taught him a thing or two about marketing. That much we know based on how he grew the FAU brand exponentially in a few short months. He’s worth a whole lot more to the university than that $1.4 million he made in 2017, not that money will dictate his next move.
Given what he’s doing at FAU and his track record as an offensive mind, Kiffin will continue to get opportunities thrown his way. He can pick and choose how he wants to climb the ladder this time. You know, assuming that he wants to.
Selfishly, as a consumer of college football, I wouldn’t mind if Kiffin stayed at FAU for the next few years. We’d still get plenty more classic Kiffin moments. He’d still jab his old pal, Nick. And can you picture what that postgame presser would be like after a big-time FAU upset victory? E-lec-tric.
I’m no longer counting down the days until Kiffin returns to the SEC. Instead, I’m refreshing Twitter to see what Kiffin said today. Somehow, he’s been able to reinvent his personality in such a short time. A move that once seemed far-fetched now makes perfect sense.
Even if it doesn’t leave Boca anytime soon, the Lane Train is taking us all on one heckuva ride.