Multiple reports Monday morning say Lane Kiffin is Florida Atlantic-bound, in a vast deviation from months of Twitterati suggesting the former Raiders/Tennessee Vols/USC Trojans head coach for more prominent vacancies at Miami, Oregon and LSU.
FAU is more the level of job Kiffin needs to reestablish himself as a head coach, to be certain. A couple seasons flourishing with college football’s greatest roster of talent, and with a once-in-a-generation head coach overseeing his choices, shouldn’t instantly scrub away the failures of Kiffin’s time as a head coach.
His one season at Tennessee disappointed on the field, and brought NCAA sanctions off of it. Coincidentally — or perhaps karmic — was that sanctions handcuffed him at USC.
Still, the nose-dive of the 2012 season and various silliness like improperly inflated balls, jersey-swapping and 30-second press conferences defined Kiffin’s abortive run in Los Angeles. While spending time with the notoriously straight-laced and laser-focused Nick Saban exposed Kiffin to winning habits, he should have to prove those lessons before taking on another high-tier job.
He’ll have opportunity to prove himself immediately at FAU, with the Owls returning talent that never quite reached its potential under Charlie Partridge. The local recruiting base is deep, and FAU’s shown investment in winning football with the opening of a new stadium.
For FAU, hiring away a national championship-winning assistant has to be scored as a considerably coup. Still, I can’t help but feel FAU hired the wrong Alabama assistant.
Right there on the same Crimson Tide staff is Mario Cristobal, positions coach for the greatest offensive line year-in and year-out; a Miami native; and a proven winner in South Florida.
Cristobal led upstart Florida International to a Sun Belt championship in 2010, and won eight games in 2011, including victories over Charlie Strong (newly minted head coach at USF) and George O’Leary (who’ll have a statue outside UCF’s Bright House Stadium).
He mined hidden gems from the recruiting area like T.Y. Hilton. And with each new coaching carousel cycle that leaves him an assistant, I’m further exasperated.
FAU would have made particular sense — not just for the Miami connection, but as a thumbing of the nose to the Owls’ C-USA rival, FIU. Just like Dragon Sound diss-tracking some ninjas.
Coaching hiring and firings remain one of the more vexing aspects of college football for your humble author. Cristobal’s continued role as an assistant confounds me. He was released from FIU just nine months prior to Kiffin’s infamous LAX tarmac pink slip, and at that time, I would have sworn the former would land a head-coaching gig before the alleged Joey Freshwater.
Perhaps making more than half-a-million a year to coach the best collection of offensive line talent in the nation beats toiling under the oftentimes unrealistic expectations of being a head coach. The process of hiring itself certainly feels unrealistic.