Most college football fans view Lane Kiffin’s time as Florida Atlantic’s head coach (the Kiffin mania is indisputably real) as a stepping stone back to the elite-type programs which defined his blatantly ascending, if zig-zagging, career before he flamed out badly by exiting with no class at Tennessee (many influential Vols still wanted Lane back badly after the Butch Jones experience) and getting “tarmacked” at USC (most Trojans fans simply said good riddance after Pat Haden took him off the Trojan bus for good following a 62-41 loss to ASU).
I have always felt Kiffin did remarkably well for the circumstances he was given. I’m biased. I’ve always liked his confidence, commitment, and directness. While surely lacking management and leadership acumen while guiding the Trojans, he’s a fantastic recruiter and to this day remains as utterly confident about his success as any CFB recruiter I ever encountered during my near 30 years publishing SuperPrep. Vinny Cerrato at Notre Dame ran a close second.
Kiffin spoke recently with ESPN.com’s Andrea Edelson about his recent winning at FAU, his time at USC and his future.
Asked whether he felt he needed early and quick success at FAU to change the nationwide scorched-earth perception about him, Kiffin said, “I didn’t need it for myself; I knew what I could do. But from a recruiting standpoint, from a national image standpoint … yeah. I know that question’s out there.
“Now, I know the facts of USC, when you lose 30 scholarships … going 28-15 with those types of sanctions, people don’t do that. Look at those types of penalties and what usually happens to programs — look at Miami, getting blown out every week. … People don’t want to talk about that, they forget about that, they think we didn’t do a good job there.
“But yes, it helps in recruiting, and I’m sure it helps (my) national image. I’m sure the articles are a lot different now based off one year. I didn’t all of a sudden just become a totally different coach in one year.”
And future jobs? “Ten years ago, when you’re younger, the mindset is, how fast can you get the big job? How much money can you make? How big a house can you get? Then you get to a point where you’ve had all that stuff, so you think differently. Am I saying I’d never go? No, I’m not saying that, but it would have to be a really special situation where I would look at things differently now. Who’s the president? Who’s the AD? How are they going to support us?
“So you’re making sure it’s the right place you can really win at, because as you get older, you realize how important it is…I’m not driven by money anymore. I’m not driven by ego, of the attention being a head coach at one of those places. I’m very happy here on all fronts…”