In 1962, a legislative “initial operating money” appropriation plus private donations for “architect fees, salaries and other expenses” added up to $400,000 in seed corn for Florida Atlantic University.
It still adds up to more money than most working folks will see in 10 years, but it’s less than half of what the school will pay its new head football coach, Lane Kiffin (rhymes with “What is FAU sniffn’?).
To be fair, Kiffin is almost as “big-time” as FAU Football’s Founding Father Howard Schnellenberger, having honed his craft and worn-out his welcome at some of the country’s most prestigious football programs.
Those who swoon when a football coach talks like a Sensitive Guy in a Lifetime cable movie will not begrudge Kiffin his $950K FAU base salary.
“I felt the people there,” Kiffin said in welcoming himself to Boca Raton. “I felt how they wanted me. I felt the vision there. Coming out of there, that’s when I felt like the recruit who was like ‘OK, they have a vision for this place and how we can do it and they want to do it together.'”
FAU president John Kelly was swooning and ripping his own bodice.
“Today, we continue our pursuit of excellence, our unbridled ambition by hiring the top person in the country, the genius in coaching: Lane Kiffin,” Kelly said.
Kelly reflects the prevailing wisdom — and don’t you dare argue with it — that everyone who teaches everything from anthropology to zoology should feel honored to drive their ten-year-old cars to campuses where coaches live like kings. A football team is a tide that lifts the academic boats, university presidents tell us from their skyboxes where they chat up the boosters. You’d think that nobody learned anything at college in the days before a blank check for football was embroidered into every school seal.
“Genius” Kiffin’s highlight reel includes being called a liar by Raiders owner Al Davis; NCAA violations at the University of Tennessee; and getting his walking papers from USC on an airport tarmac.
“It gives us a head coach with, obviously, a brand in himself,” FAU Athletic Director Patrick Chun enthused. ” … he’s the biggest celebrity football coach in our state.”
For his first act in office, Kiffin recruited another celebrity, De’Andre Johnson, whose collegiate career at Florida State was cut short when he was caught on camera striking a woman in a Tallahassee bar.
Stepping up to journalism’s mission to help with healing processes, Good Morning America gave Johnson airtime to apologize to the victim. Johnson continued to heal at East Mississippi Community College, where he played good football and rebranded himself as an advocate for victims of domestic violence.
Owl Nation is hoping that Johnson’s redemption is real, and is rooting for Kiffin to enrich the university, and not just himself and the retinue that surrounds a head coach, even at a fourth-rate football program, in a city whose name is regularly mispronounced by late night comedians.