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Will the Lane Kiffin-FAU marriage lead to more wins?

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Lane Kiffin is a head coach again. The new Florida Atlantic coach takes over a program anxious to climb the ladder to respectability.

His last stint as a head coach ended on a Los Angeles tarmac in 2013, where he was fired by then-Southern California Athletic Director Pat Haden. The Trojans had just given up 62 points to Arizona State.

Kiffin will, of course, be expected to win, but the pressure will be far less than in previous stops. He lasted only 20 games with the Oakland Raiders, going 5-15 before being fired.

The Raiders’ owner, the late Al Davis, had a simple motto; “Just win, baby.” Kiffin was not the only Raider coach who did not follow the motto.

He then went to Tennessee, another program where 100,000 fans in Neyland Stadium strongly prefers winning over losing each week. Even before their first game, Kiffin accused Urban Meyer and the Florida Gators of cheating.

Kiffin apologized before his 2009 Volunteers went 7-6 in his only season there.

He spent most of four season in Los Angeles, where he took over a program at USC that sports 11 national championships. He was 25-13 in his first three seasons, but lost the first two conference games in 2013, including the 62-41 debacle at Arizona State.

Haden could not even wait until the following morning to fire Kiffin in his office, which says as much about him as it does Kiffin. Did I mention Hayden is the former athletic director?

Over the past three years, Kiffin has improved his stock value while serving as the offensive coordinator at Alabama. While the Crimson Tide is so well known for their defense, there can be little argument that Kiffin’s offense was designed to the strengths of their personnel.

Head Coach Nick Saban yelled a lot, including at Kiffin, but in the end, the ‘Tide’s offense played its role in developing championship-caliber teams.

“I’m very grateful to Coach Saban,” Kiffin said at his introductory press conference in Boca Raton. “My phone was not ringing very much at the time after USC.

“As he says, I got my ass-chewings from time to time,” Kiffin continued. “I’ve learned to accept those. It’s been a great run.”

Despite being on a longer leash than he would be at one of the power programs, Kiffin vows the FAU program will “make great things happen.”

FAU Athletic Director Pat Chun made it very clear why Kiffin was hired.

“Why he emerged, he wanted to be the next head coach at FAU more than anyone we talked to.”

To be the head man, Kiffin is taking a pay cut from the salary he earned as an Alabama assistant. He will earn approximately $1 million plus incentives while he was paid about $1.4 million in Tuscaloosa.

With his previous head coaching experiences on the West Coast ending badly, here is some advice for Kiffin. Should you build FAU into a winner and start receiving offers to take over big-time programs, stay in the East.

California isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.


Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at [email protected]

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