Hurricanes superfan “Uncle Luke” Campbell praises Lane Kiffin, FAU, for second trip to Liberty City

Former rapper Luther Campbell, who at the time was a linebackers coach at Miami Central High, conducts practice in preparation for Miami Northwestern in state playoff game on Friday, November 26, 2010. (Miami Herald)

BOCA RATON — Florida Atlantic head coach Lane Kiffin is no stranger to contracts and agreements ending early, whether voluntarily (as seen in Tennessee) or with someone else making that decision (either on a tarmac or a projector).

There’s one deal Kiffin made after signing with the Owls in Dec. 2016, though it may not be notarized and signed, that the second-year FAU coach is sticking to in 2018: traveling to Liberty City for a football practice.

“I said (at the beginning), ‘listen, you ain’t gonna do it one time, we gotta do a two-year deal,” said Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell, the rapper-turned-high school coach and football icon. “Because so many people are not gonna believe that it’s happening and so many kids (are) gonna love that it’s happening! For it not to happen again at least one more time, it would be hard on the kids.”

Campbell and his local fans, many of whom know the hip-hop legend for his coaching rather than his days with the 2 Live Crew and raps feuds, will have another chance to see Kiffin’s Owls practice in Liberty City on Saturday, April 14. FAU will also visit Fort Lauderdale’s Carter Park on April 7.

In the weeks leading up to their historic 11-3 season last summer, FAU traveled to Charles Hadley Park on Aug. 5. — though Kiffin was not in attendance that day, instead attending the funeral of father-in-law and former Florida quarterback John Reeves. Campbell still wasted no time that day in praising Kiffin, calling him a “rock star” when many were still doubting how the former Raiders, Tennessee, and USC head coach would fare at Florida Atlantic.

“Last year, that was a freakin’ treat for the kids to be able to have a college team come into the heart of Liberty City,” Campbell told The Post by phone. “[Liberty City is] the mecca of football … I had guys who played NFL calling up, they couldn’t believe it. They were looking at it on Twitter, on social media, and they just couldn’t believe it. A college team was playing on the park where they grew up at!”

Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman, former All-Pro wide receiver Chad Johnson (or Ochocinco, depending on the day), and ex-Miami Hurricanes star Duke Johnson — now with the Cleveland Browns — were among those to get in touch with Campbell.

Former Hurricanes running back Clinton Portis was among the ex-NFL players to visit Kiffin and the Owls last year, a list which also included future Hall of Fame receiver Calvin Johnson and Pro Bowl quarterback Daunte Culpepper. Campbell and Culpepper were joined by Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake for the Owls’ Nov. 3 win over Marshall. Drake’s teammate and Dolphins offensive lineman Ja’Wuan James also tweeted his intentions to see the Owls practice this spring.

“We wanted to get out as much as we could,” Kiffin said last summer of the “road practices.” “It allows maybe some people who can’t get up here to come see us, whether it’s coaches, players or fans.”

Campbell added that the Owls coming to Liberty City again also provides examples of stability and hope for the younger fans, many of whom come from single-parent households.

“It’s a real tough area as far as dads leaving kids,” Campbell said. “When these kids get showed a lot of things, they get a lot of things taken from them. Just being able to say, ‘look. they’re gonna do this again next year,’ that’s a great thing.”

Campbell said that construction on Hadley Park’s football stadium, which was scheduled for this spring, has been pushed back to accommodate FAU’s arrival.

Times for the Owls’ practices this spring, including the visit to Hadley Park, have yet to officially be announced, but last year’s open scrimmage began at roughly 3 p.m. The Post obtained an email sent to students last month for a volunteer football job which said Tuesday and Thursday practices this spring would be held between 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Saturday practices are expected to be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

UCF or Alabama? FAU coach Lane Kiffin makes his national-champion choice

Florida Atlantic Owls head coach Lane Kiffin at the Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Florida on December 19, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

The often-controversial Lane Kiffin has lent his opinion to college football’s latest controversy: Who is the real national champion?

While Alabama, where Kiffin served under Nick Saban from 2014-16 as the team’s offensive coordinator, won its second College Football Playoff in three years last month, Central Florida has proclaimed itself the “true” national champion after going 13-o under Scott Frost. UCF was the only FBS team to finish the season undefeated, with win No. 13 coming against SEC powerhouse Auburn in the Peach Bowl.

So who does Kiffin, entering his second season at Florida Atlantic after posting an 11-3 record in his first year, believe to be the champion? He opted for the Crimson Tide, as Kiffin explained in a podcast appearance on “The Mitch Davis Show.

Still, Kiffin has loads of respect for what UCF did on the field.

“I don’t know that we would [claim the national title like UCF], but they see that they had a great season,” Kiffin told Davis in an episode released Wednesday. “Finishing up by beating Auburn and they think they can beat the two teams from the SEC (Georgia and Alabama) who went to the national championship. There’s something to it.”

Several times this past season, Kiffin praised UCF’s sudden turnaround from 0-12 in 2015 to undefeated two years later, including saying he wanted his own team to follow the Knights’ model.

Kiffin also spoke about FAU’s non-conference schedule, which includes a Sept. 1 matchup with CFP semifinalist Oklahoma and a showdown with none other than UCF on Sept. 21 in Orlando. UCF and the AAC announced last week that the FAU-UCF game, originally scheduled for Sept. 22, would be moved forward one day in advance to accommodate national television.

“(We have a) very competitive schedule, but you never know when you schedule things how good teams are going to be because teams stay up and down,” Kiffin said.

FAU will begin its spring camp on March 20 and will hold its annual spring game on April 21. Kiffin announced earlier this week that the Owls will hold road practices in Ft. Lauderdale’s Carter Park (April 7) and Miami’s Charles Hadley Park (April 14).

Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic change focus to ‘national’ recruiting plan

Florida Atlantic Owls head coach Lane Kiffin at the Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Florida on December 19, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

BOCA RATON — Lane Kiffin began his tenure at Florida Atlantic in Dec. 2016 by saying he wasn’t intending to send any types of messages, subliminal or otherwise.

After his second recruiting class, Kiffin has sent two vocal messages: FAU is en route to becoming a “national program” and the foundation of the old program, a heavy recruiting base in South Florida, is being left in the past.

[RELATED: Five takeaways from Lane Kiffin’s second recruiting class]

“When we came here, there were people that said there so many great players [that] there is no reason to go outside South Florida,” Kiffin said earlier this week. “I get that and … we’re going to recruit South Florida. It’s more important than any other area, but at the same time, too, we didn’t come here to be the old FAU. We came here to be a national program.”

Among the nearly 20 players Kiffin signed this year, Palm Beach Lakes defensive back Teja Young was the only high school player to come from Palm Beach, Broward or Miami-Dade counties. Former Tulane center Junior Diaz (Miami-Central) and ex-West Virginia wide receiver Jovan Durante (Miramar) each played high school football south of FAU.

Kiffin did add two local stars as preferred walk-ons, with Dwyer defensive end/linebacker Dalton Hustad signing with the Owls on Wednesday and Seminole Ridge offensive lineman Nicholas Screicu doing the same on Friday.

“How many programs only recruit their area, national programs?” Kiffin asked. “They don’t. … You want to be a top-20 program year-in and year-out. You don’t say, ‘I’m going not going over there.’ We’re developing into a national program that we can go into California, we can go into Alabama, we can go into Georgia.”

With FAU having long been considered a realistic option for local players who either don’t have many Division-I offers or who want to stay closer to home, Kiffin’s decision to stray away from his base has some worried about the long-term implications. Former FAU coach Charlie Partridge made such a habit of recruiting within South Florida that 49 of last year’s Conference USA-winning Owls came from the aforementioned South Florida counties.

Though Palm Beach Lakes High coach Al Shipman has tried selling his players for years on the potential good of leaving Florida to “experience some different things,” FAU’s newest philosophy of focusing less on local kids might not work out.

“I think if you don’t recruit the hot bed of the country, you’re making a big mistake,” Shipman told The Post. “You’re making a huge mistake. This is the most-recruited state in the country and for you to openly … say you’re going to recruit this area less, I just personally think that’s mistake. Like a Teja, you have a lot of local kids who want to stay home and have that opportunity.”

FAU has officially signed a total of 10 in-state players among their 17 total recruits this year, down from 13 (of 24) last year and 17 (of 19) in 2015. Of last year’s 12 in-state high-school recruits, however, five came from the three South Florida counties.

Quarterback De’Andre Johnson (2016) and Diaz both opted to return to Florida after out-of-state stints, though Johnson had originally signed with Florida State in 2015 before being dismissed following an assault charge.

“The issue, I think, with FAU is that now they’re more known so they can go outside the county and grab kids they think might be better,” former Seminole Ridge High coach James Parson added. “I think when Kiffin came in, they went (with) a lot of bigger-school, D-I guys who weren’t happy, got those guys and some JUCO kids. … When [Partridge] was there, Charlie brought a few more Palm Beach County guys in.”

Parson did bring up a point that may interest some local players in wake of the changes at FAU. With its heavy emphasis on recruiting locally, Keiser University — which will play its first season this fall under former Oxbridge coach Doug Socha — could become the next FAU in terms of its in-state impact.

“Keiser snatched up a lot of guys,” Parson said. “You can actually stay at home and go to Keiser!”

FAU Signing Day 2018: Five Takeaways from Lane Kiffin’s second recruiting class

BOCA RATON — Lane Kiffin’s first recruiting class at Florida Atlantic proved to be a hit, as the Owls won 11 games and a Conference USA title. Will his second class do as well?

A year after his first signing class included “Last Chance U” stars and former Power 5 players, Kiffin and FAU enjoyed another strong signing day this time around.

With the early signing period and the normal national signing day, Kiffin added nearly 20 players who will be expected to help FAU repeat as C-USA champions.

“Our thought was, let’s make sure that we keep ourselves available and spots open to be able to sign the best players that we can,” Kiffin said. “I think that model worked, we battled a lot of Power 5 schools on a lot of these kids and our coaches did a really good job.”

[RELATED: Updated list of FAU commitments and signings]

Five takeaways from FAU’s signing day:

1. Lane has his quarterback(s)

Jason Driskel and Daniel Parr (Dwyer) may be gone, but Kiffin now has two quarterbacks for the future in Chris Robison and Cordel Littlejohn. Robison still figures to be the favorite in spring camp, but the addition of Littlejohn – especially after redshirt junior De’Andre Johnson was cleared for action – adds an unexpected layer to the quarterback battle. Last year’s quarterback battle alone proved that the least-expected candidate (Parr won the job out of camp, only to lose it early in the season to Driskel) will have a chance to start under Kiffin so long as they perform to expectations.

“We bring quarterbacks in as true freshman and we give them a shot – I liked the Cordel story,” Kiffin said. “This was a school that (Illinois) had and one of those things where he  just becomes available … this is a dynamic player that can run, can throw, and a really special kid.”

2. No major flips

Signing day had plenty of last-minute choices and flips across the country, but nearly every recruit who had announced either a prior commitment to FAU or narrowed the Owls to their top three schools signed with the school Wednesday. FAU did get a surprise signing in Austin (Ala.) offensive lineman Marquice Robinson, who had interest from Auburn and Mississippi State before they shied away because of academic concerns.

Robinson has reportedly righted the ship and could be an interesting option to earn playing time in 2018 if he qualifies academically.

“I want a shot at playing in the NFL, and Coach Kiffin and his staff have a lot of experience at getting guys to that level,” Robinson told the Decatur Daily at his signing day ceremony.

3. Defensive line surprisingly earns heavy focus

Maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised that Kiffin prioritized the defensive line when Hunter Snyder, Ernest Bagner, and Steven Leggett all will graduate after this season, but FAU added two JUCO defensive linemen in Charles Cameron (Copiah-Lincoln, Miss.) and Marcel Southall (Tyler, Texas). Given how Jeremiah Taleni – a proven starter at Pittsburgh who arrived as a grad trasfer – was the only transfer lineman to really contribute last season, Kiffin’s decision to stockpile talent with shortened eligibility in the trenches is a curious choice.

4. FAU quietly upgrades wide receivers

No wide receivers may have been among the players to sign with FAU on Wednesday, but former West Virginia wideout Jovan Durante and ex-Auburn Tiger Kyle Davis are both among the official signing class after transfers in the past six months. FAU also added JUCO wideout Nero Nelson (Copiah-Lincoln) and DeSean Homes (College of the Canyons) during the early signing period.

Kalib Woods and Kamrin Solomon may be gone, but Kiffin and new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr. will have plenty of tools to play with at wide receiver – and don’t forget, catch/yards/touchdown leader Willie Wright is only entering his sophomore season.

5. Linebackers, secondary among positions left out

Not every position was going to be addressed, but the failure to add another linebacker was notable. Three-year starter Azeez Al-Shaair is entering his senior season and Rashad Smith is a rising junior. The same arguably goes for the secondary, where Armani Adams, Meiko Dotson and athlete-turned-cornerback Teja Young (Palm Beach Lakes) were the Owls’ only signings this year.

FAU QB De’Andre Johnson will not have medical redshirt for lost 2017 season

FAU quarterback De’Andre Johnson (14) pitches out during a drill in Boca Raton, Florida on March 23, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

BOCA RATON — Despite missing nearly all of the 2017 season as a redshirt sophomore, Florida Atlantic quarterback De’Andre Johnson will play the 2018 season as a redshirt junior, an FAU spokesperson told The Post on Tuesday.

The prized signing of Lane Kiffin’s first recruiting class last year, Johnson — well known for playing at East Mississippi Community College and starring on Netflix’s “Last Chance U” — played just one game in 2017 before undergoing emergency surgery in September for blood clots in his arm. He missed the rest of the season. In his one appearance, a Sept. 1 loss against Navy, Johnson completed two of three passes and was intercepted once.

The FAU spokesperson said Johnson could still apply for a medical redshirt later but will not do so now. Applying for a hardship waiver has been ruled out at this time as well.

Johnson, a former Florida State enrollee who was dismissed from the program following a 2015 assault charge, was Kiffin’s first signing at FAU in Dec. 2016. As recently as this past December, teammates were optimistic about Johnson returning to form for the 2018 season.

Shortly after his surgery, Johnson was named a game captain for the Owls’ Sept. 30 win over Middle Tennessee. Johnson also worked out with the team during practices and stood on the sideline during home games.

Johnson has been officially cleared for spring camp and likely will compete with former Oklahoma quarterback Chris Robison for the starting job. FAU currently has a commitment from three-star quarterback Cordel Littlejohn (Roswell, Ga.) and will bring Gulf Coast quarterback Kaden Frost to fall camp as a preferred walk-on. Neither of last year’s starting quarterbacks, Daniel Parr (Dwyer) and Jason Driskel, will be with the team in 2018 having, respectively, transferred and retired after the Owls’ Dec. 19 Boca Raton Bowl win.

FAU announced earlier this week that it will begin its spring camp March 20.

Signing Day 2018: Florida Atlantic has benefited from recent last-minute flips

Florida Atlantic Owls running back Devin Singletary (5) is congratulated by Florida Atlantic Owls head coach Lane Kiffin after a touchdown against the North Texas Mean Green at the 2017 Conference USA Football Championship at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida on December 2, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

BOCA RATON — For any Florida Atlantic fans concerned about how Lane Kiffin’s second signing day will go, one thing should ease your nerves.

In recent years, when signing day finally arrived, the Owls have had success convincing some of their main targets — some of whom have become the team’s top players — to flip at the last minute.

[RELATED: Check out FAU’s 2018 recruiting class as it currently stands]

For proof, look no further than running back Devin Singletary, who two years ago this month was all set to sign with Illinois. Singletary, then a two-star prospect by Rivals, was set to go to a Power 5 program led by former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith … until he flipped to FAU and then-Owls coach Charlie Partridge on signing day.

“It feels great to stay home,” Singletary told The Post after making his choice. “Why not? Why change my climate? I’ve been playing in this my whole life.”

Staying in his “climate” has paid off for Singletary, who after only two seasons is FAU’s all-time leader in rushing touchdowns with 44 and counting. This past season, Singletary was also named the first All-American and first Conference USA MVP in school history.

FAU landed another key, Power 5-bound prospect via signing-day flip in that same recruiting class, when Homestead linebacker and three-star recruit Rashad Smith — all set to sign with Syracuse and then-new head coach Dino Babers — decided to stay in the Sunshine State by signing with the Owls. Smith had previously flipped from FAU to Syracuse the previous month before changing his mind on signing day.

One of only two freshmen to start a game on defense in 2016, Smith led the Owls with six sacks this past season and enters next month’s spring camp fully entrenched as one of two starting linebackers alongside Azeez Al-Shaair.

The flips weren’t limited to Partridge’s classes, though, as three-star wide receiver Willie Wright — originally headed for Memphis — signed with FAU last year. Wright became the first true freshman in FAU history to lead the team in catches (56), receiving yards (657) and receiving touchdowns (6).

FAU’s 2018 recruiting class will continue to take shape before Wednesday’s National Signing Day, but if recent history is any indication, some of the more productive freshman this upcoming season will have made a last-minute choice to play under Kiffin.

And if those players do flip, expect them to do so with a sentiment similar to what Singletary said two years ago.

“I know we’re going to be able to do a lot of great things,” the running back said. ‘This program is definitely about to explode very soon.”

Florida Atlantic offers preferred walk-on spot to Dywer star Dalton Hustad

In what has otherwise been a quiet recruiting season locally, Florida Atlantic has offered Dwyer defensive end/linebacker Dalton Hustad a chance to play for the Owls as a preferred walk-on.

“I can’t let my opportunity of playing for FAU pass me up,” Hustad told The Post in a Twitter message, adding that he will announce his commitment prior to Wednesday’s signing day.

Hustad (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) was named to The Post’s Fall 2017 All-Conference Team for Division 7A last month after recording 13 sacks, four forced fumbles, seven fumbles recovered and 14 tackles for losses this past season. Hustad also played in last month’s Palm Beach County All-Star Game.

If Hustad signs with FAU, he will be one of likely a small handful of local players to commit to play for Lane Kiffin this year. Under previous head coach Charlie Partridge, FAU stressed the importance of recruiting in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. FAU had 16 players from Palm Beach County on last season’s Conference USA-winning team and 49 total from those three counties.

Three of FAU’s seven first-team all-conference players this past season were from Palm Beach County schools, with former American Heritage running back Devin Singletary leading Division I with 32 rushing touchdowns. Seminole Ridge graduates Antonyo Woods, Roman Fernandez and Jalen Young were all named to the first team as well.

Only one Palm Beach County player, Palm Beach Lakes athlete Teja Young, has committed to the Owls at this time. Young told The Post last month that he will play defensive back and return kicks at FAU.

FAU has awarded several walk-ons with scholarships in past years, with another defensive end — the recently graduated Haiden Nagel — earning one before the start of his redshirt junior season in 2016.

“[Earning a scholarship is] what I am aiming for by working hard and proving myself — just like at Dwyer,” Hustad wrote.

 

One year after infamous recruiting video, FAU coach Lane Kiffin is uncharacteristically quiet

BOCA RATON — A year ago this week, Lane Kiffin reintroduced the world to Florida Atlantic University.

Just a month after FAU hired him as the fifth head coach in program history and just before a signing day that many recruiting services called the best in Conference USA, Kiffin went viral for a recruiting video in which he appeared … eh … less than enthusiastic.

“That was a trick,” Kiffin told assembled reporters several days later. “We did it so bad because we knew we would get so much attention.”

Kiffin immediately went viral for his combination of monotonous speaking, lack of eye contact, and his lackadaisical “Go Owls!” The jokes about Kiffin — previously the head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers, Southern California Trojans and the NFL’s Oakland Raiders — being so ecstatic to have the opportunity to coach a Group of 5 team which hadn’t posted a winning season since 2008 became far too easy to make.

And yet, Kiffin and FAU attracted major attention — in large part from the coach’s tweet storms (in which celebrities would be recruited to “#cometothefaU” or he took shots at Alabama head coach Nick Saban) — en route to an 11-3 finish, the most wins FAU has recorded as a Division I team.

“We had a really good marketing idea,” Kiffin told FOX Sports’ Colin Cowherd last spring. “If we just do a normal video, nobody’s really going to play it outside of Boca (Raton, Florida). So let’s do, like, the worst one ever so everybody will put it on TV and say, ‘Look how bad this is.’ All of a sudden, you’ve got all kinds of publicity for the program. You’ve got people looking up FAU who don’t even know what FAU is. Pretty good, huh?”

Now, with the Owls’ second signing day under Kiffin approaching on Feb. 7, the Twitter-loving head coach has been uncharacteristically quiet. Instead of making social-media pitches on the benefits of coming to FAU, Kiffin’s Twitter focus has mainly been retweeting prospects announcing their commitment and the occasional inspirational message.

Normally, the social media activity of a football coach is only news when he tweets something controversial or newsworthy, like when Kiffin retweeted a video of an FAU student with cerebral palsy and later promised him sideline passes. But with Kiffin, who generated so much attention in the last year for “recruiting” former Boynton Beach star Lamar Jackson to “come home” or joking about point spreads, a quiet Twitter account might be disconcerting for his 400,000-plus followers.

A quick scroll of Kiffin’s Twitter page shows a lack of #cometothefaU tweets, though one was — of course — directed at Saban.

Once signing day comes and goes, however, Kiffin will likely get back to tweeting his own philosophical messages from the Dao of Lane.

In the meantime, FAU fans can only hope for a sequel to last year’s recruiting video.

Florida Atlantic officially announces Lane Kiffin’s 2018 coaching staff

Florida Atlantic Owls head coach Lane Kiffin holds up 10 fingers as fans cheer 10 more years. Kiffin agreed to a contract extension before the Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Florida on December 19, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

BOCA RATON — Lane Kiffin’s second coaching staff at Florida Atlantic will look slightly different than the one that helped bring about the program’s first Conference USA title last season.

Though several hires had already been reported by various outlets, FAU on Tuesday confirmed that Atlanta Falcons assistant Charlie Weis Jr. is officially replacing Kendal Briles as the Owls offensive coordinator, while former Alabama assistant Wes Neighbors will coach the safeties.

Former UNLV offensive-line coach John Garrison will man the same position at FAU, replacing Garin Justice, who left after the Owls’ Dec. 19 Boca Raton Bowl win over Akron to take the same job at Arizona under former coach Rich Rodriguez. When Rodriguez was fired earlier this month, Justice was not retained by new Wildcats coach Kevin Sumlin and, ironically, will replace Garrison as the Rebels’ offensive-line coach.

FAU also announced two promotions, with player-development assistant Jaron Fairman now set to coach special teams. Fairman — who was hired by Kiffin before the latter’s final season at USC at 2013 and joined him in Boca Raton last spring — and Neighbors will replace Corey Batoon, who held both positions last year before being hired as Hawaii’s defensive coordinator last month. Strength and conditioning coach Wilson Love, who quickly became a fan favorite with his signature barks and shouts at practice, has been named assistant head football coach as well.

Kiffin does not normally make assistant coaches available to the media and did not make a statement on the hirings. When asked about Weis Jr. in a recent interview with Bleacher Report, Kiffin compared hiring the 24-year-old to former USC coach Pete Carroll giving him coach a job when he was just 27.

“I know for a fact [Falcons coach] Dan [Quinn] wasn’t happy losing him,” one NFC scout told Bleacher Report’s Matt Hayes. “You won’t talk to one person who has a bad thing to say about Charlie. He’s going to be a star in this business. Lane is way ahead of the curve on this.”

All other staffers from last season are still on the roster at this time. Lane’s younger brother Chris will continue to serve as the team’s defensive coordinator and their father, soon-to-be 78-year-old Monte Kiffin, will likely stay in the same role as a pro liaison/adviser. Former Florida State/West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett (tight ends), Eric Matheis (defensive line), Kevin Smith (running backs) and Keynodo Hudon (cornerbacks) will all return as well.

Kiffin is expected to comment on the coaching hires, as well as his 2018 recruiting class, in a Signing Day press conference on Feb. 7.

How would proposed NCAA transfer rule affect Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic?

Florida Atlantic Owls quarterback Jason Driskel (16) talks with head coach Lane Kiffin at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida on November 19, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

BOCA RATON — The most common talking point entering Florida Atlantic’s 2018 football season has nothing to do with the Owls potentially repeating as Conference USA champions or how many rushing touchdowns rising junior Devin Singletary (American Heritage) will score after posting an NCAA-high 32 this past season.

The most common talking point is how much longer head coach Lane Kiffin will stay at Florida Atlantic.

While that conversation will continue even after Kiffin’s verbal agreement to a six-year extension that would keep him in Boca Raton for the next 10 years, a new aspect of the conversation has arisen. Per CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd, two Big 12 faculty representatives have proposed a rule that would allow all players to transfer to another school — regardless of the level — and play immediately so long as they are not joining their previous coach.

NCAA rules currently mandate players who transfer from one FBS school to another sit out their first season as a redshirt unless they are playing as a graduate student. Exceptions have been made in years past for major scandals, such as the Penn State sexual-abuse scandal in 2012 and at Ole Miss late last year.

“Basically, we’re saying kids can go anywhere they want,” Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard told Dodd. “For the first time ever in college athletics, the student-athlete is empowered.”

If this proposal were to pass, all Florida Atlantic players would essentially become free agents if Kiffin took another job. FAU also would be unable to block transfers from one school to another, which programs usually do to prevent in-conference transfers. With the new proposal, an FAU player wanting to join FIU or Western Kentucky could do so regardless of the school’s opinion. Players would also no longer have to be “released” from their scholarships in order to seek aid at another school.

However, such a proposal could change a head coach’s mind about going from one school to another. If Kiffin were to take a Power 5 job at a perennial contender but the players didn’t want to play under Kiffin, they could all leave without any consequence. Hypothetically speaking, would the pay raise of leaving FAU for a Penn State or an Oklahoma still be enough for Kiffin to consider leaving if he’d have to rebuild the entire roster?

Given how often Kiffin praised former Owls coach Charlie Partridge for building the program that the well-traveled coach inherited upon his arrival in December 2016, perhaps not. Kiffin — and more coaches than many will admit — understand that the success their team enjoys when they take over is partly dependent on the recruiting success of the previous coach. Five of FAU’s All-Conference USA first-team players this season were recruited by Partridge and his coaching staff well before Kiffin even considered coming to South Florida.

“Charlie, he don’t wanna hear it, but this is really Charlie’s team,” Kiffin said after the C-USA championship game. “I’ve told him that. I’ve never met Charlie in my life, but once I started meeting this team and what he put together, I send Charlie videos of the locker room, some clips .… He must be a great guy.”

Had this proposal been in effect for the 2017 season, however, the question then arises of how many Partridge recruits would have left when FAU made the coaching change. Quarterback Jason Driskel was one of several players to use social media to express his frustration with Partridge’s firing, so it is conceivable that the freedom to transfer without sitting out a year would have forced those players to consider leaving.

Dodd added that the NCAA is expected to “push forward one or two proposals for legislation by June,” which would change the NCAA’s transfer rules potentially as early as the 2018 season. After bringing in several transfers last August to red-shirt their 2017 season, could Kiffin be adding more this summer with the expectation they’d contribute this year?