In the pantheon of sports’ greatest what-if questions, the hypothetical inquiry of, “What if Lane Kiffin had coached Alabama’s offense in the national championship?” seems pretty low on the pecking order.
But for fans of the Crimson Tide — and Kiffin himself — the scenario apparently still warrants a mental examination.
Kiffin did a lengthy interview with Fox Sports Radio’s “Outkick the Coverage” and was asked if he thought the game would have played out differently had he retained his post. The new FAU football skipper said he couldn’t answer that.
“I don’t know that,” Kiffin said. “There’s no way to know that.
“[Then-offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian] was put in a very difficult situation. Whatever it was, a week, eight days or whatever and all of a sudden you’re calling the game. So like you said, it’s the hardest one to try to figure out. … If it would have been different and had I been there, that meant I would have won — if that is the case, I don’t know that. It wouldn’t have had anything to do with anything about Sark. It would have been the players being comfortable of what they know.”
Alabama lost the title game to Clemson 35-31 on a last-second touchdown after relinquishing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead.
The Owls hired Kiffin to replace Charlie Partridge as their new head coach in mid-December, about a month before college football’s finale. Kiffin originally planned to run Alabama’s offense through the end of its playoff run but that idea was scrapped in a reportedly mutual agreement one week before the contest.
Sarkisian left Alabama after the loss to take the same position with the Atlanta Falcons. Brian Daboll, who led the Miami Dolphins offense in 2011, now calls the shots in Tuscaloosa.
Before Lane Kiffin roams the sidelines in his first official game as Florida Atlantic University’s head coach, it appears he and the university will need to deal with some legal issues.
According to SEC Country, former University of Alabama wide receiver Antonio “A.C.” Carter filed a fraud lawsuit on Tuesday against Kiffin, FAU and the state of Florida alleging that Kiffin misled him regarding a position on FAU’s coaching staff.
Carter claims that Kiffin used his relationship with a four-star running back recruit to entice the junior college transfer to sign with the Owls. Though the lawsuit does not name the recruit, it does mention that the recruit was from Carter’s hometown of Tallahassee, played in junior college and was once a four-star prospect who had signed a letter of intent with the University of Florida. According to SEC Country, FAU signee D’Anfernee McGriff fits the profile of the unnamed recruit.
The lawsuit alleges that shortly after the prospect accepted a scholarship at FAU, Carter was informed that he did not pass the required background check, forfeiting his candidacy for the one-year, $40,000 assistant strength and conditioning coach position that he claims he was offered.
Despite sending documentation to the university showing that the two misdemeanor charges on his record had been resolved, Carter’s inquires went unanswered. Carter claims that he even went as far as to wait outside of FAU athletic director Pat Chun’s office for several hours, only to have Chun refuse to meet with him, according to SEC Country.
Carter, who says that he was responsible for recruiting three FAU signees, claims that Kiffin assured him that the process leading to his employment at the university was “done,” leading him and his wife to quit their jobs and travel to the campus to help with recruiting, according to SEC Country.
This isn’t the first time in Kiffin’s brief tenure as FAU head coach that his coaching staff has been an issue. Kiffin’s hiring of Kendal Briles, who was mentioned in the Baylor sexual assault scandal lawsuit, his hiring of two assistant coaches from Ole Miss, which is being investigated by the NCAA, and his hiring of defensive-line coach and recruiting coordinator Eric Mathies, who was arrested for a DUI in 2014, have all sparked controversy.
Comatose coach squinting through sunlight? Check. Choppy editing and cheesy soundtrack? Check and check.
FAU and first-year football coach Lane Kiffin used the above recipe to create either the week’s most awkward or most sneaky-genius hype video ahead of National Signing Day.
The video, which was posted to and later deleted from FAU’s official Twitter account, was objectively cringeworthy. It had the enthusiasm of a child sleep-walking through daily chores and the soundtrack of a mandatory corporate retreat.
All of that helped it catch viral fire, pushing FAU into the national spotlight in a week typically reserved for college football’s superpowers. That the Owls subsequently enjoyed their best signing day ever — tops in Conference USA, 72nd overall on 247 Sports — suggests the clip actually helped, not hurt, their sales pitch.
That, Kiffin said Wednesday, was the plan all along.
“That was a trick,” Kiffin said of the non-hype video. “We did it so bad because we knew we would get so much attention. That was actually on purpose.”
Some remain skeptical even after the explanation. If the video was intentionally atrocious and made solely as an attention-grabber, why did FAU feel the need to expunge it from its Twitter feed?
But no matter the intent, the clip served its purpose. The Owls were buzzing across the football landscape and continue to do so after Kiffin’s first recruiting haul.
FAU announced 24 signees Wednesday. The class included 15 three-star players, according to 247 Sports, including former Florida State quarterback De’Andre Johnson, former Texas wide receiver DeAndre McNeal and former Miami safety commit Ahman Ross. McNeal, the nation’s No. 8 junior college receiver, picked FAU over UCLA.
Maybe the Bruins should have invested in their own awful (but maybe purposely awful) recruiting video.
New Florida Atlantic football coach Lane Kiffin has already made national noise, and it’s not all the kind of noise he would like.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the Owls skipper rescinded a scholarship offer to Orlando-Dr. Phillips athlete D.J. Charles. Making matters worse, the move was made just ahead of National Signing Day on Feb. 1, leaving the two-star prospect scrambling for a home he thought he’d already found.
When Kiffin was hired in December, Charles began getting the cold shoulder from the new regime. His phone calls yielded only voicemails, and a Twitter connection with Kiffin’s brother and FAU defensive coordinator Chris Kiffin only increased the confusion.
“He followed me on Twitter, so I followed him back,” Charles told the Orlando Sentinel, “and then he hit me up on DM, saying ‘Hey D.J., what’s up’ … and then he asked me, ‘Why did I decommit from FAU.’”
But Charles never decommitted. He asked why the new coaching staff hadn’t communicated with him and was told — a few times — that they would review his film and get back to him.
When no one did, Charles’ father, Lebert Charles, called the school and eventually received word the scholarship offer was no longer on the table.
This situation isn’t unique to Kiffin and Charles. Scholarship offers aren’t always honored after coaching changes, as play styles and subsequent needs change. New UConn football coach Randy Edsall pulled an offer to linebacker Ryan Dickens seven months after he verbally committed to the school.
Charles had been locked in at FAU since October. At the time, the 5’9”, 190-pounder told the Orlando Sentinel he felt, “relaxed, more comfortable now. I can just think about finishing up my senior year and I don’t have to worry about what school I’m going to.”
Now, Charles is back to worrying and racing to find an open spot he didn’t plan on needing.
Lane Kiffin has a new job, but that isn’t stopping him from taking shots at an old rival.
Florida Atlantic’s new head football coach took to Twitter this week to take a shot at Alabama’s bitter rivals, the Auburn Tigers. Kiffin, who was let go as the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator days before the team faced Clemson in the national championship game, posted a picture of a private jet with the Auburn logo painted on the back and captioned the photo “#missuguys.”
Auburn fans likely don’t miss Kiffin, whose offenses at Alabama scored an average of 38 points per game in three wins over the Tigers during his tenure in Tuscaloosa.
The 41-year-old coach hasn’t been shy about showing his continued support of his old school, also taking to Twitter during the national championship game to tweet his support of Alabama, who would go on to lose to Clemson 35-31. Kiffin posted another picture on that night, this time of his Crimson Tide sweatpants.
Lane Kiffin comes to Florida Atlantic University as the only college coach in the country to, technically, go undefeated this past season.
As SB Nation points out — largely in jest — Kiffin, who was let go from his offensive coordinator position at Alabama just days before the Crimson Tide were to play in the national championship game against Clemson after it was determined that the demands of holding both that and his new head-coaching role at FAU were too difficult, is the only coach who can say he had a spotless record during the 2016 season.
The only other undefeated team in the nation entering bowl season was the Western Michigan Broncos, who retained all of their coaches before losing 24-16 to Wisconsin the Cotton Bowl.
Despite the distinction, it appears that Kiffin was rooting against it, considering his mid-game tweet in support of Alabama.
The Crimson Tide’s loss to Clemson turned the attention toward Saban and Kiffin’s “mutual agreement” to relieve Kiffin of his coordinator duties. Some have questioned the decision to allow Steve Sarkisian to take over for the national championship game, especially after Kiffin helped to lead Alabama to a perfect record up until that point.
Regardless of the ramifications in Tuscaloosa, FAU’s head man now has a new title that he can throw around in recruits’ living rooms.
The Lane Kiffin era has begun at Florida Atlantic, as the former Tennessee, USC and Oakland Raiders head man was officially sworn in last week as the Owls’ new head coach.
The move to hire Kiffin — most recently the offensive coordinator under Nick Saban at Alabama — is one that the university hopes will bring revenue and a winning tradition to a program aiming for relevancy as it tries to continue building itself from scratch. It is anticipated that the high-profile coach will bring high-profile talent, as evidenced by last week’s signing of dismissed Florida State quarterback De’Andre Johnson, but college football experts warn that there is a ceiling to just how competitive and nationally relevant the Owls can be in the near future.
“It depends on your definition of ‘nationally relevant,'” Rece Davis, the host of ESPN’s College GameDay, told the Post. “If you mean the occasional cycle up and maybe sneak into a major bowl as UCF has done and USF has threatened to do, then there’s no reason FAU under Kiffin can’t do that.”
But what about aiming higher?
“If [nationally relevant] means becoming the equal of the big three in the state,” Davis continued, referring to Florida, Florida State and Miami, “I don’t think that is a realistic goal or even one worth worrying about.”
ESPN national college football reporter Adam Rittenberg provided a similar comparison for FAU’s potential growth.
“When you look at what a school like Western Michigan has done, which was in far worse shape than FAU, now playing in the Cotton Bowl, and you look at periods of success schools like UCF and USF have had, it provides hope,” said Rittenberg.
Both Central Florida and South Florida have developed track records of relative success over the past decade-plus, but despite their growth on the field, the two American Athletic Conference programs are still considered a tier below Florida, Florida State and Miami in Florida’s college football hierarchy. While a leap into that UCF/USF tier seems feasible for FAU under Kiffin, striving to quickly surpass those schools and taking up residence among the state’s elite could actually prove costly for the Owls.
Though an extreme example, the struggles and ultimate shutdown of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s football program serves as a cautionary tale for the Owls’ young football program. UAB, which began playing FBS football in 1996, 10 years before FAU, was forced to close its program due to a financial gap created by the school’s hasty efforts to make it a big-time program. According to FiveThirtyEight, UAB found little in the way of fan support or funding in its attempt to compete with the University of Alabama, relying mostly on subsidies to cover their athletic expenses.
In 2013, FAU’s attendance, win percentage and athletic revenue, expenses and subsides were all comparable to UAB. With Kiffin and his nearly $1 million-a-year contract in the fold, FAU will rely heavily on a winning product and fan support to get a return on its investment.
The foundation for that winning product can be built through recruiting, but big-time recruits in South Florida don’t necessarily need to be swayed from the state’s top-tier universities for Kiffin’s tenure to be successful.
“They don’t have to go far in recruiting to field a highly competitive team,” Rittenberg said. “There is no reason to believe FAU cannot be highly relevant in Conference USA.”
With the competition level in CUSA, Kiffin’s ability to find overlooked local prospects may contribute to a quick turnaround, and if even a semblance of a winning tradition is formed, higher-caliber recruits may begin to consider coming to Boca Raton for their college careers.
“Recruiting will rely on finding the slightly overlooked player. … They need to be very strong in the bounce-back market,” Davis suggested, “meaning kids who started elsewhere and are looking for a fresh start or second chance.”
Johnson, the FSU castoff, is a perfect example. “That carries its own risks,” Davis pointed out.
That risk, much like the risk of paying a high-profile coach in an attempt to jump-start the program, is one that FAU appears willing to take.
— Post reporter Joe Schad contributed to this story
Ever since Conference USA’s softball coaches named Florida Atlantic the top team in the conference’s preseason poll, the Owls have been thought of as the best team in the league.
Entering the Conference USA tournament as the No. 1 seed and on an 18-game winning streak, the vision of FAU hoisting a championship trophy at the end of the season started to become more probable.
The team confirmed all those beliefs on Saturday afternoon, defeating the University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers in the conference championship game by a score of 6-0.
Prior to this year’s softball campaign, no FAU athletic program ever hoisted a Conference USA championship trophy. Last year’s softball team came the closest, but fell to Western Kentucky 3-1 in the championship game.
Junior pitcher Kylee Hanson pitched in last year’s title game and allowed three runs and six hits in six innings of work. This time around, Hanson, one of 10 finalists for NCAA’s USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, threw her 15th shutout of the season — tops in the country — while striking out eight batters and allowing just three hits.
The Owls, who won 22-of-24 conference games in the regular season, beat Louisiana Tech 7-4 on Thursday and mercy-ruled UAB 11-3 in five innings in Friday’s semifinal game (the tournament was in double-elimination format, which allowed the two teams to play in both the semifinal and the championship game).
Junior right fielder Delaney Rickey recorded five hits in seven at-bats during those first two games of the tournament. She knocked in three runs, scored twice and hit a triple in each game.
In Saturday’s championship game, Rickey scored the first run of the game in the bottom of the first inning on a double off the bat of senior third baseman Carnesha Thompson. Thompson scored the second run of the inning when she scored on a throwing error.
Senior second baseman Melissa Martinez singled in the third run in the third inning. Her twin sister, senior center fielder Christina Martinez, scored and knocked in two more runs in the fourth inning to help the Owls take a commanding 6-0 lead.
The Owls are a projected two-seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament, but they will have to wait for the selection show on Sunday night to see who and where they will play. The show will air on ESPNU at 10 p.m.
The Glades Central graduate was a four-year contributor to Florida Atlantic’s offense. He earned second-team All-Conference USA status as a senior. He was named FAU’s Defensive Most Valuable Player. LeBlanc spent the first three seasons with the Owls watching and learning from fellow cornerbacksD’Joun Smith and Keith Reaser, who have been chosen in the past two NFL drafts, respectively. LeBlanc picked off four passes in 2015.
Former FAU coach Carl Peline told NFL.com that LeBlanc‘s ability to cover receivers and help stop the run and blitz the quarterback make him very versatile. He made up for some some of the size disadvantages he had against bigger receivers with an aggressive style. He is good at getting his hands on receivers early in their routes to disrupt them. However, according to NFL.com, at the pro level his size will be a liability and he lacks the desired recovery speed to play on the outside. Scouts love his competitiveness and project him to cover slot receivers and return kicks.