People in Tennessee wanted a bounty on Lane Kiffin’s head. Now a Nashville newspaper asks Kiffin to return.
Proving that you don’t have to live very long to see everything in college football, since Kiffin is just 42.
Also proving that winning is the ultimate amnesty. It can provide forgiveness without demanding repentance.
Kiffin took over Florida Atlantic’s program after the Owls had gone 3-9 for three consecutive years. “They had one win over a team with a winning record,” Kiffin said.
Now they’re bowl eligible with a six-game winning streak, and they’re unbeaten in Conference USA. They average 39.4 points, 10th in major college football.
They are 7-3, losing at Navy in a weather-delayed game that ended at 1:45 a.m., losing at Wisconsin when Hurricane Irma was consuming Florida and closing FAU’s campus. The team stayed in Madison until the following Wednesday.
“Our guys were worried about their families and their situations, and then they didn’t have a place to go if they came home,” Kiffin said.
“But I’m just having fun watching them experience winning. I see how much they appreciate it.”
For once, he sees how the other 95 percent lives.
Kiffin has coached Tennessee, USC and the Oakland Raiders and was the offensive coordinator at Alabama.
Florida Atlantic is a commuter school just off an I-95 exit, in Boca Raton. It never played a football game until 2001, when it lost to Slippery Rock, 40-7.
It wanted a coach and a brand and gained both, at least temporarily.
“There’s really no difference during most of the day,” Kiffin said. “It’s just football. But when we used to pull up to an SEC stadium, there might be thousands of people around the bus. Coach (Nick) Saban would get out and get booed, and then me. Here, it’s family and friends, and that’s nice.
“I’ve had to adjust. When we started recruiting, the coaches would show me players and I’d go, ‘No, no, no. no.’ Finally the recruiting coordinator told me I might be setting my sights a little too high. I was accustomed to recruiting first-round picks. You always learn something.”
Kiffin spent 14 months at Tennessee. He was 7-6 in 2009, including a Chick-Fil-A Bowl loss to Virginia Tech. He left for USC, and Tennessee students burned T-shirts that showed Kiffin’s face, and the pitchforks surrounded the football facility.
“The campus was one big riot,” recalled Eric Berry, the Kansas City safety who was a Volunteer then.
Then USC athletic…