Since becoming head coach at Florida Atlantic, Lane Kiffin has attracted all sorts of attention, including for his Twitter account. Sometimes irreverent, sometimes funny, sometimes trolling, Kiffin’s tweets attract attention.
So is there a strategy behind it? According to the man himself, not really. He simply decided to be his true self after leaving Alabama in 2016.
“It really wasn’t some detailed, thought-out plan,” Kiffin told Adam Kramer of Bleacher Report. “We’re all so worried about what people will say, how they look, what they wear and things like that. I’m not like that, obviously. You only live once.”
Kiffin originally joined Twitter to use it as a recruiting tool, but has taken it above and beyond. He is aware that his tweets are a good way to attract attention from recruits and non-recruits alike, and likes the authenticity it can provide.
“A lot of these coaches have their GAs [graduate assistants] or other people writing their stuff,” Kiffin said. “How real is that? I don’t want to read your tweets that somebody else did. I can look up your stats, your graduation rates and how many touchdowns you’ve thrown on my own.”
Kiffin uses Twitter to offer his thoughts on life, politics, football, and even his former employers. It has certainly made him unpopular in some circles, but given the on-field success they had in 2017 and the recruits they’re competing for that normally wouldn’t be available to a smaller program, it’s hard to deny that his strategy — or whatever you wish to call it — is working.
Lane Kiffin loves to troll Nick Saban and take jabs at his former boss, but this time he decided to come to the Alabama coach’s defense.
A CBS Sports poll asked coaches to identify the most overrated and underrated coaches. One coach called Saban overrated and even said that he cheats.
“If you had the No. 1 recruiting class in the country every year [you’d win like Nick Saban]. He shows up at every single game with a better roster than the teams he ‘s playing. … If you count cheating and getting the best players in the country as part of running a program, he’s the best in the country. It’s like saying an NFL coach is the best coach in the league if he gets 25 first-round picks every year,” one coach said about Saban, according to the poll.
Kiffin was asked about that allegation during an interview with Colin Cowherd and tore it apart. Instead, he attributed Saban’s success in recruiting to his work ethic.
“He’s the best recruiter in the world because of the time he spends,” Kiffin told Cowherd, according to The Spun. “He’s on the phone with recruits every single day. At night he has a list of recruits he’s personally calling himself.
“The only cheating they do is he works harder than everybody else.”
Kiffin further praised Saban on Twitter, calling him the “best coach in the history of college football.”
“The best coach in the history of college football ever!! How can u say he’s overrated??? Coaches just hate on him bc he beats them on the field and out recruits them off the field!!”
The best coach in the history of college football ever!! How can u say he's overrated??? Coaches just hate on him bc he beats them on the field and out recruits them off the field!! @ColinCowherd @AlabamaFTBL @espn https://t.co/XRN5o9b8vD
— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) August 23, 2018
It’s good to know that beneath all the jabs and shots at Saban, Kiffin does have a deep level of respect for the Alabama coach.
The general perception is that Lane Kiffin has done a lot to bolster his reputation after a successful season at Florida Atlantic, but to many of the people whose opinions matter most, he’d still be a no-go as a coaching candidate.
Yahoo Sports recently polled 15 college athletic directors on whether they would consider hiring Kiffin at their school, and the feedback was quite resounding: 11 said no, some emphatically by adding several exclamation marks, while two said yes and two said maybe.
“Can he get a job? Sure,” one source said, via Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports. “He’s a world-class play caller, knows the game and can recruit. Do I think we’re at a moment in time with off-field issues and the FBI probe that people are less apt to take that risk? Yes.”
In general, the athletic directors cited his propensity for drama and perception of immaturity as reasons against even considering him.
“Not a chance,” one AD said. “Too much smoke/drama around him. And he’ll probably think he’s Vince Lombardi if he wins another season.”
“Not if it’s the same immature Lane,” added another. “I have no idea if he’s grown up and is ready to be a leader of all things of a program, not just a coordinator and play caller.”
One athletic director was a bit more charitable, saying “I do think he’s rehabilitated his image, so to speak, and is an attractive candidate should he have a great year this year and keep his nose clean.”
But that’s the thing. Kiffin’s schtick works at a school like Florida Atlantic, which wouldn’t get a lot of attention otherwise and likes the publicity he single-handedly brings to the program. If you’re a more established program that doesn’t need to be constantly putting yourselves in the headlines for off-field reasons, the sniping with his ex-boss and the blunt, unapologetic nature won’t fly. Just look at this athletic director’s reasoning for passing up the chance to hire Kiffin and you have the same reason that a lot of his contemporaries would likely give, too.
Lane Kiffin has taken a swipe at Nick Saban seemingly every chance he gets since the two parted ways prior to the national championship game in 2017, and there is still no sign of him letting up.
Over the weekend, Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts criticized the Crimson Tide coaching staff for the way they have handled the QB competition between him and Tua Tagovailoa.
@JalenHurts: "No one came up to me the whole spring, coaches included, no one asked me how I felt. No one asked me what was on my mind. … Now when we're trying to handle the situation now, for me it's kinda late. It's too late. The narrative has already been created." pic.twitter.com/adJS7UxmdL
— Alex Byington (@_AlexByington) August 4, 2018
That made Saban and his staff look bad, which is something Kiffin greatly enjoys. Not surprisingly, he couldn’t help but weigh in.
— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) August 4, 2018
Kiffin was referencing an article that was written about him a year ago, in which several anonymous sources ripped him for the way he carries himself. Saban went on record in that story as saying Kiffin is a very smart coach who will eventually figure out that the profession is “about people.”
It’s obvious Kiffin and Saban did not get along during their relatively brief time together, and Kiffin loves reminding us of that.
Lane Kiffin signed a ten-year contract extension at Florida Atlantic this week, but judging by one important point in the deal, it doesn’t seem like it should be taken as a guarantee that he’ll be at the school long-term.
According to Chuck King of OwlAccess.com, which obtained a copy of Kiffin’s new deal, much is unchanged in the new contract. That includes his base salary, though he is entitled to a number of bonuses based on performance. He’ll also receive financial bonuses if his players meet certain academic standards.
There is one point, however, that may be taken as an indicator that Kiffin’s long-term future lies elsewhere. Florida Atlantic did not alter Kiffin’s buyout clause, which stands at $2 million prior to January 2019 and a paltry $500,000 afterwards. That means if Kiffin finds a new job after next January, it will not be expensive to free him from his FAU deal.
Kiffin had been talking about a new deal for a while, and he certainly has a pretty good gig now. It’s clear, though, that he wanted to keep some leverage for himself going forward, and he has done that.
Lane Kiffin has made a habit of trolling Alabama since he parted ways with the program a week before the national championship game in 2017, and the coach is showing no signs of slowing down.
Florida Atlantic University, the school where Kiffin is now the head football coach, is set to take on Oklahoma in its first regular season game this year. Kiffin is looking forward to the challenge, and he managed to take a shot at Alabama while talking about it this week.
— Jake Elman (@JakeElman) June 13, 2018
“(Oklahoma was) No. 2 in the playoffs and Bama was 4,” Kiffin said. “According to that, you’re getting a better team than Bama, so we’ll see.”
You could make the argument that Kiffin was just trying to praise Oklahoma by saying they’re on the same level as the defending national champs, but history would tell us he was taking a swipe at his former employer. After all, this is the same guy who has dedicated stretches of time on Twitter to mocking the Crimson Tide. Even if he was just giving the Sooners their respect, doing it at the expense of Nick Saban’s team almost certainly was not a coincidence.
Lane Kiffin became a head coach in the SEC for the 2009 season with Tennessee, but he nearly got his first head coaching gig in the conference a year earlier.
During an interview with Bo Mattingly on Tuesday on “Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly,” Kiffin revealed that he was very close to becoming the Arkansas coach at one point.
Kiffin: Without giving too much detail, I was very close to becoming the head coach at Arkansas at one point in time.
— Bo Mattingly (@SportsTalkwBo) May 8, 2018
Though Kiffin did not share many details about the flirtation, it turns out that the late Al Davis did once upon a time.
According to the former Oakland Raiders owner, in late 2007, Arkansas wanted to hire Kiffin to replace Houston Nutt. Kiffin was in his first season as the Raiders’ head coach at the time. Davis told them to wait until after the season to make the move.
Knowing that there was competition for the job, Bobby Petrino ended up abruptly leaving the Atlanta Falcons towards the end of the 2007 season to take the Arkansas job and was ripped by his players.
Kiffin remained with the Raiders before Al Davis fired him early in the 2008 season, harshly criticizing the young coach in the process. Kiffin ended up landing the Tennessee job, which he left after one season in 2009. Given the way Kiffin left Tennessee, Davis was somewhat vindicated for his comments about the head coach.
After being fired by USC and then becoming an offensive coordinator at Alabama, Kiffin has now landed at Florida Atlantic, where he is building a powerhouse.
Just think: had Kiffin taken the Arkansas job, we never would have gotten the classic Petrino motorcycle scandal.