Posted on December 19, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Florida Atlantic football program has found its head coach for the next decade, and it’s Lane Kiffin. After one season in Boca Raton and one conference championship, Kiffin has agreed to a 10-year extension to remain head coach of the Owls. The extension has become public just hours before Florida Atlantic closes out its season with a game against Akron in the Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl.
In his first season as FAU head coach, Kiffin led the Owls to a 10-3. Earlier this month, Florida Atlantic beat North Texas in the Conference-USA Championship Game. It was the second conference title in program history. Tuesday’s bowl game against Akron is just the third in program history. The Owls went 3-9 in each of the three seasons prior to Kiffin coming to Boca Raton, so it’s not surprising that the school would want to lock him up to a long-term deal.
“I’ve told Lane that when I met with him, I thought we could be a top-25 program and we need a coach who can do that,” said FAU President John Kelly. “He’s on the verge of doing that. We’re obviously looking toward keeping Lane long term.”
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Of course, 10 years is a long time for any college coach. It doesn’t help that Kiffin has rarely stayed in one place during his coaching career. He took over as head coach at Tennessee in 2009 with a great deal of bravado, only to bolt for USC after one year in Knoxville. Kiffin lasted less than four years at USC before he was fired five games into the 2013 season. That was his last head coaching job before landing at Florida Atlantic.
However, Kiffin insists that he’s happy and Florida Atlantic and isn’t looking to move elsewhere.
“You are not going to get coach speak here,” Kiffin said in a radio interview last month. “When I say I’m happy here, that’s what every coach says. But I really am. It’s a very unique situation: a) we have a great team, b) a ton of them come back, almost the whole team comes back. And we love living here. There’s a family element that’s awesome. My dad’s here. My brother’s a coordinator.”
Kelly says that Kiffin has had an impact on Florida Atlantic that even goes beyond the football field. He says that out-of-state applications are up 35% for next year’s freshman class. Kelly has no doubt that Kiffin is the biggest reason.
“He just gets it, both as a football coach and being able to attract attention to our university,” says Kelly. “I laugh just about every day at something he puts on Twitter and understand that he’s about the good of the institution and is thinking about what appeals to a 17-year-old kid and not a 60-year-old guy.”
If he honors the extension, Kiffin will be the Florida Atlantic head coach through the 2027 season. However, as much as Kiffin may have enjoyed his first season at FAU, there should be skepticism about him staying in Boca Raton long term. He may say that he’s committed to the Owls. But if the right power-conference team came along, no one would be surprised to see Kiffin jump ship and take it.