Lane Kiffin has been the youngest head coach in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders, and the head coach at Southern Cal, and served on Nick Saban’s championship staff at Alabama. Few football coaches in America have had a higher-profile resume’ over the past dozen years. The spotlight, wanted or not, always has come to him.
Now he’s going to find it, as the famous actor suddenly on the small stage, in the community theater of college football that is Florida Atlantic University. Kiffin has yet to coach his first Saturday for the Owls after accepting the job last December, but he’s already winning attention -- no small feat for a Conference USA program largely ignored even on its own campus.
His infamous promotional video, put out just before national signing day in February, depicted a visibly unenthusiastic Kiffin in an empty stadium. It was instantly mocked on social media. FAU’s official Twitter account, which had tweeted out the video, quickly deleted it. Ah, but Kiffin now claims that was the master plan!
“We said, ‘If we just put out a normal, exciting video, nobody’s really going to play that outside of Boca [Raton],’” Kiffin, 42, told Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd recently. “Then, all of a sudden we get publicity for the program. And you’ve got all kinds of people looking up FAU that don’t even know what FAU is.”
That’s inspired either way. If he truly did purposely make a painfully bad video to draw attention -- brilliant. If it’s an after-the-fact lie to spin the story in his favor -- also brilliant.
Oh, did I mention FAU enjoyed what may have been its best recruiting class ever, with 15 three-star recruits among its 23 signees? That is the nectar, if you are FAU, of hiring a big-name coach, one who arrives with the pedigree and perfume of Saban’s dynasty. (Conference USA rival Florida International University was surely doing some of the same in recently hiring former Hurricanes coach Butch Davis).
FIU is in Miami, at least. Kiffin must work harder for that spotlight to reach Boca an hour to the north.
How to do that in the dead of the offseason? Hey, here’s an idea. Offer a scholarship to a 13-year-old!
It was a non-binding spoken offer. So what. It was publicity.
So FAU and Kiffin made Kaden Martin, a quarterback for Adams Middle School in Redondo Beach, California, the first recruit of the Owls’ class of 2022. Kaden, who already is 5-11, is the son of Tee Martin, the former Tennessee Vols star QB who coached under Kiffin at USC. The families are close.
“I’m just extremely proud and appreciative for the opportunity for Kaden,” Tee Martin told reporters. “He and coach Kiffin have always had a great relationship. I’m thankful.”
(Cannot confirm speculation that Butch Davis is now scrambling to one-up Kiffinby offering an FIU scholarship to a 12-year old).
A cynic might note that betting odds would not favor Kiffin still being the coach at FAU in five years, or Kaden Martin ever actually signing with the Owls. But that’s OK. For a slow May, it’s a reminder of a lot of what FAU was getting when it hired Lane Kiffin, and what he already is delivering: