Florida Atlantic Univ

Lane Kiffin: Proud to be an Owl (no, really)

Lane Kiffin gestures as he speaks after being introduced as the new Florida Atlantic NCAA college head football coach, Tues., Dec. 13, 2016, in Boca Raton, Fla. Kiffin will return to Alabama to continue running the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide's offense in the College Football Playoff, which starts Dec. 31 with a semifinal game against No. 4 Washington.
Lane Kiffin gestures as he speaks after being introduced as the new Florida Atlantic NCAA college head football coach, Tues., Dec. 13, 2016, in Boca Raton, Fla. Kiffin will return to Alabama to continue running the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide's offense in the College Football Playoff, which starts Dec. 31 with a semifinal game against No. 4 Washington. AP

Lane Kiffin is thrilled to be an Owl. Really he is.

It’s difficult to tell that he’s excited about his new job as Florida Atlantic University football coach in a promotional video released by the school. But maybe he’s exhausted from all the recruiting he’s been doing since departing his position as offensive coordinator at mighty Alabama under coach Nick Saban and accepting the challenge of building humble FAU into a powerhouse.

The transition from Tuscaloosa to Boca Raton must have been a jarring one judging from Kiffin’s muted monotone on the video, which has been the subject of mocking tweets. Or maybe he’s just not the perky type. Perhaps the script was wrong for Kiffin. Not all coaches can be actors, too.

But his demeanor in the video touting Signing Day does make one wonder how he could possibly deliver a rousing locker room speech to his players. Or a persuasive recruiting pitch, for that matter.

“Hey, Owl Nation,” Kiffin says, squinting into the camera with an empty FAU stadium as backdrop, his voice as flat as Boca’s terrain. “What an exciting time. As we sign some of the best players in America we need some of the best fans in America. So please join us next week for this exciting season. Come watch the Owls have a great year and a championship run starting with you.”

Then Kiffin flashes the renowned sign of the Owls with his left hand. It also look like an OK sign. Owl Nation knows the difference.

“Go Owls,” he says, with no change of expression or intonation.

The petite burrowing owl is FAU’s mascot. The campus is home to a nature preserve for the animals, although a quarter of its acreage was consumed in 2009 to build the stadium.

FAU, which finished 3-9 in each of the past three seasons and hasn’t been to a bowl since 2008, hired Kiffin to a five-year, $4.75 million deal in December. He is FAU’s fifth coach, following Howard Schnellenberger, Carl Pelini, Brian Wright and Charlie Partridge.

Kiffin, 41, son of longtime NFL assistant coach Monte Kiffin, is known as an offensive mastermind who persuaded even Saban to mount a more creative attack. He coached three different starting quarterbacks to three SEC titles in his three seasons at Bama.

He’s re-climbing the coaching ladder after a precocious start. He was hired as head coach of the Oakland Raiders at age 31, and went 5-15 in 2007 and 2008. At 33 he went to Tennessee (7-6 in 2009) and a year later to USC, where he was fired five games into the 2013 season. Along the way he was criticized for being arrogant and abrasive.

Saban doesn’t smile much, either. Stones emote more than poker-faced Bill Belichick, coach of the Super Bowl favorite New England Patriots. No one would have dared ask Don Shula to make a promo for the Dolphins.

So perhaps Kiffin’s video is perfect. Perhaps FAU has hired the ultimate winner.

Fear the owl.

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