If you’re looking for more on Lane Kiffin coming to FAU, there’s always more

 

There was a lot left over from my print column on Lane Kiffin’s introductory press conference at Florida Atlantic on Tuesday. Here are a few highlights.

  • Howard Schnellenberger, the program’s founder, was briefly acknowledged with a round of applause at the press conference on the third floor suite level of FAU Stadium but he did not address the crowd. As anyone who ever has stepped onto that campus knows, Howard never passes on an opportunity to address a crowd.

Howard told me “I have now almost officially stepped down from my job as ambassador-at-large at FAU. I’m just about retired. Most everybody knows it now. I haven’t been to the office for about a month.”

Lane Kiffin is introduced as the new Florida Atlantic football coach on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)
Lane Kiffin is introduced as the new Florida Atlantic football coach on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)

There is no FAU football without Schnellenberger, who coached the team for its first 11 seasons (2001-11) and was the prime force behind drawing the plans and raising the funds for the on-campus stadium that helps to make the program so attractive to a guy like Kiffin.

At this moment his vision for the Owls is transitioning into someone else’s, providing Kiffin is up to staying around a while and seeing it through.

“I did a Google on him (Kiffin) and he’s sure got a great resume,” Howard said. “He looks to be a decent young man. He’s got a bunch of big gamily. He’s doing all the right things that the best of coaches have done, being a good father, a good teacher, and more importantly being a good provider and leader of his own family.”

Asked if he thought this would work between Kiffin and FAU, Howard said “It worked for me. It looked like it had to be done. This was the heart of paradise.”

[The Lane Kiffin revival tent is coming to FAU]

[Might as well let ESPN directly manage the College Football Playoff process]

[Lamar Jackson’s Heisman campaign draws comparisons to Tebow’s]

  • I asked Kiffin what his image of the FAU football program was four or five years ago and he said, “I didn’t have an image, really, because there was no recruiting against it. I was at USC or Tennessee and a little bit Alabama. I didn’t do a ton of South Florida recruiting. Did more Central and North Florida.”

Kiffin also said he wasn’t aware of FAU opening a new on-campus stadium when it happened in 2011.

“Coaches talk about facilities all the time,” he said. “Are they important? Yes, but I don’t buy into that as much as some coaches do. I’d rather have a president who wants the football program to win and understands that when the football program wins, it impacts the whole university. I’d rather have that than a bigger weight room.”

  • Along those lines, listen to this from FAU President John Kelly, who sounds like a guy who will approve of Kiffin’s crazy pace.

“Every day we wake up with what we call ‘Unbridled Ambition,’ “ Kelly said. “You see it on the sign behind me. ‘Unbridled Ambition’ means that you have a fire in your belly. You have an intensity. You refuse to lose.

“It means that when you go to work you wish you were there all the time and when you got to sleep, you will wish you were working.”

Before he was finished rolling, Kelly introduced Kiffin as “the top person in the country, the genius in coaching.” No pressure, Lane.

  • Kiffin calls the plays for Nick Saban’s offense at Alabama but he did not say if he would do the same at FAU. He talked instead of learning how to be a CEO by watching Saban. We’ll have to see if he can trust his offense to anyone else, but Kiffin inferred he may institute at least one of Saban’s fastest rules – no media contact with assistant coaches to insure that there is one message and that it comes from him.
  • Kiffin said he would work for Alabama during the day while preparations for the College Football Playoff semifinals are ongoing but will make phone calls and study film on behalf of FAU at night, when the Crimson Tide coaches go home.

He said he might interview candidates for the FAU staff while still in Tuscaloosa, including some of Alabama’s current assistants.

  • Kiffin apologized a bit for putting on a “boring press conference,” short on big promises and his famous tweaking of rival schools. He said “There will be no talk. It will be about work.”

He clearly feels good, though, about the magnetism that goes with his reputation as a coach and a bit of a rebel. What else would you expect from a man with 231,000 followers on Twitter?

“Bringing name recognition is one of the things we want to do,” Kiffin said, “and it’s already happening.

“Recruits that probably would not have looked here are already texting or calling to say, ‘Hey, can I get down there to see you?’ Coaches are already saying, ‘Hey, I’m willing to come there even though it’s maybe a paycut or a smaller program than I’m already at because of the excitement we already know is coming there and what you’re going to be able to do there.”

 

The Lane Kiffin revival tent is coming to FAU

Florida Atlantic knows what it is getting in Lane Kiffin, who quit an SEC head coaching job at Tennessee after one season and soon will be telling area recruits that he’s committed to the Owls heart and soul.

Kiffin is the guy who once offended the entire community of Pahokee by portraying their home as a place where people don’t have enough money “to even have shoes or a shirt on,” yet soon he’ll be out in western Palm Beach County trying to scoop up players from the Blue Devils’ 2016 state championship team.

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 31: Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin for the Alabama Crimson Tide looks on during the Goodyear Cotton Bowl against the Michigan State Spartans at AT&T Stadium on December 31, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Former Alabama offensive coordinator and new Florida Atlantic head coach Lane Kiffin  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

He’s a maker of headlines, primarily related to the major coaching jobs that have been given and then taken away from him, and even after having his reputation scrubbed by living and winning under Nick Saban’s strict rule at Alabama, he wasn’t able to convince Houston and South Florida to commit their rising programs to his care.

So FAU knows all of this about Kiffin, and supposedly more after a weekend of negotiations, but the Owls are hiring him anyway. A news conference to announce his hiring is reportedly scheduled for 10 a.m. on Tuesday. The school needs someone who can push them past three wins per season, and honestly if Kiffin can’t do that, they should just drop the sport and convert that beautiful new stadium into a roofed concert venue.

FAU needs a coach who can fight it out with Butch Davis, FIU’s new boss, and Charlie Strong, South Florida’s new coach, for the kids that the heavyweight programs at FSU, Florida and Miami don’t get.

FAU needs, more than anything else, a reason for people to care that they have a football program in the first place.

It’s a shotgun wedding of sorts, with Kiffin falling all the way down to Conference USA in his hunt for head coaching redemption, but they’re hitched, the Owls and the prowler, and here’s hoping this lasts longer than a similar union did between Bobby Petrino and Western Kentucky.

Those two came together in 2013 when Petrino got fired by Arkansas over ethical issues and needed a place to start over. One 8-4 season at Western Kentucky was all he needed, and now Petrino is at Louisville with Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson for his quarterback.

It could happen just as quickly for Kiffin, for the reason that everything happens quickly for him.

[Might as well just let ESPN directly manage College Football Playoff selection]

[Lamar Jackson’s Heisman campaigns draws some comparisons to Tebow]

[FSU keeping Jimbo is program’s most important news since hiring Jimbo]

He was head coach of the Oakland Raiders at 31. A hero at Tennessee for tweaking Urban Meyer but a villain just one year later for taking what he deemed a promotion at USC. Now three seasons into a successful offensive coordinator stint that had Alabama fans loving him, Kiffin is gone again to be a head coach, but only after flirting with as assistant’s job at LSU, the Crimson Tide’s bitter SEC West rival.

Is this good for FAU? Of course.

Even if Kiffin follows form, setting up the old revival tent and then tearing it down in the middle of the night to skip town for somewhere else, there will be a wave of national media visiting Boca Raton next summer to do stand-ups in front of the school’s fine facilities and waving palm trees.

Even if he postpones most of the heavy-lifting on this new job until mid-January, every mention and every image of Kiffin during Alabama’s College Football Playoff run will include the name of FAU.

Even if Kiffin puts his foot in his mouth over something, or gets the NCAA enforcement division riled up, or simply finds that there isn’t enough talent in the program to push Louisiana Tech and Old Dominion out of the way in this league, the Owls still will have taken their biggest home-run swing since agreeing to let Howard Schnellenberger sell his original concept of football in paradise.

And if it turns out that Kiffin has matured to the point that he really can teach FAU players about doing things the right way and earning every success, that would be a fine surprise.

Fun is the operative word at this moment, however. Kiffin makes FAU football fun, in the way that storm chasers have fun. There is danger. There is drama. There is power in all its magnetic glory.

Watch it up close or from a distance but as long as Kiffin is there, you’ll watch it. He’s not the kind of man anyone has ever been able to ignore.

Might as well just let ESPN directly manage the college football championship product

So here’s an idea.

Rather than fooling around with committees and weekly rankings and complaints about which criteria are being absolutely applied, why not just let ABC and ESPN pick the four College Football Playoff participants according to which matchups promise them the best TV ratings?

YEAR IN FOCUS - SPORTS (1 of a set of 105) GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 11: Lawrence Erekosima #43 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates after defeating the Clemson Tigers in the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Crimson Tide defeated the Tigers with a score of 45 to 40. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Don’t sweat the seedings, which if mishandled or bound by some mechanical process might pair up teams like Alabama and Ohio State prior to the championship game.

Forget conference championship games. Well, other than the bonus money they bring in.

Just allow the TV networks to select their headliners with one all-encompassing December press release, based on the eyeball test and brand power and the wishes of advertising sponsors. After that, the boys in the colorful bowl committee sportcoats can fight it out over whoever’s left.

Wait, you’re not comfortable without some sort of predetermined structure to the process of choosing national semifinalists?

Fine, so do it Electoral College style.

Cable TV executives from the nation’s largest markets get 20 votes each in selecting the college powerhouses that their customers would most enjoy seeing. Middle-sized markets get 10 votes each. Remote outposts like Casper, Wyo.? They get half a vote.

What you’ll get out of that is a couple of teams from down South (People have come to expect it), a classic Big Ten brand name (or Notre Dame when they’re hot) and some team from out West (can’t have an entire region of the country tuning out).

Nobody’s going to care about records. Nobody’s going to cry about some upstart being left out, even if they’re unbeaten, because there’s a lot to watch on TV these days and Western Michigan football is the wrong kind of reality show.

[Lamar Jackson’s Heisman campaign follows successful pattern of Tebow]

[FSU keeping Jimbo is most important news since FSU hiring Jimbo]

[FAU job was tough enough without Butch Davis moving in next door]

Cut to the chase, that’s what I’m saying. Come up with some good matchups and dare college football fans to change the channel based on hurt feelings or on analytical arguments about head-to-head matchups and such.

Pare it all down to one question, the only one that matters, apparently. Are we not entertained? There need be no other rule, no endless series of meetings, once the College Football Playoff committee system is abolished and TV’s larger goals are wired directly to the NCAA’s celebrity roster.

Tell you the truth, it kind of feels like we’re there already.

Back-to-back nostalgia nights as Heat face LeBron and Dwyane

 

Through a cruel twist of the NBA schedule, the Miami Heat are going up against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade this week. On consecutive nights and on the road.

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 05:  Dwyane Wade #3 of the Chicago Bulls puts up a shot over Meyers Leonard #11 of the Portland Trail Blazers on his way to a game-high 34 points at the United Center on December 5, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Trail Blazers defeated the Bulls 112-110.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO – Dwyane Wade of the Chicago Bulls scored 34 points on Monday against the Portland Trail Blazers, one point off his season high. The Trail Blazers defeated the Bulls 112-110. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Friday’s game at Cleveland is Miami’s first against LeBron without any hint of the old Big Three alliance in the Heat lineup.

Then, on Saturday, it’s on to the United Center for a second try against Wade and the Bulls. Chicago won the first meeting between the teams 98-95 on Nov. 10 at AmericanAirlines Arena, with Wade struggling to score 13 points and concluding “I’m glad it’s over with.”

Awkward reunions are going to keep coming up like this for LeBron and Dwyane. Teamed with Chris Bosh in Miami they were terrific, winning two NBA titles and reaching the Finals a few more times.

Since LeBron broke up the band and returned to Cleveland two years ago, it’s been fun to see how they do against each other. The results, at least to me, have been fairly satisfying, since Wade is far more the favorite.

In his final two seasons with Miami, Wade went 4-3 against LeBron and the Cavs. There were two games in there where one or the other did not play. In the five where they both did, Wade averaged 23.8 points and LeBron averaged 26.8.

Since Wade signed with the Bulls in the offseason as a free agent, there has been one meeting between the two.

The Bulls beat the Cavs 111-105 last week to give Wade a head-to-head record of 5-3 against LeBron since the end of the Big Three era. In that game Dwyane scored 24 points and LeBron turned in a terrific performance with 27 points and 13 assists but came up short.

[Lamar Jackson’s Heisman Trophy campaign follows Tebow’s pattern in 2007]

[FSU keeping Jimbo is program’s most vital move since hiring Jimbo]

[Here’s one recent Dolphins head coach who made a big impression on Gase]

Everybody knows that LeBron will continue to do just fine where he is, but the question now is whether Wade will thrive in Chicago more than he might have by staying in Miami another year.

So far, neither team is tearing it up but Miami is in a tougher spot as far as rallying for playoff contention.

Wade, meanwhile, is scoring about like he did last year with the Heat, in the neighborhood of 19 points per game. He’s playing just a little more, 31 minutes plus per game, and making a higher percentage from three-point range.

Altogether, not bad at all for a 34-year-old guard, turning 35 next month, who changed his game when LeBron joined Miami and continues to adjust now that both have moved on.

 

 

Lamar Jackson’s Heisman campaign draws some comparisons to Tim Tebow, and that’s a good thing

 

I’m not a Heisman Trophy voter but, like you, I have a Heisman opinion.

Lamar Jackson, the pride of Boynton Beach High School, is deserving of college football’s ultimate individual award, which will be awarded on Saturday night in New York City. That’s the consensus, of course, and has been for a while, but it will be satisfying to end whatever suspense remains for a couple of reasons.

Boynton Beach football player Lamar Jackson announced that he is signing with Louisville on National Signing Day in Boynton Beach, Florida on February 4, 2015 (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Former Boynton Beach High School star Lamar Jackson announced that he was going to Louisville on National Signing Day in Boynton Beach, Florida on February 4, 2015 (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

First, no Palm Beach County high school athlete has ever won the award. Quarterback Brad Banks of Glades Central came the closest, taking runner-up honors in 2002. For a gauge on how long ago that was, the guy who beat Banks out, Carson Palmer of USC, leads the Arizona Cardinals against the Miami Dolphins this Sunday in what will be his 171st NFL start.

The second reason why it will be good to hear Jackson’s name called and officially get this all over with is the late slump that hit his Louisville Cardinals at the end of the regular season. Losses to Houston and Kentucky dropped Louisville to 9-3 and Jackson wasn’t at his best in either game, combining for three touchdown passes and three interceptions;

That got a debate started about whether DeShaun Watson should get the Heisman instead. After all, his Clemson Tigers are in the College Football Playoff semifinals and Watson beat Jackson in October’s head-to-head meeting. After all, aren’t Heisman winners supposed to contribute to great seasons and play for great teams?

The answer to that is Tim Tebow.

In 2007 Tebow won the Heisman but it wasn’t on one of his two national championship teams at Florida. The Gators lost four times that season and didn’t reach the SEC Championship game. Tebow was so dominant, however, with 32 touchdowns passing and 23 touchdowns rushing that he could not be denied.

Compare these numbers from Tebow in 2007 and Jackson in 2016. The same pattern stands.

Tebow scored 55 touchdowns, passing and rushing. Jackson’s total is 51.

Tebow rushed the ball 114 times more than Florida’s No. 2 ballcarrier. Jackson has 102 more rushes than the No. 2 guy at Louisville.

Tebow threw six interceptions. Jackson’s thrown nine.

Tebow’s team finished 9-4 with a loss to Michigan in Orlando’s Capital One Bowl. Jackson and Louisville are 9-3 with a game upcoming against LSU in Orlando’s Citrus Bowl, the same game with a different name.

Tebow’s 2007 Gators finished 13th in the final AP poll. Louisville finished 13th in the College Football Playoff rankings and stands 15th in the AP poll with a game to play.

[FSU keeping Jimbo is most important news since FSU hiring Jimbo]

[Tebow’s Arizona Fall League season has ended but look for him next spring]

[There’s one recent Dolphins head coach who made a big impression on Gase]

Admittedly, it would be rare for a team completely out of the national championship discussion to win the Heisman. Going back to 2000, five Heisman winners played for unbeaten national title teams and seven more played for teams that reached but lost the national title game.

There always will be exceptions, though, and Jackson should be one of them.

Robert Griffin III, for instance, won the 2011 Heisman with a 10-3 Baylor team that finished tied for third in the Big 12 and played in the Alamo Bowl. The following year Johnny Manziel took the trophy with a two-loss Texas A&M team that dropped its season opener against Florida and wound up tied for second in the SEC West.

Lamar Jackson is the most exciting player in college football today. Give him the trophy, with one last comparison to that other guy.

Tebow scored five touchdowns (three passing and two rushing) in a rout of Florida State in 2007. Jackson also got five when Louisville beat FSU 63-20 in September, the high-profile game that put him in the Heisman driver’s seat and has probably kept him there ever since.