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.”
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.”
- 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.”