Opinion: Kiffin hiring puts FAU on the map

The new coach will expedite the process of building a program.


Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Brendan Feeney, Sports Editor

Florida Atlantic has put its efforts over the past years into making the football program nationally known.

It paid $70 million for a new football stadium that broke ground in 2010. The program also has $28 million dollars set aside for the Schmidt Family Complex for Academic and Athletic Excellence building, a project which will cost $45-50 million.

However that $100 million already spent pales in comparison to what the Owls did on Monday morning when they hired Lane Kiffin to become the fifth head coach in program history.

Kiffin has held three head coaching jobs in his career — two on the collegiate scale at the University of Southern California and University of Tennessee, as well as a brief stint in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders.

Since being fired from USC in 2013, Kiffin has been the offensive coordinator at Alabama, where he won a national championship and was a finalist for the Broyles Award — given to the best assistant coach in college football.

The Owls meanwhile haven’t sniffed a bowl-eligible season since 2013, when the team finished 6-6, and the last bowl they played in was almost a decade ago in 2008. They made national attention in 2013, but not for the right reasons as a drug scandal cost then-head coach Carl Pelini his job.

In the past couple years under Charlie Partridge, FAU started to offer glimpses at what national-caliber success looks like. Granted, the team never won more than three games with Partridge at the helm, but it surely made noise.

In 2015, defensive end Trey Hendrickson finished second in the nation in sacks and punter Dalton Schomp led the nation with 48 yards per punt. At the end of the same season, FAU forced overtime against the nationally ranked University of Florida Gators in Gainesville.

Offensive lineman Reggie Bain and linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair made freshman All-American teams in back-to-back years.

None of those moments brought anywhere near the same kind of national excitement that the announcement of Kiffin has already brought FAU, including school president John Kelly.

The signing of a high-profile coach could not have come at a better time for the Owls as other South Florida schools have recently done the same.

In the past month, Florida International University hired former NCAA and NFL head coach Butch Davis to the same position and the University of South Florida hired Charlie Strong, who was arguably the hottest coach in football before he took the University of Texas job in 2014.

The Owls new coach will have to battle with Strong and Davis, as well as the likes of Miami’s Mark Richt, Florida’s Jim McElwain and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher to recruit in the state of Florida, which traditionally produces some of the highest-caliber recruits in America.

Kiffin will have plenty of talent, such as Al-Shaair, Bain and all-conference running back Devin Singletary at his disposal, but recruiting will be vital to fix what was the worst defense in Conference USA and the sixth worst in the nation a season ago.

I fear that a successful Kiffin will leave FAU high and dry and leave when a bigger school comes along, but when that day comes, Florida Atlantic football will be in a better place.

Brendan Feeney is the sports editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @feeney42.