BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) — Lane Kiffin is about to be a head coach again, after agreeing Monday to start anew and take over at Florida Atlantic.
Kiffin’s soon-to-be-former boss, Alabama coach Nick Saban, confirmed the hiring and said his offensive coordinator will remain with the Crimson Tide for the College Football Playoff.
“FAU has selected someone that’s going to do a great job for them,” Saban said in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, at a news conference to promote the upcoming Peach Bowl.
FAU had no immediate comment because the deal has not been finalized. Kiffin has agreed to a five-year contract, a person with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because neither Kiffin nor the school had confirmed the hiring.
A message left for Kiffin was not immediately returned Monday.
“I’m ready to start next season already,” FAU offensive lineman Matt Murphy tweeted after word of Kiffin’s hiring broke.
Kiffin has been the offensive coordinator at Alabama for the last three seasons, helping the Crimson Tide win last season’s national championship and get back to the College Football Playoff with the No. 1 ranking this year. FAU will be his third collegiate head coaching job, and the first since USC fired him five games into the 2013 season.
“Lane’s done a phenomenal job for us for the last three years,” Saban said. “We appreciate the impact that he’s made on this program. We think this is a wonderful opportunity for him to be a head coach again.”
Saban said in recent days that he wanted to help Kiffin get another opportunity to be a head coach. It wasn’t clear if Kiffin would have been back at Alabama next season otherwise.
“They’ve made a great hire,” Saban said of FAU.
It has been an annual rite in recent years that Kiffin’s name gets mentioned for high-profile openings, as it was in the past few weeks for since-filled jobs at Oregon and Houston.
Kiffin interviewed with Houston twice, the school’s board of regents chairman told KILT-AM radio in Houston last week.
“Sure, he’s been a head coach and he’s been an OK head coach,” the regent, Tilman Fertitta, said in that radio interview. “But I can tell you this — it was not a safe hire.”
FAU apparently disagreed.
FAU and Kiffin had their dialogue intensify late last week, although the pairing seemed somewhat unexpected. Kiffin made $1.4 million this season at Alabama; FAU was paying Charlie Partridge a bit over $500,000 annually when he was fired after his third consecutive 3-9 season.
FAU President John Kelly has wanted to continue raising the school’s profile, including on the athletic fronts. And hiring Kiffin is the sort of splashy move that will certainly get the Owls plenty of attention.
“Owl Nation is Soaring High!” Kelly tweeted on Monday. “Unbridled Ambition.”
Kiffin lasted 20 games as coach of the Oakland Raiders in 2007 and 2008, going 5-15.
He returned to college ball and was 7-6 in 2009, his lone season at Tennessee. And he went 28-15 in parts of four seasons at USC.
Kiffin becomes the third marquee head-coaching hire in the state of Florida in recent weeks. FIU hired former Miami and North Carolina coach Butch Davis in November, and former Louisville and Texas coach Charlie Strong was hired Sunday at South Florida.
They’ll all face in-state recruiting battles against Miami coach Mark Richt, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, Florida coach Jim McElwain and Central Florida coach Scott Frost.