The "Lane Train" is moving on. Lane Kiffin is headed back to the SEC as he's agreed to become Ole Miss' next head coach after a successful three-season stint at Florida Atlantic. At FAU, Kiffin went 26-13 and led the Owls to two Conference USA titles, the most recent coming on Saturday via a 49-6 win over UAB.
Kiffin, 44, is one of the most controversial figures in all of sports. In certain circles, just saying the name "Lane Kiffin" is the easiest way to turn a friendly group of football fans into an angry mob. Kiffin’s rise and fall and rise again has been a rollercoaster ride. He has gone from coaching prodigy to internet meme to redemption story who is always once false move away from permanent infamy. But Kiffin’s issues have remained innocent enough to provide harmless entertainment — as long as he’s not unintentionally sabotaging your team. Here are a few fun facts about Kiffin, on the sideline, off the field and online.
1. Started coaching after losing Fresno State QB job
Coaching was always in Lane Kiffin’s blood, as the son of legendary defensive coach Monte Kiffin — who was on the staff of two national title teams under Bob Devaney at Nebraska in the 1970s and was the architect of the vaunted “Tampa 2” defense for the Super Bowl XXXVII winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
But Lane started out as a backup QB at Fresno State in the mid-1990s. As fate would have it, Fresno State was loaded at QB by the time it was Kiffin’s “turn” as a senior. The Bulldogs boasted two future NFL QBs, Billy Volek and true freshman David Carr, who went on to become the No. 1 pick in the 2002 NFL Draft (and is the older brother of fellow Fresno State alum and NFL QB Derek Carr). Kiffin’s inability to compete with NFL-caliber passers ultimately led to the start of his coaching career — in the “most Lane Kiffin way” possible.
“He was a fifth-year guy who didn’t want to give his job up to a freshman,” said Carr. “His last day as a Bulldog player was when he came out — we were supposed to be in full pads — and he came out with shorts and a t-shirt on. And (offensive coordinator) Jeff Tedford says, ‘Lane, what are you doing?’ And he’s like, ‘Well, I figured I could come out here in shorts and a t-shirt because you’re just gonna give all my reps to Dave.
“And he sends him in, ‘Get off the field!’ So he leaves practice. Disappears. Okay. Lane quit, right? Well, Monte Kiffin is Lane’s dad. Monte’s a coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, defensive coordinator at the time. Monte’s not having this, right? About 30 minutes goes by, Lane comes back out without his helmet, shorts and a t-shirt. And he is now the wide receivers assistant coach. That’s how his coaching career began. Yeah. That day.”
2. Coached several “Dream Jobs” … all with nightmare endings
After leaving Fresno State, Kiffin experienced a meteoric rise through the coaching ranks, with one year stops at both Colorado State (grad assistant) and the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars (offensive quality control) before being hired by Pete Carroll at USC in 2001. During his time at USC from 2001-06, Kiffin served as tight ends coach, wide receivers coach, passing game coordinator and offensive coordinator, winning multiple national championships during the Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush golden era.
Kiffin’s reputation as a rising star caught the eye of Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, who hired the 31-year-old in 2007, making Kiffin the youngest head coach in the NFL’s modern era. Kiffin joined John Madden, Mike Shanahan and Jon Gruden, as the latest thirtysomething to be hired by Davis, who was 77 when he hired Kiffin. The honeymoon didn’t last long, as the Raiders drafted LSU QB JaMarcus Russell No. 1 overall in 2007 and Kiffin was fired after going 5–15 in just 20 games at the helm. During a lengthy press conference, Davis called Kiffin a “flat-out liar,” among other things.