Controversy and comedy follow Lane Kiffin everywhere he goes
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.
Due to Davis’ reputation as an overbearing boss and micromanaging owner, Kiffin was given the benefit of the doubt and hired by the University of Tennessee prior to the 2009 season, replacing retiring national champion Phillip Fulmer. At 33, Kiffin became the youngest active FBS head coach, while also bringing his then-69-year-old father, Monte, as his defensive coordinator. Kiffin lasted only one season, going 7–6 — with wins over Georgia and South Carolina, and losing to Alabama on a blocked field goal — before jumping ship to USC.
In 2010, Kiffin followed in the footsteps of Carroll, who took over the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks before sanctions were levied on USC. Kiffin had early success despite dealing with a bowl ban and scholarship sanctions due to the wrath of the NCAA over Reggie Bush’s improper benefits and “lack of institutional control” at USC. Kiffin went 8–5, 10–2 and 7–6 in his first three seasons with the Trojans. But Kiffin didn’t make it through his fourth season and was fired following a 3–2 start. Immediately after a 62–41 loss at Arizona State, Kiffin was fired at the airport — allegedly on the tarmac at 3 a.m.
From 2014-16, Kiffin was Alabama’s QB coach and offensive coordinator. Although he experienced the success normally associated with Nick Saban’s teams, Kiffin did not necessarily experience the requisite respect that usually goes hand-in-hand with Bama’s dominance. Kiffin’s tenure in Tuscaloosa is highlighted by…
Getting yelled at by Coach Saban…
The Alabama team buses aren't here anymore. Lane Kiffin is. pic.twitter.com/CoerIM49VA— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) January 12, 2016
Being left behind by the team bus — twice — following the national title win over Clemson and CFB Playoff semi-final media day…
You can't tell, but this is Lane Kiffin jogging around Bryant-Denny trying to find a way in. Team scrimmages at 1. pic.twitter.com/FMbaYGFy8z— Aaron Suttles (@AaronSuttles) April 2, 2016
And being locked out of Bryant-Denny Stadium prior to a spring scrimmage. There were also a few off-field rumors surrounding Kiffin, who was dismissed by Saban and replaced by former USC buddy Steve Sarkisian a week prior to Alabama’s national title rematch with Clemson following the 2016 season.
3. Signed 10-year extension at FAU
After being mentioned for several job openings — including Houston — Kiffin brought the Lane Train to Boca Raton, Fla., to coach the FAU Owls. After an 11–3 inaugural season, Kiffin inked a 10-year extension thru 2027. The deal is worth $9.5 million, but includes incentives including a $50,000 annual retention bonus, $40,000 for winning Conference USA title game, $20,000 for making C-USA title game, $100,000 for being named national coach of the year and $1 million for three-straight top-10 finishes. Howard Schnellenberger U also apparently learned its lesson from Kiffin’s nomadic ways and have put in place buyouts of $2 million if he leaves before Dec. 31, 2018; $1.5 million before Dec. 31, 2019; $1 million before Dec. 31, 2020; and $500,000 before Dec. 31, 2021.
4. Divorced father of three; single & (allegedly) ready to mingle
Lane and Layla Kiffin (nee Reaves) married in 2004. The two met through Lane’s father, Monte, who was the defensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Bucs at the same time as Layla worked in the Bucs’ special events department after graduating from University of Florida. Layla is the daughter of former Florida, NFL and USFL QB John Reaves. Lane and Layla have three children together — daughters Landry (b. 2005) and Pressley (b. 2007), and son Monte Knox (b. 2009), who was reportedly born after the city of Knoxville during Lane’s lone season at UT (a rumor that Lane has both seemingly confirmed and denied).
That's an aggressive V neck from Joey Freshwater... I mean Lane Kiffin. pic.twitter.com/tiG1RAOLs8
— FitzMagic (@Fitzsimmons22) February 4, 2017
Lane and Layla divorced in 2016 but appear to remain on good terms as the parents of three children together. Lane’s personal life, however, is (allegedly) complicated. Off-field rumors have swirled around Kiffin, involving a hilarious alias “Joey Freshwater” that he uses to hit on girls at college bars and rumored affairs that involved a fake Tinder account (according to and exposed by Auburn grad Ashley Spry), former University of Alabama secretary Carly Settel, a high-profile booster’s daughter and even Nick Saban’s daughter, Kristen. With Lane Kiffin, who knows what to believe?
5. Top-notch Twitter troll & online source of comedy
Aside from the schadenfreude Kiffin has inspired in his bitter ex-fans, he’s also been the source of tons of comedy — both as a Twitter troll and as the butt of jokes, so to speak. At only 43, Kiffin should be around to provide a few laughs (both intentional and unintentional) for many years to come. But here are a few of the instant classics from his first decade-plus on the national scene: