It's been over four years since Lane Kiffin was infamously fired as head coach at USC. On a tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport. At three in the morning.
Kiffin won't be needing a tarmac in his first bowl game as head coach at Florida Atlantic University. Even if the game wasn't being played at the Owls home stadium in the Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl, Kiffin has everyone at "the faU" all aboard the Lane Train.
Kiffin's journey to Boca Raton has not been littered with rainbows and unicorns. In fact, if one were to tell the story of his path it would be one full of bad decisions and even badder breaks. Kiffin worked his way through the ranks at USC all the way to offensive coordinator under Pete Carroll.
Soon after, Kiffin would find himself in a lawsuit with Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders, indirectly starting numerous bonfires in Knoxville, Tennessee before finally finding himself on that tarmac at 3:14 in the morning after a loss to Arizona State.
University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban offered a lifeline to Kiffin making him offensive coordinator in January, 2014. To many though, Kiffin seemed to be Saban's whipping boy.
He was forgotten in Oakland, disliked at USC, hated in Tennessee, and dismissed at Alabama. So Kiffin did what many do when it seems like their best days are behind them, he moved to Boca. Right away, there was a noticeable change in Kiffin, especially on Twitter. He rebranded Florida Atlantic, "The faU." A play off "The U" for the University of Miami. He actively recruited…everyone.
Come to #thefau https://t.co/zkIUvGLmCz
— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) October 23, 2017
When the Owls began to perform beyond expectations, Kiffin grew bolder. After a victory over Marshall in November, one twitter follower noticed a "significant play to some."
Didn't want to cover because of too much rat poison #keptuwatching #5-0 #cometothefau #playersgetweekendoff https://t.co/HCsRjZKh4E
— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) November 4, 2017
It's very hard to find a coach at any level in football that lets down his guard and shows any form of humanity, even more than that, humor. We get the same cliched headlines, followed by the same tired responses. Kiffin has bucked that trend, with his former boss Saban the target of a few more than others. When Saban attempted a comedy bit about fashion, Kiffin pounced.
Gave them to him pic.twitter.com/ALoOMZ69VL
— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) November 23, 2017
When Saban called positive stories about Alabama "rat poison" for his players, Kiffin responded in kind.
Please stop media!! This is rat poison to our players!! #process #top10rushingoffensesinthecountry #bama #thefaU pic.twitter.com/JHhte3uH2o
— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) October 9, 2017
Through all of it, Florida Atlantic continued to win. In fact, the Owls do more than just win. This year, they won the Conference USA championship in a rout after the Owls were expected to finish fifth in the East division. FAU scored 39.8 points per game this year, good enough for ninth in FBS play. In 2016, the Owls scored just 25.6 points per game.
Kiffin has said he has no intention of leaving. He has found peace among his pair of jet skis and the simple way of life that attracts new-retirees down to Boca Raton. Kiffin told the Sun-Sentinel back in August that his twitter game is part of a bigger strategy.
"Sometimes, you need attention,” Kiffin said. “Sometimes maybe you do things that are on the edge. It draws attention to your program, which, unfortunately with kids nowadays, they’re into attention. They want to go to places people know versus ‘Oh, I’ve never heard of that place.’”
People know 'The faU' now. He is no longer the wonder boy making headlines as the youngest coach in Oakland Raiders history, he's much too grown for that now. After success in Tuscaloosa and now Boca a funny thing happened. Those same Volunteer fans who lit up the night when Kiffin left were hoping he'd return to bring the program back to prominence.
USC's fan base has recognized the misdeed of a tarmac firing. The Raiders are cool. People like Lane.
The Lane Train is only picking up more steam, tarmacs be damned.
On our way!! Get on the Lane Train and come to #thefaU @ESPNCFB @BocaBowl @ColinCowherd https://t.co/i9p7IhjI98
— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) December 4, 2017