A decade ago, Lane Kiffin served as Tennessee head coach for one season. His coaching career has been one of the most interesting in football, since he landed the Oakland Raiders head coaching job at just 31 years old. Now, after a solid run as head coach at FAU, he has been discussed as a potential SEC head coach once again.
Per a report by USA Today‘s Dan Wolken, Kiffin has met with Arkansas about the team’s opening. Football Scoop has confirmed as much, saying the two sides have had “significant conversations” about the job.
Arkansas fired Chad Morris midway through his second season in Fayetteville. He failed to win an SEC game during his time with the Razorbacks, and lost to a number of Group of Five programs. Overall, the former SMU head coach was just 4-22 at Arkansas.
Kiffin’s one year in Tennessee was more successful than many of the seasons that followed as the Vols have cycled through coaches, but left a bitter taste in the mouths of Vols fans, as he fled for USC after just a few months in Knoxville.
He returned to the SEC as offensive coordinator at Alabama, and deserves some credit for the modernization of the Crimson Tide offense, but his time under Nick Saban wasn’t always smooth either.
Even given concerns from throughout his coaching career, Wolken says that Lane Kiffin deserves a shot at another SEC job. Arkansas is one of three current openings, along with Missouri and Ole Miss. He goes into detail about the issues surrounding Kiffin, but ultimately wonders if a school like Arkansas, which has totally bottomed out, has much to lose:
“But time and success changes a lot of preconceived notions, particularly in a coaching market that isn’t exactly teeming with high-profile prospects. There are a lot of solid coaches out there that a program like Arkansas could hire from (Tulane’s Willie) Fritz to Louisiana-Lafayette’s Billy Napier to Louisiana Tech’s Skip Holtz. But none of them are going to create the kind of buzz and have the upside of Kiffin, who could win his second C-USA title in three years this weekend.
“It’s fairly remarkable to think that Kiffin, even as long as he’s been around the college football zeitgeist, is only 44 years old and still not necessarily in the prime of his career.
“Is it a risk for Arkansas to hand the keys to someone as unpredictable as Kiffin, who is prone to wandering off the reservation at times and tweeting a meme about blind refs after a game? Sure it is. But if you’re Arkansas and you haven’t been relevant at all for most of this decade, what do you really have to lose?”
Arkansas’ last truly bold, somewhat controversial hire worked out, at least for a while. Bobby Petrino was no beloved figure when he took over the program, flaking on the Atlanta Falcons after just 13 games. He went 34-17 in four seasons, reaching the Sugar and Cotton Bowls in his final two years before being fired following the infamous motorcycle scandal. The Razorbacks went 11-2 and finished No. 5 in the country in that final season.
It would be hard for Lane Kiffin to replicate that success with Alabama and now LSU rolling in the SEC West, but even consistent bowl seasons would be a major improvement.
Kiffin is 25-13 in three years at FAU. The Owls will play for a Conference USA title this weekend, and could win 11 games for the second time.