Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Polarizing Kiffin carries quite a history
Florida Atlantic coach Lane Kiffin talks with players before an NCAA college football game against UCF on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Jim Rassol)
It is Lane Kiffin.
It isn’t Lane Kiffin.
Those were two of the dozens of text messages received Sunday night.
When Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek was at Houston, he reportedly tried to hire Kiffin as the Cougars head coach.
Story goes it was close, but Yurachek wanted a bigger buyout if Kiffin left Houston than Kiffin felt was in his best interest. The deal fell apart, and Kiffin ended up at Florida Atlantic.
Before that, Kiffin was cleaning up his name under Nick Saban as Alabama’s offensive coordinator.
His name needed cleansing because he was fired at USC after a loss at Arizona State. When the plane landed, then-USC athletic director Pat Haden called him off to the side and fired him.
Haden left Kiffin on the Tarmac looking for a ride home.
Prior to that, Kiffin spent one season at Tennessee as the head coach after he was was fired by Al Davis as the Oakland Raiders head coach four games into his second season.
Davis paid off his contract, which led him to Tennessee.
Why wouldn’t he be the first choice for Florida State, Mississippi, Missouri or Arkansas?
He does have a 60-34 record as a head college football coach.
And he’s the son of Monte Kiffin, one of the great defensive coordinators in football history.
So the phones were worked Sunday night for about two hours, and accounts and support of Kiffin were varied. Very varied.
Most people had a first choice for the job not named Kiffin.
Barry Switzer publicly threw his support behind Washington State’s Mike Leach.
Switzer is one of three coaches to win both a college football national championship and a Super Bowl. Jimmy Johnson and Pete Carroll are the other two.
All three have the UA in their background, with Switzer and Johnson as players and assistant coaches, and Carroll as a graduate assistant in 1977. Lane Kiffin worked for Carroll at USC.
If Kiffin is the leading candidate to guide the University of Arkansas out of this mess, it shows just how deep the mess runs.
Maybe a shallow coaching talent pool hurt Julie Cromer two years ago when she hired Chad Morris.
It seems Gus Malzahn has beaten Nick Saban at the right time again and won’t be part of the picture. Heck, the folks at Auburn might even build Malzahn a statue so they can tear it down the next time he loses to Alabama.
They won’t revel long in the fact Malzahn has beaten Saban three times as the head coach of the Tigers. On Saturday, he knocked the Tide out of the College Football Playoff for the first time in its existence.
Urban Meyer and Hugh Freeze are second in wins vs. Saban at Alabama with two each.
Saban seems to be one of those guys a coach works for or doesn’t like, so the fact that Kiffin was let go a week before the national championship game and replaced by Steve Sarkisian isn’t a big deal.
Kiffin may be the first coach in history to be fired after he already quit. He originally stayed on as OC at Saban’s request after he accepted the Florida Atlantic job.
Something happened that changed Saban’s mind, which would be interesting to know.
Almost from the day Morris was fired, Kiffin’s name has come up. He and Jon Fagg, the UA’s deputy athletic director, recently started following each other on Twitter.
Sometimes an agent — Jimmy Sexton represents Kiffin — will float a name to see what other schools might be interested, and that might be the case here with Florida State in the hunt.
. . .
My bad: Former UA Chancellor G. David Gearhart retired and took a teaching position. Sunday’s column misstated the situation.
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