Moments after Alabama's 54-16 thrashing of Florida in the Southeastern Conference championship game earlier this month, Crimson Tide third-year offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin was asked where he wanted to be next season.
"I want to be wherever I am," Kiffin replied.
That locale will be Florida Atlantic, as the former head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Volunteers and Southern California Trojans is scheduled to be introduced this morning as the new head coach of the Owls of Conference USA. Kiffin will stay with Alabama through college football's four-team playoff, just as former Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart did a year ago after accepting the head-coaching opportunity at Georgia.
In Kiffin's three years under Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide are 39-3 with three SEC championships and three playoff trips. Alabama has accomplished this feat with Blake Sims (2014), Jake Coker (2015) and Jalen Hurts (this season) leading the offense, making the Tide the first program and Kiffin the first offensive coordinator since World War II to win three straight conference titles with three different quarterbacks.
"Lane has done a phenomenal job for us for these last three years, and we appreciate the impact he's made on this program," Saban said Monday during a news conference in Tuscaloosa that promoted the Peach Bowl national semifinal against Washington on New Year's Eve. "We think this is a wonderful opportunity for him to be a head coach again. I think FAU has selected someone that is going to do a great job for them.
"He's done a great job here molding our offensive players to what they can do to have the best chance to be successful, and I think that's always something that's very telling about the quality of a coach."
ESPN reported Monday that Kiffin would be making about $1 million annually at FAU. He has made $1.4 million this season with the Crimson Tide.
Kiffin was mentioned late last month as LSU's top target for the offensive coordinator role under new coach Ed Orgeron. Kiffin and Orgeron worked together in separate stints at USC and in 2009 at Tennessee, and it was no secret Saban did not want Baton Rouge to be Kiffin's destination.
LSU has reportedly turned its attention to Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
Florida Atlantic's football program was founded in 2001 and headed by Howard Schnellenberger, who had coached the Miami Hurricanes to the 1983 national title. The Owls have an all-time record of 76-115, including three consecutive 3-9 finishes under Kiffin's predecessor, Charlie Partridge.
There is no shortage of familiar coaching names at Sunshine State schools with Kiffin at FAU, Butch Davis at Florida International, Charlie Strong at South Florida, Scott Frost at Central Florida, Mark Richt at Miami, Jim McElwain at Florida and Jimbo Fisher at Florida State.
USA Today reported last week that Kiffin would be named Tom Herman's successor at Houston, but that report was false. Houston this past Friday promoted offensive coordinator Major Applewhite to take over the Cougars.
Houston board of regents chairman Tilman Fertitta told Houston radio station KILT-AM that the Cougars were never close to hiring Kiffin.
"Lane Kiffin did not show me anything that Major Applewhite did not show me," Fertitta said. "Sure, he's been a head coach and he's been an OK head coach, but I can tell you this, he was not a safe hire."
Fertitta's comments echoed what former Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas told AL.com earlier this month. Neinas, who for the past two decades has served as a consultant on coaching searches, said the concern with Kiffin isn't his coaching ability but off-the-field issues.
"There are no secrets in the coaching profession," Neinas said. "The CIA would marvel at the intelligence that goes on within the coaching profession."
Alabama has won national championships under Saban with three difference offensive coordinators: McElwain (2009 and 2011), current Florida offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier (2012) and Kiffin (2015). Each of those was an outside hire, but Saban has an abundance of candidates should he choose to promote from within, including fourth-year receivers coach and former Murray County quarterback Billy Napier, who was Clemson's offensive coordinator in 2009-10.
Saban also has a pair of offensive analysts, Steve Sarkisian and Mike Locksley, who are not only former offensive coordinators but former head coaches as well.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.