Don’t remember the Bobby Wilder era at FAU? Well, it was brief – and never reported.
Wilder, who officially resigned – though reportedly under pressure – from Old Dominion on Monday, applied for the FAU job after the Owls fired Charlie Partridge following the 2016 season. At the time Wilder had led ODU to a 9-3 2016 regular-season record and, ultimately, a Bahamas Bowl win in only the third Monarchs’ season at the FBS level.
As the FAU hiring process advanced, Kiffin clearly became the first choice of FAU’s administration, but talks between Kiffin, at the time Alabama’s offensive coordinator, and then-FAU athletic director Pat Chun broke down.
What happened next is no longer a well-guarded secret among current members of the athletic department or the university’s upper administration.
Chun elected to move away from Kiffin, reaching an agreement in principal with Wilder. Chun offered Wilder the job. Wilder accepted.
Unbeknownst to Chun, however, members of FAU’s board of trustees and university president Dr. John Kelly circled back to Kiffin to see whether they could close the deal. Unlike Chun, they did.
That led to an awkward conversation between Chun and his bosses, informing the athletic director that the school had reached an agreement with Kiffin to be the next coach of the Owls.
Chun pleaded with his bosses that they couldn’t hire Kiffin because he had already hired Wilder.
Call him back and un-hire him, Chun was told. Dutifully, Chun did exactly that.
By most accounts the relationship between Kiffin and Chun never recovered. A little more than a year after hiring-then-firing Wilder, Chun became the athletic director at Washington St.
Wilder returned Old Dominion. It’s unclear whether anyone in the Monarchs athletic department ever learned of his dalliance with FAU. Under Wilder, the Monarchs posted a 10-26 record over the past three seasons.
On Saturday, the Lane Kiffin-led Owls will face UAB with hopes of claiming their second Conference USA title in three years.
One of ODU’s 11 losses this season came at the hands of FAU, 41-3. Kiffin’s Owls won all three games against Wilder’s Monarchs by a combined score of 151-64.
Kiffin is currently one of the hottest names among college coaching searches, with his name substantially linked to openings at Florida St. and Arkansas, and somewhat speculatively, to Missouri. Arkansas officials met with Kiffin over the weekend, and sources tell OwlAccess.com that the Razorbacks discussed an offer beginning at $3.5 million per year.
On Tuesday, however, Kiffin spent the morning on the Oxley Center practice fields, preparing his Owls to face the Blazers. Meanwhile, members of FAU’s upper administration, including several of the same people responsible for bringing Kiffin to Boca Raton in the first place, were diligently attempting to build a revised compensation package that could keep Kiffin at FAU.
FAU won’t be able to match the money Arkansas offered, but the hope is that a modest increase combined with a South Florida lifestyle loved by Kiffin would offset the money it would cost to lure the high-profile coach to the land of Woo Pig Sooie.
The question now: Does Kiffin really want to make a pig of himself?