“You walk into the stadium, they say ‘good luck’ to you,” Kiffin said. “I’m not used to that in the SEC. “I really didn’t know how to react to that. It was like, are you kidding me? Just awesome people.”
Kiffin and the Owls have been stuck in Dairyland since Friday, when the Owls flew north for a Saturday game against the Badgers.
The closing of South Florida airports, not to mention Florida Atlantic’s campus, because of Hurricane Irma prevented FAU from returning.
Kiffin isn’t altogether unfamiliar with the Midwest, having briefly lived in Green Bay and Minnesota as a youth. Prior to Tuesday Kiffin had praised the support the Owls had received from Wisconsin but been critical of FAU’s decision to take players away from their families during a potential crisis in order to play a game.
His view on the latter seems to be softening a bit.
“It’s kind of like a get away, almost like a short training camp mode,” Kiffin said. “The one thing about that is there’s not the normal distractions of school, kids around campus and different campus things and stuff, from that stand point. I know there will be strange travel in midweek and everything but we tried to create something positive out of that, guys have been able to kind of bond together.”
Monday night Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, a former head football coach for the Badgers, joined the Owls for dinner.
On Tuesday the Owls practiced in Camp Randall Stadium, enjoyed a meal at Wisconsin and even used their meeting rooms – which came as a bit of a surprise to Kiffin.
“To let us use their meeting rooms, that’s kind of sacred sometimes for people,” Kiffin said.
FAU is preparing to face Bethune-Cookman on Saturday, with kick-off scheduled for 6:30 p.m. As of Tuesday evening, the Owls and Wildcats were still planning on playing that game.
Florida Atlantic will re-open its campus on Wednesday morning. Some of the parking lots are still being used as a staging area for power company trucks.
The Owls do appear to be moving closer to a return to Boca Raton.
“I believe that we are practicing here tomorrow, afternoon is the time slot that I think we’ve been given here from Wisconsin because they are a morning practice team, and then I think we are trying to leave after that to fly back,” Kiffin said.
By the time Wednesday evening comes, Kiffin might not want to leave.
Working out in Wisconsin on Monday and Tuesday produced two of the best practices of the season for the Owls.
“I think there’s something to the guys kind of being excited about physically practicing in a big stadium,” Kiffin said. “Obviously it’s not a game but I think they do feel something because we’ve had two really good practices.”
Having the ability to use a first class facility for meetings, video study and other off-the-field prep also served to soften the blow of the Owls’ extended road trip.
“I think, too, the guys are excited to have some facilities that feel like they’re in a football program,” Kiffin said. “I think there’s something to that. It’s probably why people build these things.”