No. 1: The Lane Train Express
FAU officials understood that the hiring of Lane Kiffin could be a transformational decision for the football program. It also turned out to be monumental move for the university as a whole.
The football accomplishments under Kiffin this past season are scattered throughout this countdown of the Top 10 FAU Sports Stories of the Year. FAU won its first Conference USA championship by marching undefeated through the regular season conference scheduled, then blasting North Texas for a second time in a couple months during the championship game.
FAU made its first bowl appearance since 2008, obliterated Akron in the Boca Raton Bowl to remain perfect in bowl games.
The Owls ended the season on with a 10-game winning streak, which undoubtedly contributed to one of the best, if not the best, recruiting classes in program history.
But what Kiffin accomplished off the field might have been more impressive. For the first time FAU became a program of national interest. Kiffin was a big-name coach before coming to Boca Raton. His fame brought national attention to FAU before the Owls even kicked off their season.
Winning, especially the manner in which FAU won, made the Owls a national story. And with the execution of Kiffin’s 10-year contract extension earlier this week, there’s more to come.
What We Wrote
- Tag Says Kiffin’s It
- DJ Lane Train
- Champs: FAU wins C-USA title
- Staying Put: FAU, Kiffin Agree on Contract Extension
- FAU-UCF Move Game to Friday for ESPN
- Kiffin, FAU Sign 10-Year Contract Extension
Why It’s Important
Lane Kiffin is turning program founder Howard Schnellenberger’s vision into reality, demonstrating to the nation that more than one South Florida football team can be a player in the national landscape.
FAU played an exciting, entertaining brand of football that caught the nation’s attention. Hardly a week went by without a writer or television reporter from a national outlet visiting FAU’s campus.
The buzz caught the attention of players across the nation, drawing in high profile transfers like former Auburn wide receivers John Franklin and Kyle Davis, Oklahoma quarterback Chris Robison, West Virginia wide receiver Jovon Durante and Pitt defensive tackle Jeremiah Taleni.
Kiffin’s persona, most visible via his Twitter account, penetrates the national college football clutter. Whether he’s ordering a pizza or jokingly tying to lay out the FAU welcome mat for the Heisman Trophy winner, everyone in the college football world and many outside the realm notice.
Winning is infectious, and the Lane Train brought creativity and energy – even an actual Lane Train – to campus. FAU’s marketing and promotional videos possessed added verve. The hype videos were more compelling – likely because the editors had a bounty of exciting plays to work with. Student admission applications rose dramatically.
Giant photographic cutouts of Kiffin’s head floated above the student section. FAU received votes in national Top 25 polls and is currently among the favorites in the preseason discussion for the Group of Five’s New Year’s Day bowl bid.
Even when the season ended, Kiffin kept FAU in the national discussion by hiring 24-year-old Charlie Weis to be his new offensive coordinator.
The Owls’ 2018 opener at Oklahoma will be the first FAU football game ever carried on network TV (Fox). Two games were moved to weeknights for national television broadcasts.
Kiffin, with all of his quirks, injected life not only into the football team, but the university as well.
University officials appreciate the passion Kiffin generates, showing so in the most public way possible. On Wednesday FAU and Kiffin finalized a 10-year contract extension that, if he remains an Owl through its entirety, will keep the Lane Train rolling through Boca Raton through 2027.
No. 10: Construction Begins on Schmidt Complex
No. 9: Stranded in Wisconsin
No. 8: Curry Out, May In
No. 7: Constant QB Battle
No. 6: Change at the Top
No. 5: Baseball Keeps Rolling
No. 4: Boca Bowl Bliss
No. 3: Motor’s Historic Run
No. 2: Conference USA Title Time
No. 1 : The Lane Train Express