BOCA RATON – A master play caller unafraid of repeating a play that’s working, Lane Kiffin once again leaned on a media attention-grabbing staple and burned national news outlets for six minutes of fame.
Responding to a tweet from Fox’s Bruce Feldman wondering why Kiffin had yet to offer Matt Leinart’s 11-year-old son Cole a scholarship, Kiffin tweeted that Feldman was behind the times.
— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) October 16, 2018
As predictable as the reaction was, it’s still amazing to see the media rush to publicize Kiffin’s latest off-field action.
ESPN, Sports Illustrated and numerous other national outlets promptly published stories relaying the brief Twitter conversation as though Kiffin was breaking new ground. In fact, the move now feels almost as outdated as the Winged-T.
Over the past several years Kiffin has offered a handful of middle schoolers scholarships. Every time he makes news.
While at USC, Kiffin famously offered quarterback David Sills, now a wide receiver at West Virginia, a scholarship, which at the time drew media ire. Sills actually committed to the Trojans. In a recent media article a reporter asked Kiffin whether he regretted the spectacle that offer caused.
“I don’t really recall it that way,” Kiffin said. “Now it’s what everybody does now. Was I that far off or was I just ahead of everybody else?”
The media can’t seem to stop taking the bait, so Kiffin keeps sending it out – as he should.
Buried on the back pages of local media more concerned with Miami, Florida and Florida St., Kiffin understood early early in his tenure as FAU coach that he needed to do whatever he could to raise the Owls’ profile. Offering an 11-year-old a scholarship has little downside.
Who knows where Kiffin or Cole will be in seven years when it’s time to fulfill that promise, but the offer isn’t really a promise anyway. Verbal offers to high schoolers are non-binding. Verbal offers to middle schoolers? They’re worth about as much as anything else posted on Twitter.
Heck, Cole is so young that NCAA rules don’t even forbid coaches from discussing players his age. That ban doesn’t take affect until the prospect reaches high school. So tweet away, then bask in the publicity.
On Wednesday, however, Kiffin elected not to go into depth about Cole.
“I don’t know if I can talk on that,” Kiffin said. “I think because he’s under ninth grade I can, but just in case I’m not going to.”
As an assistant, Kiffin coached Matt Leinart to a Heisman while the pair was at USC. Cole Leinart already stands 5-foot-7 and certainly has football in his blood. He may well be the cream of the 2025 recruiting class.
Maybe he’ll elect to play for Kiffin, the coach who mentored his father to an seven-year NFL career. If he does, it won’t be because Kiffin offered him a scholarship as a middle schooler.
That offer was nothing more than Kiffin taking what the media is giving him, First down and fame.