The three-year Kiffin era formally ended Saturday following the Owls second Conference USA title in three years, a development that didn’t shock the Owls’ administration.
For weeks Kiffin had been the topic of speculation regarding open coaching vacancies, which allowed FAU to at least get a jump start on its coaching search. Sources tell OwlAccess.com that FAU officials were inundated over the past week with calls from coaches and their agents interested in the position.
Kiffin made FAU an attractive job. He’s leaving a championship team that loses some big names – tight end Harrison Bryant and linebacker Rashad Smith most prominently – but overall returns a strong, deep core.
The Owls are also about to move into the Schmidt Athletic Complex, a massive new athletic building that will house, among other things, the football offices and a massive new weight room.
Sources close to the decision-making process tell OwlAccess.com that the Owls have retained Parker Executive Search to aid in the process of identifying candidates. FAU is looking for an offensive-minded coach with experience at a major football program as a coordinator or head coach. That covers many candidates, but doesn’t sound too promising for defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer, named interim by the Owls. It would also seem to rule out former USF coaches Jim Leavitt and Charlie Strong.
If the new coach doesn’t retain Spencer, he doesn’t figure to be out of a job long. In Spencer’s lone season at FAU he turned a what had been a porous defense into the nation’s leader in turnovers. After what he saw Spencer do this season, Kiffin might be wise to bring Spencer with him to Oxford.
FAU paid Kiffin a little more than $1 million in base salary this season. The next coach may see a little raise from that, but not much. The Owls weren’t able to go higher than $1.5 million in their effort to keep Kiffin. Also, don’t look for the new FAU coach to receive a home loan that’s forgiven after five years. Kiffin was an exception.
The Owls expect to have a coach in place by Friday. Which candidates fit the parameters for the open FAU football coaching position? Here are a few.
FAU FOOTBALL HEAD COACHING POSSIBILITIES
Kendal Briles: Lane Kiffin’s first offensive coordinator at FAU, Briles is most likely out of a job at Florida St. now that the Seminoles hired another offensive guru, Mike Norvell, as their next coach. Those who worked with Briles at FAU believe he possesses the organizational skills to be the head man. And FAU has already survived the bad press that comes with hiring a former Baylor assistant, essentially inoculating itself with the Briles’ first hiring. Of course, Kiffin may want Briles at Ole Miss. We’re hearing there is mutual interest between Briles and FAU.
Jeff Scott: Clemson’s co-offensive coordinator is a name in demand. Reportedly he wasn’t available to the media following Saturday’s ACC title game because of a scheduling conflict. FAU president Dr. John Kelly came to Boca Raton from Clemson, so there’s that connection. But Scott would seem to be in line for a place that could pay him more.
Tony Elliott: Scott’s co-offensive coordinator at Clemson, many of the same positives regarding Scott can be said about Elliott. He also, however, could make more money simply by staying with the Tigers.
Eddie Gran: If there’s an FAU head coaching opening, Gran wants to be a candidate. Always. And he’s somehow managed to get his name out there again. Currently Kentucky’s offensive coordinator, the former Florida St. assistant is known as an ace recruiter. But he’ll once again be disappointed when FAU announces its choice.
Graham Harrell: Don’t know how interested USC’s offensive coordinator is in crossing the country to come to FAU, but his profile fits FAU’s parameters. A longshot, but he did reportedly interview for the Texas offensive coordinator job. USC offered Harrell a new contract. He’s yet to sign it.
James Coley: Georgia’s offensive coordinator has South Florida ties. The Bulldogs were one win away from making the CFB playoffs. Most speculation includes his name.
Mark Richt: Let’s start the “Rehab Job” portion of this list. Many will want to follow the Kiffin model of coming to FAU, rehabilitating their coaching reputation, them moving back to the big time. Richt was a highly successful coach at Georgia before his disastrous stint at Miami. He has Boca ties, having played high school football at Boca Raton and college ball under Howard Schnellenberger. A recent heart attack may cause Richt, currently an analyst with the ACC Network, to wait another year before returning to the sideline.
Rich Rodriguez: The former West Virginia, Michigan and Arizona coach will be looking for a job if Kiffin doesn’t retain him as Mississippi’s offensive coordinator. Rodriguez recently said he wants to be a head coach again. Arizona fired him in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal. Is FAU willing to withstand that kind of publicity.
Steve Sarkisian: The former USC and Washington head coach currently occupies the same job Kiffin did before coming to FAU: Alabama offensive coordinator. Sarkisian reportedly battled alcoholism in the past. Kiffin and Sarkisian are friends. Sarkisian and Charlie Weis Jr. worked together with the Atlanta Falcons. No one had a better view of Kiffin’s rehab project in Boca than Sarkisian, who already expressed interest in the open Colorado St. job.
Jim McElwain: His tenure at Florida ended with a 4-7 record in 2017 and he almost lost to FAU in 2015, ultimately winning in overtime. But McElwain is 8-4 as Central Michigan’s head coach this season and is rumored as a possibility for several openings. He said on Saturday he wouldn’t leave Central Michigan before the bowl game, and a move from Central Michigan to FAU might not be considered enough of an upgrade.
Willie Taggart: The former Florida St. coach didn’t win as a Seminole, but he did at previous stops Western Kentucky and South Florida. He is linked to a return to South Florida, but that hasn’t happened yet. There are rumors he’s waited to see what FAU does before jumping back to USF.