For Briles and others, FAU is a second chance
BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) — Lane Kiffin is the head coach at LSU.
No, not that one.
Kiffin is still the coach at Florida Atlantic, which has a roster — and coaching staff — featuring many people who have encountered more than a few problems along their various circuitous routes to Boca Raton. So on Sunday at the Owls’ annual preseason media day, Kiffin revealed that he’s given FAU a new moniker.
“We’re LSU,” Kiffin said. “Know what that is? Last Strike U.”
Kendal Briles surely seems like he’s appreciating his second chance.
Briles is now the offensive coordinator at FAU, which approved his hiring even though he was part of the Baylor staff when that program was rocked by a sexual assault scandal. The enormity of the problems there ultimately led to his father, Art Briles, being fired as Baylor’s head coach, and tattered the entire university’s reputation. And when Baylor hired Matt Rhule to take over after last season, Kendal Briles was not retained.
Enter FAU, with that second-chance opportunity.
“I needed a job,” Kendal Briles said. “I’ve got three kids. I like to have work. So yeah, this intrigued me coming out here, for sure.”
He won’t talk about what happened at Baylor, saying only that he’s looking forward and focused on this season. A book written by two ESPN reporters about the scandal is expected to be released this week, and he had no comment on that either.
The Briles-Kiffin relationship is interesting on so many levels. Kiffin was a successful offensive coordinator under Nick Saban at Alabama for the last three seasons, and Briles ran what was a powerful offense at Baylor for the last two. To get Briles to come to Boca Raton — both he and Kiffin said other schools were wooing him — Kiffin had to concede play-calling duties.
They barely knew each other before aligning at FAU, and so far Kiffin has stayed true to his word about letting Briles be the sole playcaller.
“He’s completely stepped out of it,” Briles said.
Said Kiffin: “This was somebody that I felt I could do that with. It has been really good from the standpoint of doing the other stuff, the CEO stuff.”
There’s no question that Briles can effectively coach.
He’s been honored multiple times for his work in recruiting, and the Bears featured an extremely high-octane offense during his time calling the plays in Waco. In Briles’ 27 games as offensive coordinator there, Baylor averaged 570 yards and 41 points.
He thinks FAU is capable of similar success.
“I would assume all that is realistic,” Briles said. “I don’t care if we score three points and win the football game. That’s all I care about.”
Briles is hardly the only person getting a fresh start at FAU.
Kiffin’s roster includes a slew of players — some of them were on their way to Boca Raton before he was hired — who found trouble at other schools, most notably quarterback De’Andre Johnson.
When he was at Florida State, Johnson was captured on surveillance video punching a woman at a bar. He was kicked off the team, ended up at East Mississippi Community College and was one of the primary subjects in the Netflix series “Last Chance U” — which chronicled that team and the career-revival attempts of many players who once were with big-time college programs.
“What I did was unacceptable,” Johnson said on the show.
Kiffin also hired brother Chris Kiffin to be his defensive coordinator — and, like Briles, he comes from a program that is dealing with a mess. Chris Kiffin has been accused of recruiting violations while he was at Ole Miss, and the NCAA probe into that school is ongoing.
“I’m not one bit concerned about that,” Chris Kiffin said.
Chris and Lane Kiffin have their father, the longtime defensive coach Monte Kiffin, around them every day as part of the FAU staff. Kendal Briles has his father involved as well, albeit in an unofficial manner.
Art Briles, Kendal Briles said, has taken a look at the FAU offense and offered his advice and assessment from time to time. The former Baylor coach has not, however, been directly involved with the team or been on campus.
“He’s a football coach,” Kendal Briles said. “That’s all he’s ever been. So he’s definitely involved and we talk daily.”