The Lane Kiffin Vacant Coaching Job Heat Index
Man, you've got to love college football.
The coaching carousel was already the single most entertaining part about covering this sport (if not all sports period), and this year, in a gift straight from the coaching Gods, we didn't even have to wait until December for the carousel to spin violently out of control.
North Texas let go of their coach after getting blown out by an FCS school over the weekend. Maryland sort of fired their coach late last week, then said they weren't going to fire him, then actually did fire him, then apologized for firing him after their most prominent booster got pissed off (which might be my favorite firing story in years, by the way). And of course Steve Sarkisian got let go Monday afternoon, right before Steve Spurrier shocked the world by announcing his retirement effective immediately, Monday night.
Add in Illinois --- which let go their coach just a few days before the season began --- and that's five head coaching vacancies... and it's not even Halloween! Add in the impending openings at Miami, Virginia and likely at Virginia Tech, and this year's "silly season" is about to be downright absurd.
Of course with all these firings there must be hirings, and you and I both already know which boring old names are going to get thrown out for all these vacations. There will be Chip Kelly talk (not happening for at least another year), Tom Herman (didn't he just get to Houston like a half hour ago?), Justin Fuente (who's hiring a coach they can't pick out of a police lineup?), and Greg Schiano (wait, he's still alive?), not to mention, a whole new group of yet-to-be identified has beens, up and comers and retreads.
But while all this hot set talk is nice, let's be honest: Ultimately there's only one name we all care about. That man is of course Lane "Why Are You Calling Me Joey Freshwater" Kiffin.
Look, the simple truth is that Kiffin is going to get a head coaching job somewhere next year; he's too big of a name, at too high-profile a school, and his offense is playing too well for someone not to give him a chance. Not to mention that his agent is Jimmy Sexton, meaning that Kiffin's name is going to repeatedly be leaked for every job opening from Maryland to the U.S. Secretary of Defense, until someone cuts him a fat check.
So with Kiffin destined to get another head coaching job this winter, Outkick the Coverage decided to have some fun with the proceedings, and start what we hope will be a recurring series of articles.
It's called the "Lane Kiffin Vacant Head Coaching Job Heat Index" where we look at all the vacant head coaching jobs, and list the likelihood that Kiffin ends up at each. Granted it's an inexact science, but we're going to continue to work the formula and re-tweak it, until we get it right.
In the meantime, here is the first installment:
South Carolina: Scorching hot
Over the last few weeks, it's been the sexy, rumor du jour to say that Kiffin will eventually end up at Miami. And to those who are saying it, well, it makes sense: Who doesn't want to see Kiffin strutting down South Beach in a white linen shirt with the top six buttons undone? The answer is "no one" and the NCAA is already preparing paperwork for the inevitable investigation into recruiting violations that will happen the second he's hired.
But for all the talk about "Kiffin to Miami," over the last few weeks, "Kiffin to South Carolina" has always made more sense to me if the job did eventually open up. Which it did on Monday.
For starters, the school already has everything Kiffin would need to be successful: A solid fan-base, great resources and awesome recruiting base. Kiffin already knows the state's high schools well; remember the whole "Tennessee recruiting hostesses scandal" originated when Kiffin sent a bunch of college girls to a high school game in South Carolina. So in a lot of ways, it's almost like this was the job Kiffin was born to eventually take. It'd be like a homecoming of sorts if he accepted.
More importantly, I see a lot of parallels between this job, and Kiffin's actual coaching ability. The truth is Kiffin isn't Urban Meyer, Jim Harbaugh or Nick Saban, and he never will be. But it's ok; South Carolina isn't Florida, Alabama or Georgia either. Instead, Kiffin is a "good enough" coach, and South Carolina is a good enough program, one where going 9-3 is perfectly acceptable, and 11-1 is not the expectation. Yes, there would be pressure at South Carolina, but not the insufferable, overwhelming pressure he'd have at other schools.
Add in the fact that we could all throw in a few "pumping gas someday" jokes, and it's a win-win for everyone.
Kiffin to South Carolina makes too much sense.
Sure Kiffin has no ties to the Big Ten, and sure he has no ties to the state of Maryland either (well, except for that one time he went to a bachelor party in Atlantic City, hopped in the back of a stranger's car on the way to the club, and woke up on the outskirts of Baltimore a day later), but for a lot of the same reasons "Kiffin to South Carolina" makes sense to me, "Kiffin to Maryland" makes sense too. The school has a surprisingly good recruiting base, and as someone who has spent a lot of time in the D.C. area, I can tell you that "Maryland football" is roughly the 67th most important team in that market, meaning the media pressure won't be overwhelming for Kiffin.
Add in the fact that Kiffin would be coaching against Urban Meyer every year, and again, we're all winners.
Maybe Kiffin could even hire Nu'Keese Richardson as his wide receivers coach, just to get under Urban's skin.
What? Too soon?
Add in the Under Armour connection --- which would not only yield a major recruiting advantage, but also an endless supply of windbreakers and visors for Kiffin --- and this scenario, in theory, could make a lot of sense.
(Feel free to copy and paste the above sections --- minus the Under Armour stuff --- if and when the Virginia and Virginia Tech jobs open up later this year as well.)
This strikes me as highly, highly unlikely, but ultimately what does Illinois really have to lose by calling Kiffin? If they hire him, it's the single most relevant thing Illinois football has ever done in my lifetime... which is saying something, since they played in a Rose Bowl a few years ago (seriously, that happened). Plus, Kiffin would have the benefit of coaching in the single easiest division in the FBS that doesn't begin with "ACC." I mean seriously, with the decent recruiting base Chicago provides, you mean to tell me he couldn't take home a Big Ten West title within a few years? When all he's got to do is get through Paul Chryst, Kirk Ferentz, and Chuckles McGee over at Nebraska?
It seems like a fit that could work.
Not to mention that "Kiffin to Illinois" would follow in the long tradition of the Illini hiring coaches who were major flops elsewhere, but kinda, sorta weren't bad once they got to Champaign (yes, I'm looking at you, Ron Zook).
Of course that also means that it will all probably end with Illinois overvaluing their place in the college football pecking order, and firing Kiffin two years after he gets to a major bowl game.
But it will still be a fun ride along the way.
North Texas: Cold
Kiffin's whole life has been like one, big episode of "Dallas," so it only seems appropriate that he return to his proverbial roots, and take the head coaching job in Denton, right?
Ok, I'll be honest: This ain't happening. Being Alabama's offensive coordinator is not only more high-profile, but also more high-paying than being the coach at some random, middle-of-the-road Conference USA school.
But still, can't a guy dream?
Wouldn't Kiffin's battles with Tom Herman, Chad Morris and Charlie Strong for all of Texas' second-tier recruits be legendary? Wouldn't his thinly veiled tweaks at UT, and TCU (come on, we all know he'd have fun with Gary Patterson) be great? Wouldn't it be awesome if he brought back his dad for a victory tour, and then Monte built the No. 1 defense in college football, just to shove it in Jerry Jones' face?
Most importantly, wouldn't Lane look spectacular in all green? I feel like it'd really bring out his eyes.
USC: Sub-zero, Hell Freezing Over Cold
It seems unlikely, but hey, if Bobby Petrino could end up back at Louisville, anything's possible.... right?
Don't answer that.
In the meantime, we'll continue to update the "Lane Kiffin Vacant Head Coaching Job Heat Index" throughout the season.