Published On: Fri, Jan 26th, 2018

The Lane Kiffin Era is Exactly What FAU Needed

By: Michael Demyan

Photo Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

After the Florida Atlantic University Owls finished the season with 10-straight wins, a conference championship and a dominating Boca Bowl win, there is a much different feeling heading into 2018 for the football program. We’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to lose.

During my first year as a student in 2013, there was never much excitement about the football team. It wasn’t even a bad year. They finished off the season with a .500 record, but students didn’t have the same enthusiasm as those who went to Miami, Florida or Florida State. Nothing special happened to make anyone excited about FAU football. They hadn’t been to a bowl game since 2008 and hadn’t won a conference championship since a year before that.

The next three years were rough. Consecutive 3-9 seasons brought the expectation of another loss before each game. There were some glimmers of hope mixed in every one in a while though, with the biggest probably coming from the Owls’ effort against the Florida Gators in 2015. They almost upset the No. 8 team by taking them to overtime before ultimately losing in heartbreaking fashion.

Photo Credit: FAU Athletics

Even though the team showed they had some potential, proving that to the fans and students would be a different story. One of the first games I went to as a student showed the Owls almost pull off a thrilling come from behind victory in the fourth quarter. Too bad only about 20 students were left by the end of that game.

2017 brought something different to the table: Lane Kiffin, once the youngest head coach in NFL history, but maybe more well known for his time under Nick Saban in Alabama.

Kiffin had an interesting first impression as the Owls’ new head coach, coming out with a less than enthusiastic recruiting video meant to hype up the football program before National Signing Day.

“So please join us next week and for this exciting season to come watch the Owls have a great year in a championship run, starting with you. Go Owls,” he said in a monotone voice.

He was right about the championship run though. I’m sure almost no one thought they had a chance before the season started. I sure didn’t, but after starting with a 1-3 record, the Owls went undefeated in conference play and easily won the Conference USA Championship over North Texas.

As the season progressed, FAU started to gain more and more attention across the country, but it wasn’t just the wins that were helping that cause, it was the attitude, the type of attitude that FAU never seemed to have within its student body. The energetic players and Kiffin’s Twitter antics gave the students a team worth rooting for. There was finally some personality.

“Rat poison” (a phrase adapted from Saban about the media talking about how good they are) and “come to the faU” became common lingo as Kiffin asked everyone from Snoop Dogg to NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. to come support the Owls. It was an invitation that Snoop Dogg actually accepted leading up to the Boca Bowl.

Giant cardboard Kiffin heads would decorate the stadium during home games and toward the second half of the season, a “Lane Train” would roll around campus hyping students for the upcoming games. As the winning streak continued, students and fans even flocked to Miami to try to lure College GameDay over to Boca Raton.

If the wins and student excitement continue, the program will reach new heights during the 2018 season, possibly breaking into the top 25 of the AP college football rankings for the first time. FAU received the 30th most votes during the latest postseason poll, but did manage to place 21st in USA Today’s list of top 25 projections for 2018.

The Lane Kiffin era at FAU is exactly what the school needed to get on the map and with Kiffin signing a 10-year extension just before the Boca Bowl, it hopefully won’t end anytime soon. This all might just be a lot of rat poison, but after the success FAU football had during the 2017 season, it’s well deserved.

About the Author

- Michael Demyan is the associate editor and reporter for The Boca Raton Tribune. He is a graduate of Florida Atlantic University where he received a degree in Multimedia Journalism. Twitter: @michaeldemyan

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