Lane Kiffin explains why he hired Kendal Briles amid questions and concerns

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Wednesday December 28, 2016


Lane Kiffin raised some eyebrows last week when he hired Baylor's Kendal Briles as offensive coordinator at FAU, and he tried to address part of those concerns at Wednesday’s Peach Bowl press conference.

The sexual assault scandal at Baylor has brought a lot of questions of that staff, although only father Art Briles was specifically named. Kendal Briles was also suspended for a game in 2015 for recruiting evaluation violations, which the NCAA upheld last week. Kiffin was asked about those issues, as well as if Art Briles will be involved at FAU.

Hiring Kendal was a long process that we went through, checked out a lot of things through our university and communicating with people there,” Kiffin said Wednesday. “We feel very comfortable with Kendal’s situation. He had a good game last night. He’ll be flying here today to help interview guys.

“As far as the other stuff, that’s not really what this is about today, with Art. We have a plan with that and we’ll discuss that when we get down there.”

Since Art Briles was dismissed in the summer, he’s shown up at some practices across the country. He had a brief stint consulting with the Cleveland Browns, and he visited Tulsa practice recently to see former Baylor assistant Philip Montgomery. At each stop, those teams have been questioned about Art Briles’ appearance. Many of the details of Baylor's report on the scandal have not been made public. It's something many will keep an eye on with Kendal at FAU now.

Kiffin has his coordinators in place — brother Chris Kiffin will coach the defense — and Lane has interviewed potential assistants in Atlanta. The dead period makes handling two jobs a little easier, but those coordinators will take the bulk of that work.

“It was important to get a few guys, to hire a defensive coordinator to evaluate our players and recruits and help interview defensive coaches,” Kiffin said. “That helped me a lot, and we’ve been working on offensive coaches in our spare time over the last week.”

That spare time was planned in advance with Nick Saban. Typically, the days involve prep for Washington, and night’s involve FAU work.

“I’ve communicated with Coach,” Kiffin said. “We went over the schedule to find some time he didn’t need me at so I could spend that on the phone or flying coaches in here to interview. Usually, that time is at night.”

Kiffin also commented on his replacement at Alabama. Steve Sarkisian will be promoted from analyst to offensive coordinator. That possibility was a selling point from Kiffin to his friend when Sarkisian was thinking about taking an off-field role with the Tide in the summer.

The offensive transition couldn’t be much smoother.

“Steve’s always done a great job. We were together for five of six years, really did everything together and kind of grew up in coaching together, so our minds think the same way,” Kiffin said. “That’s why it was valuable ho have him this year. It’s going to be a really easy transition.

Part of the process of talking to him in the summer into taking the job was, ‘I may not be here next year.’ I thought it was important he could help me for a year, and if I wasn’t here, it’d be an easy transition for Coach (Saban) to have somebody, versus hiring Sark not knowing him and him not knowing the system. It’s been invaluable. He’ll do a great job. Coach talked to me about it. I think in some ways he’ll do a better job.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to chris@coachingsearch.com.