Lane Kiffin: Why Should The Illinois Fighting Illini Go After Him?


The University of Illinois Athletic Director, Mike Thomas, will likely be on a coaching search in the very near future. Illinois has turned out to be a tough sell in recent memory, as Thomas was turned by his top candidates.

If Mike Thomas wants to right this ship, he should look no further south than the Alabama. We are not talking about Nick Saban here. It’s Lane Kiffin we are talking about who has what it takes to right the ship in Champaign.

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Most people have a very strong opinion on Kiffin.

The majority of fans fault him for the struggles of the USC Trojans over his short tenure. If you look at the possibility of what Lane Kiffin could do in Champaign, and how the deck may have been stacked against his success in Southern California, you begin to see what could happen with him as the man in charge of the Fighting Illini.

When Lane Kiffin began his tenure at USC in 2010, the NCAA was concluding their investigation into the Reggie Bush and the improper financial benefits he received from two sports agents while enrolled.

In June of that year, the NCAA concluded that the Trojan football program had a serious “lack of institutional control”. The program was hit with serious sanctions, which included a two-year postseason ban, the loss of 30 scholarships over three years, and the vacation of all wins in which Bush played when he was deemed ineligible.

In addition to the above sanctions, USC juniors and seniors were given the right to immediately transfer without having to sit out a year.

Several players left, but worse may have been Seantrel Henderson, who requested and was granted the right to be released from his letter of intent to play for Kiffin. Henderson went on to have a very nice career at Miami and was drafted by the Buffalo Bills this past year.

2010 came and went, and after all the issues and distractions off the field, Kiffin was able to navigate his team to an 8-5 record, but were not eligible for a bowl. He was able to accomplish this with 71 scholarship players, and was able to put up statement wins over the California Golden Bears and the UCLA Bruins.

2011 featured Kiffin’s best season, going 10-2 and winning the Pac-12 South. Due to the sanctions against the team, however, they were unable to play in the Pac-12 Championship game. Kiffin won on the road against tough Oregon and Notre Dame teams, and narrowly lost a triple overtime game to Andrew Luck and the Stanford Cardinal.

In 2012, when the Trojans went 5-4 in conference play, the seat began to heat up for Kiffin.

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  • When you look deeper, you see the team was only one game out of winning their divisional championship, lost against a top 5 Oregon team, lost at Stanford, and lost to the top ranked team in the nation, Notre Dame. They did not have a cake schedule and had a respectable record for the competition they were going up against.

    Kiffin was fired during the middle of the 2013 season, hours after dropping his second straight conference game, by Athletic director Pat Haden at LAX.

    Kiffin got a raw deal, played in a tough conference, and was handcuffed by terribly unjust sanctions and penalties that would hinder any coach in the nation.

    After his termination, Kiffin was hired as the Offensive Coordinator at Alabama, giving him a chance to learn and study Nick Saban. That chance would help anyone in college football.

    Kiffin got a raw deal at USC, but he showed that given the right personnel by leading a team to a conference divisional title, even if the NCAA unjustly keeps it from them.

    The offensive numbers his teams put up were out of this world. Matt Barkley should personally send a thank you card to Kiffin for getting drafted. In two straight full seasons under Kiffin, he was able to put up 36 or more touchdowns through the air.

    The west coast offense and spread offense that Kiffin runs so well would thrive with Wes Lunt, Mike Dudek, Geronimo Allison, and the rest of the Illinois team.

    You think Lunt was good this year? Match him up with someone like Kiffin and Cubit working together. That would be a show.

    Illinois needs someone that can lead this team, that can relate to students, that can go in to the trenches and recruit. Kiffin has all of that. His recruiting classes at USC were never worse than 13th in the nation. Even with a struggling team, Kiffin was able to sell that program.

    That is what Illinois desperately needs. Mike Thomas, if you are reading this, please take this to heart. Call Kiffin. Illini Nation needs wins, and Kiffin’s offensive mind with our young players would surely make some noise.

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