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Please Don't Hire Lane Kiffin

The Illini will need a new coach this fall. For the love of God, don't let it be Lane Kiffin.

Scott Cunningham

I feel bad for Tim Beckman. He's not even officially fired yet, but everyone (including us) has spent at least the past month looking for his replacement. He's practically the old man in the cart. It's been pretty fun watching everybody put together their lists, giving their votes of confidence to an incredibly wide array of candidates. But lately one name has been coming up more and more often and I'm beginning to grow concerned. So I'm just going to yell this out as loudly as I possibly can.


Seriously though, I do not understand this at all. Lane Kiffin is an absolute boor. From falsely accusing rival coaches of recruiting violations (and inadvertently committing one himself in doing so) to telling a high schooler he'll be "pumping gas the rest of his life" for choosing a different school to bailing on a school after one year to getting caught in a lie about how he votes in the coaching poll, the man spent the entirety of his head coaching career with at least one foot in his mouth. Has everyone forgotten how much they hate Beckman for coming off as a goofus? Kiffin has essentially been Beckman but without the folksy goober charm. Whereas Becks comes off as a nice guy in over his head, Kiffin constantly doubles down on being the biggest asshole in the room. Do you want a coaching hire that won't have the rest of the college football landscape laughing at us? Lane Kiffin isn't it.

"But what about his results? Sure, his personality sucks but winning is what's most important! Plus he's an ace recruiter!" Let's start with that last point. Do you know how hard it is to recruit at Tennessee, USC, and Alabama? NOT HARD AT ALL. Those schools all have National Championships within the past 20 years. Illinois has one ten win season and 13 losing seasons over that same stretch. And yeah, Ron Zook showed us that it is completely possible to get great recruits to come to Illinois ... and still finish your Illini coaching career with a .400 winning percentage.

Kiffin took a Volunteers program that had gone 9-4, 10-4, and 5-7 the previous three seasons and led them to a 7-6 record. A 7-6 record built from feasting on such dynamic opponents as Western Kentucky, Ohio, Memphis, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt. His most impressive win that year is a tossup between home wins over South Carolina (7-6) or Georgia (8-5). In 2010, he took over a Trojans program that hadn't won fewer than nine games per season since 2001 (Pete Carroll's first year in Los Angeles). Yes, the program was hit with sanctions. But this is still USC, a program that has no reason to ever miss a bowl game unless they're currently sanctioned.

Over 3.5 seasons, Kiffin went 28-15. That's a .651 winning percentage. "I'd be thrilled with that at Illinois though!" Of course, we all would be. But do you honestly believe that winning around 2/3 of your games at USC translates to doing the same at Illinois? Kiffin's teams went 8-5, 10-2, and 7-6 in his three full seasons in LA. So one good year, one very good/great year, and one mediocre year. He was canned after a 3-2 start last year and watched his replacement Ed Orgeron take that same roster and go 7-2 the rest of the way, with an upset of #5 Stanford.

So we're talking about a head coach who's an ace recruiter but could only win about 65% of his games at a true blueblood college football school. Ron Zook won 62.2% of his games at Florida. We made this exact same hiring a decade ago and it ultimately did not work out. Yeah, Lane Kiffin has been more successful than Tim Beckman has at this level. No one can or is arguing that. But if you're asking "Who can turn Illinois around and ultimately lead the Illini to become a perennial 8-9 win team?" the answer is not Lane Kiffin.