Lane Kiffin: Steve Sarkisian's personality will work better at Alabama than mine
Kiffin hinted at what many suspected from a distance was a slight rift between he and Nick Saban
ATLANTA -- If there's anyone who knows about second chances, it's outgoing Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. He's lived these second chances -- well, really, more chances than two -- and he's now seeing it play out again at Alabama and in his new job at Florida Atlantic.
Kiffin hasn't always seen eye-to-eye with other coaches in Tuscaloosa. He acknowledged as much Tuesday at a Peach Bowl press conference while praising Nick Saban's decision to make Steve Sarkisian the next offensive coordinator.
"He'll do a great job with Coach," Kiffin said. "Coach talked to me about it, and I think in some ways, he'll do a much better job than I do with Coach."
When asked to explain what he meant, Kiffin replied, "The way I would describe it without details is (Sarkisian's) personality will work a little bit better than mine with coaches, and I'm not saying it was a bad thing at all. I would say Sark manages people better than I do at times."
For three years, Kiffin and Saban made an odd couple that helped Saban evolve to changing offenses in football and tried to help Kiffin repair his image. The "ass chewings" Kiffin received on the sideline -- as Saban likes to call them -- complemented sustained success by Alabama's offense.
"I don't recall a happy moment," Kiffin said when asked for his happiest moment with Saban. "I just recall the ass chewings. I won't take that part of the process with me (to Florida Atlantic), though."
Sarkisian, who was fired as USC's coach in 2015 when his drinking problem surfaced publicly, became an offensive analyst at Alabama at the start of this season for $35,000. Kiffin said he thought he might not be at Alabama in 2017 when he talked to Sarkisian in the summer about taking the analyst job.
"So I thought it was important he could help me for a year, and then if there was something where I wasn't here, be an easy transition for Coach to have somebody versus hiring Sark, not really knowing him and him not being around the system," Kiffin said. "That would have been a harder transition. I think it's been valuable."
Kiffin is offering second chances at his new job as Florida Atlantic's coach. His offensive coordinator will be outgoing Baylor offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, who will be in Atlanta on Wednesday to help Kiffin interview other Florida Atlantic job candidates.
Last week, the NCAA fined Baylor $5,000 and accepted the school's self-imposed sanctions for recruiting violations involving Briles and assistant coaches Tate Wallis and Jeff Lebby. The NCAA infractions committee panel chief said Baylor's coaches were "more interested in finding loopholes to exploit the rules instead of trying to follow the rules."
Briles is the son of former Baylor coach Art Briles, who was fired earlier this year over the university's handling of sexual assault allegations and investigations. Baylor said football coaches and staff members took steps to maintain internal control over discipline of players and to actively divert cases from the student conduct or criminal processes. The school said there was "no culture of accountability for misconduct."
Baylor assistant coaches stayed on the staff in 2016. The university has not identified other coaches possibly involved in covering up sexual assault allegations.
"I don't think because you're on a staff and there's an issue going on and nobody has said you're directly involved in that it should follow you," Kiffin said. "I think that's a different situation."
When asked what types of questions or investigation he did when researching Kendal Briles, Kiffin said, "Our school did a lot. They talked to a lot of people at the school there about the situation. They talked to people in compliance as well to make sure and everybody from that standpoint signed off on Kendal, and this is an ongoing investigation that had nothing to do with him."
Kendal Briles was vocally supportive of his father during Baylor's 2016 season. Kiffin sidestepped a question on what role, if any, Art Briles will have at Florida Atlantic.
"That's not really what this is about today with Art, but we have a plan with that, and we'll discuss that when we get down there," Kiffin said.
Kiffin is giving a second chance at the FBS level to quarterback De'Andre Johnson, who was dismissed by Florida State in 2015 after video surfaced of him punching a woman. Johnson played in 2016 at East Mississippi Community College, where he threw for 2,646 and 26 touchdowns and ran for 834 yards and five scores.
Kiffin said Florida Atlantic investigated Johnson and had a scholarship in place with him before Kiffin became the head coach this month.
"I've never even met him," Kiffin said. "I wouldn't know him if he walked in the room. So it was something the president and the athletic director and the previous staff had done a ton of research, they had connections to the junior college he was at, they brought him in, spent 48 hours around him. They had already sent him his papers. That was totally in place and already done before I got there."
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