BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Lane Kiffin has a plan, and his plan is fairly simple when you think about it: Do whatever it takes to get Florida Atlantic as much attention as possible.
If that means trolling Alabama -- and his former boss, Nick Saban, about his "rat poison" comments -- on Twitter, so be it.
— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) November 6, 2017
If that means promoting #thefaU as often as possible, so be it.
If that means tweeting at the Kardashians, "recruiting" Lamar Jackson or poking his former friends at Tennessee, so be it.
— elizabeth ann lowder (@getlowder) October 18, 2017
There is nothing that will slow the roll of the Lane Train, picking up steam and headed for another headline near you. After a tweet he sent out over the weekend that referenced the point spread in a 30-25 win over Marshall caused an uproar in Las Vegas and beyond, Kiffin explained it was all a joke.
— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) November 4, 2017
But did it mean he would scale back on social media?
"Not big on scaling back," Kiffin said.
Call that the understatement of the year.
FAU knew what it was getting when it hired Kiffin, and so far at least, it has paid off. Not only has FAU clinched a bowl berth, the Owls have seen an increase in attendance and student engagement at home games.
On Monday morning, students gushed about what Kiffin has brought to their university. "When I first started coming here, the only fun part was going to tailgates. No one would go to the games," Edmond Borodic said. "Now, I go to the games, and we talk about the games. We are winning, and he has helped the culture here."
"Everyone likes Lane Kiffin," freshman Nicholas Giorgi said. "We go to the games to watch him."
Is it any wonder students dressed as Kiffin for Halloween last week?
— Elizabeth (@lizcheer15) October 31, 2017
Though the school bookstore does not sell any Kiffin-specific gear, the marketing team has come up with ways to play up the interest in FAU's head coach. For the season opener, it gave away visors as a nod to Kiffin.
Then a few weeks after that, it made buttons with Kiffin's face and handed them out. The school realized students could not get enough of Kiffin. And Kiffin was perfectly fine being the marketing superstar.
So in another brainstorming session, the marketing team hatched an even bigger idea: What if it could get an actual train to roll through campus to hype up FAU's game against Marshall? It located a company in South Florida that rents trains, similar to those that roll around the mall during Christmastime.
Thus, a real live "Lane Train" was born -- complete with a super-sized Kiffin head in the front, and life-sized Kiffin cut-outs in the back. The day before the Marshall game, the train rolled around campus for four hours, as students took out their phones to capture photos and video.
"He's a national brand. That's one of the reasons our athletic director and our president hired him," said Blair Zackon, associate athletic director for external relations. "With him comes all that attention. As he saw us doing good stuff with his likeness and his face, he became more and more amenable to doing more and more stuff. So when we ran the Lane Train concept by him, it was very much a, 'Yeah, go do it that's great.' If it gets students excited, if it gets them to the game I'm all for it."
The marketing team also made 10 super-sized Kiffin heads for students to hold in the crowd. Kiffin noticed them while watching game tape.
"We want to have a program that our fans are excited about, and at the end of the day you want to have something showing your program where people say, 'I want to go there,'" Kiffin said. "So that's the reason for a lot of what we do, is the attention. It ain't that hard to figure out, but for some reason a lot of the media can't figure out why we do it.
"Because you want them talking about FAU. It's free advertising, when you're on SportsCenter, L.A. Times and all these things, that's free advertising. That's not for me. That's for our program. That's what you want. You want to have articles where they're talking about Alabama, Georgia and FAU in the same article."
It might not be for him, but most of the publicity is about him. And most of that publicity happens when he turns on Twitter. Kiffin has a wry sense of humor, and that is one of the biggest reasons his is the best head coach Twitter account in college football.
"I just think the whole thing's funny in general, just how fan reactions are and I think I probably give people stuff to have fun with, and so they get a kick out of it when I like one of their tweets," Kiffin said. "It's all in good humor. I think it's funny and if I can make people laugh, so be it. Somebody joked the other day it's like when someone breaks up and they're really mad at the person and they get over it after a while and changes how it is. I thought that was a funny comparison."
But the trolling ... it has to be planned, right?
"It's not near as planned as you think," Kiffin said. "I don't wake up and go, 'What's on Twitter?' That's way down on my list of things, when it comes to getting the team ready to win games, coaches focused on the practice that day. A lot of times people send stuff to me on my phone, screenshot or send the link to me and I literally push retweet or send and add something to it. A lot of times it's a 10-second thing."
When Kiffin arrived at FAU, he had a reputation that preceded him. But he also took less money to become the head coach here, and went into the job knowing full well he would not have the same resources he had at Tennessee, USC and Alabama.
But that has not deterred him from working wonders with the offense, combining concepts he ran at Alabama with concepts offensive coordinator Kendal Briles ran at Baylor. The result has been one of the most prolific offenses in college football, ranking in the top 20 in scoring, rushing, total and red zone offense.
At 5-0 in Conference USA play, FAU sits alone atop the East Division, with a game at Louisiana Tech on Saturday.
"This season's been very rewarding on a different level, and I told the team this," Kiffin said. "When you're younger as a head coach, and just trying to win games, get to the top of the ladder, as I reflect back I think a lot of times you're doing things for yourself. This is different. I feel like I'm enjoying these players in the locker room so much, and how excited they are because they've had nothing.
"It's like why does the poor child thank you so much when he gets something given to him versus the rich child. It's completely different, their reaction. That's how I feel. Being in places -- 34 straight wins USC, 26 straight wins at Alabama -- where it's kind of given, there's not the same appreciation, so now I truly feel like I'm doing it for them, for what it gives them. I know it sounds strange for a coach to say that, but it's been extremely, surprisingly rewarding."
And if he needs to grab more attention for his team with a few more tweets, so be it.