Lane Kiffin says he 'wanted to die' after being fired by USC

FAU head coach writes of 'spiritual rebirth' since move to Boca Raton

Florida Atlantic head coach Lane Kiffin stands on the sideline against Navy in his first game with the Owls at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida, Sept. 1, 2017.
Florida Atlantic head coach Lane Kiffin stands on the sideline against Navy in his first game with the Owls at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida, Sept. 1, 2017. (Bryan Hursh)

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – Florida Atlantic head coach Lane Kiffin said he "wanted to die" after he was fired by the University of Southern California in 2013.

The revelation comes in the form of an essay he wrote on the website Athletes for God with author Tom Hager.

Kiffin, 43, was 28-15 in three-plus seasons at USC before he was infamously fired on the tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport after a 62-41 loss to Arizona State in September 2013.

In the essay, Kiffin reflects on being fired by the NFL's Oakland Raiders midway through his second season, taking over at Tennessee and leaving to take the USC job a year later.

"I could not say no, even though I loved Tennessee," Kiffin wrote.

However, looking back, Kiffin said his fall from grace at USC "was the beginning of God humbling me to the man I am today."

"As my pastor once said, God wasn't punishing me, he was just giving me a wakeup call," Kiffin wrote.

Kiffin described his last season at USC as "brutal." He said he was pulled off the team bus in front of his players at the airport at 3 a.m. to be told he had been fired.

"I don't wish that feeling upon anyone," Kiffin wrote. "I wanted to die, because at the time I was defined by my job."

But, Kiffin said, God "loves a good comeback." That's how he wound up back in coaching as offensive coordinator at Alabama under head coach Nick Saban.

Full Screen
1 / 10

Florida State vs. Texas A&M: This is pretty obvious. First-year Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher left Florida State after eight seasons for a substantial pay hike (a 10-year, $75 million guaranteed contract), but not necessarily a better team. The Seminoles may have had more talent, but Fisher's last season in Tallahassee was forgettable. FSU fans likely had enough of hearing Fisher complain about facilities, so they turned to former Oregon head coach Willie Taggart to replace him. At his introductory news conference, Taggart called Florida State his "dream job" and spoke about growing up cheering for the Seminoles. Now he gets to lead them. What better way than against the coach who spurned them? FSU hasn't played Texas A&M since a 23-14 win in the 1998 Kickoff Classic.

"When God gives you a second chance, it's not something you take for granted," Kiffin wrote.

Kiffin spoke of his "tarnished" reputation and how Saban made him a better coach.

The second-year FAU coach said he has had a "spiritual rebirth" since arriving in Boca Raton in December 2016.

"My journey has humbled me, and as a result I'm not this larger than life figure that people made me out to be," Kiffin wrote.

Kiffin said he may not be recruiting five-star athletes at FAU, "but they are five-star people."

"They listen better than any other players I've had before, probably because their approach to life is completely different," Kiffin said.

That's saying something, considering Kiffin has coached USC running back Reggie Bush, USC quarterback Matt Barkley and Alabama running back Derrick Henry, among others.

Kiffin orchestrated an impressive turnaround at FAU in his first season on campus, leading the Owls to an 11-3 record, their first-ever Conference USA championship and a 50-3 victory over Akron in the Boca Raton Bowl.

"I don't like to focus too much on my past, because then it stops becoming your past and starts to become your present," Kiffin said. "However, my story is a special exception, because it shows people that it's never too late to rediscover God, and that we can overcome anything in our past."