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Rooting for FAU Football’s Lane Kiffin to succeed is the right way to live

Lane Kiffin

Lane Kiffin, Lord Commander of Failing Upwards, is going to be on the wrong end of many jokes this week. After his Florida Atlantic University debut went less than stellar, whatever hoopla arrived with him, has likely already diminished.

This is sad. Inherently so. A college football loving nation should want Kiffin to succeed. Not because he is a man of the people or his genius is somehow constrained underneath his headset. But because Kiffin, to varying degrees, exemplifies everything that is wrong with college sports.

Having him be rewarded for it would seem fitting.

It doesn’t make much sense on the surface. Rooting for irredeemable figures is only in vogue when it is Walter White cooking meth in an RV. This isn’t that — though, few would be shocked if it were.

College sports happens to be a tricky, big business. Money is made off the back of unpaid labor on the regular, few think twice as they see kids cause brain damage to one another on Saturdays, and all is well in the land of the NCAA as well as some fictional idea known as amateurism.

Right?

Eh … Wrong.

Kiffin has been trying to make his bones as quickly as possible since arriving at FAU. He’s bringing in transfers with sketchy histories, Art Briles’ son is on his staff, and he oozes that actually used car salesman stink people often want to connect to coaches who are far less nefarious in their approaches.

Is it wrong that he is doing that?

It is a question asked out of earnest, as his job security pends on him winning games. It does not, however, rest on the lofty, outdated notion that college football coaches are teachers or leaders of young men. After all, how can a coach lead young men into adulthood as compromises with ethics and labor laws are made so the adult can keep making loot?

Let Kiffin win. Allow him to be the example of a coach doing it the opposite of the “right way” so many pundits have long screamed go hand-in-hand with success. Root for him to earn victories so often, so easily, that there’s no longer this mythology that college sports are some sort of morality play in which the good triumph over evil more often than not.

It feels dirty. Wrong, even. There’s no reason outside being someone who went to FAU to root for this to happen, save for being an anarchist. Anarchy in sports, honestly, is something we need more of anyway.

Still, this journey for Kiffin to upend college sports as we know it has a long way to go until completion. The Owls dropped their season-opener, the entire Florida Atlantic sideline appeared miffed and dozens of games away from knowing what to do next, and it isn’t as if other coaches are going to simply lay down as Kiffin leaves disaster in his wake.

In a weird way. In a strange, wonderful, and mystic way. Lane Kiffin has become the underdog of sorts. Media experts will point to his shortcomings as the reason for what failures he has this season while ignoring the storied history college sports has of awful men climbing to the top of the victory mountain top. He will be their example, yet the actual outlier, of immoral failing to succeed due to their immoralities.

All of which is hogwash. We have Dave Bliss in basketball, Art Briles in football, the entire Penn State situation, and more behind us, all screaming about the pitfall that is romanticizing college coaches as anything other than just coaches.

And that’s the point. Kiffin, whoever else have you, are in an industry that requires them to win football games first. They can do all that other stuff folks claim is important to the student-athlete experience, though that’s rarely a top priority for anyone leading the charge for a major program.

Let Kiffin win, if for no other reason to expose the fraudulent way the governing body of college sports advertises itself. If exploitation of labor or annual reports of people with power abusing those without wasn’t enough to stunt this scam, maybe Lane Kiffin turning Florida Atlantic into a national power will.