When it was announced five years ago that UCLA would play at Oklahoma in 2018, Sooner athletic director Joe Castiglione said, “We’re delighted to again add UCLA’s tradition-rich program to our schedule.”
Castiglione said what he’s supposed to say, but in recent years the UCLA program has been mostly average.
In 1999-2017, while OU stacked 15 seasons of at least 10 wins and captured 11 conference titles, the Bruins had three 10-win seasons, eight losing seasons and no conference title.
Now, there is Chip Kelly.
UCLA is a lot more interesting now than it was a few months ago.
When it was announced in 2015 that Florida Atlantic also would be on the Sooners’ 2018 home football schedule, the OU fan base probably barely noticed. Most OU fans probably didn’t remember that Howard Schnellenberger, after his one season with the Sooners, built the Florida Atlantic program from scratch.
Now, there is Lane Kiffin.
Florida Atlantic is infinitely more interesting — and dangerous — than it was in 2015.
As both OU and Oklahoma State face a quarterback transition, there are visitors who make September 2018 a potentially tremendous month of football.
In the Sept. 1 opener at Norman, the infamous Kiffin and his defending Conference USA champion FAU Owls will challenge the Sooners.
A week later, Kelly will bring his reputation to Owen Field. In four seasons as the Oregon Ducks’ head coach, he was 46-7. He got mixed results in four years at the NFL level: two 10-win seasons in Philadelphia, a third-season firing in Philadelphia and a 2-14 nightmare in San Francisco.
As the new UCLA head man, Kelly attempts to elevate and sustain the Bruins at the big-time level of college football.
On Sept. 15 in Stillwater, a tremendous matchup: Boise State vs. OSU.
With coach Chris Petersen in 2006-13, the Broncos were 92-12. With coach Bryan Harsin during the past four seasons, Boise State is 42-12.
The 2017 Broncos were 11-3 and the Mountain West champions. Returning for the 2018 Broncos are 10 defensive starters. The only lost starter — linebacker Leighton Vander Esch — was a first-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys.
While Kelly might eventually achieve greatness at UCLA, Kiffin’s visit will be preceded by about a million words of Tulsa World coverage.
One reason: A reputable season-opening opponent always gets an abundance of attention in August sports sections.
The other reason: Kiffin is off-the-charts noteworthy because he has been so consistently controversial.
He’s only 43, but Kiffin already has been the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, the head man at Tennessee and Southern Cal, and Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator at Alabama.
Fired after 20 games as the Raiders’ coach, Kiffin was said by then-owner Al Davis as having “disgraced” the organization.
“I picked the wrong guy,” Davis lamented.
After one season at Tennessee (a 7-6 season in 2009), Kiffin shocked Volunteer fans by quitting and becoming the head coach at Southern Cal.
Five games into his fourth season with the Trojans (and only a few hours after having lost 62-41 to Todd Graham and the Arizona State Wildcats), Kiffin was fired at a Los Angeles airport by then-USC athletic director Pat Haden.
In 2014-16, Kiffin coordinated the Crimson Tide offense. Alabama was the 2015 national champion and advanced to the January 2017 title game. He already had been hired by Florida Atlantic, but Kiffin was expected to coach the offense during the championship meeting with Clemson. He didn’t.
A few days before Clemson prevailed 35-31, Saban announced that Kiffin would not be involved in the title game. It was reported that Saban was fed up with Kiffin having been late to meetings, and that Kiffin had been distracted by his process of hiring Florida Atlantic staff members.
During his first season at FAU, Kiffin’s offensive coordinator was Kendal Briles, the son of former Baylor coach Art Briles. Kendal Briles now is at the University of Houston.
When the Owls visit OU on Sept. 1, Kiffin’s offensive coordinator will be 25-year-old Charlie Weis Jr., the son of former Notre Dame and Kansas coach Charlie Weis.
And when the Owls visit OU, Kiffin has a chance to make a national splash. His first Florida Atlantic team was 11-3 and averaged 498 yards and 40.6 points per game. Returning for Kiffin is a 1,920-yard running back (Devin Singletary).
FAU’s quarterbacks include a former Florida State Seminole (De’Andre Johnson, who was booted from the FSU program after punching a woman) and a former Sooner (Chris Robison, who had a public-intoxication episode in April 2017 and was dismissed from the program four months later).
Excitement always is maxed for the launch of a college football season, and the September presence of Kiffin, Kelly and the Boise State Broncos only brings additional heat in Oklahoma.