FAU Football – Fun But Growing Pains

We attended FAU’s big football game with UCF this weekend. Based on that experience we see a lot of positive signs, but there are some gaps that will hopefully be fixed. The most glaring was a failure to have an adequate supply of water and other hydrating beverages.

But let’s start with the positive. We got there a few hours before game time and the parking lots were full of people tailgating. People were well behaved and having a good time.

As a ballpark guess we’d estimate there were 20,000 fans inside the stadium for the game. It was a big crowd, making a lot of noise, and again we saw mostly good behavior and people enjoying themselves.

The game itself was a little rough. UCF crushed FAU 48-14. You have to remember that UCF is one of the best college football teams in the country. This follows FAU’s 45-21 loss to Ohio State, another big-time college football program.

While the scores don’t look good, it’s actually very impressive that FAU was able to get some stops against these high powered offenses and move the ball somewhat against very tough defenses. FAU quarterback Chris Robison did a great job getting away from pressure.

Coach Lane Kiffin and FAU Football deserve credit for taking on such strong competition early in the season. Fans have a lot to look forward to for the rest of the season and going forward into the next few years. Fans should be optimistic about how FAU will do within the less competitive Conference USA. If Kiffin can recruit just a few more top quality players that could make a world of difference.

Outside of the game itself, the event was mostly run well. There was a large police presence and the police were friendly and helpful. It’s a nice stadium and there seems to be ample parking.

Traffic management seemed to be okay on our way out. On the way in it could have been better. At 4 pm when we arrived traffic entering the campus from Spanish River Blvd was backed up creating conflict from cars coming from different directions. Despite the substantial police presence, there were no officers at that major intersection. We heard from a friend who got to the campus at 5:30 pm that traffic was so bad she didn’t get to her seat until the second quarter.

Getting into the stadium was slow going and not well organized. FAU should have more staff at the entry points, and maybe some kind of ropes or “corrals” to make this process smoother. Cell coverage was spotty as the towers were probably overwhelmed. The stadium Wifi was iffy. It worked most of the time but there were times when it said the access point was full.

The water situation was unacceptable. During the second quarter two of us went downstairs to buy some water. It was a very long wait, as you can see in the picture below.

Subway is the vendor covering the south area of FAU Stadium

It was a roughly 15 minute wait to get to the front of the line. We then learned that they were out of water. We were able to get a few bottles of Gatorade but they were almost out of that. I walked around while my friend waited in line. I didn’t find anywhere with better options.

This is South Florida in early September. It was 90 degrees at game time and probably hotter in the stadium. You have 20,000 people sitting out in the sun in 90 degree heat. There is not much excuse for making people wait 15 minutes to pay $3 for a 10 cent bottle of water and then running out of it.

Making this worse, it is FAU policy that fans cannot bring their own food or drinks into the game, and if they leave (to go to their cars to get water) they are not allowed back into the stadium – no reentry.

We reached out to FAU about this and to their credit they responded quickly, though we’re not fully satisfied with their answers.

Q: Why was FAU unprepared to supply water (and other hydrating drinks like Gatorade) to a crowd it knew would be so large?

A: Our concession vendors prepared for the crowds with water and other hydrating drinks, due to the large crowd we did have some stands that had to be restocked with water and other beverages throughout the game, which meant that some stands might not have had those specific beverages for a time while being restocked. Moving forward we will be taking a look at all of our concessions protocols which include looking at additional ways to provide water inside and outside of the stadium.

Note that the Subway did not appear to be restocked with water or Gatorade. We left the game in the middle of the fourth quarter and their cooler had no water and no Gatorade. To be fair to FAU, at least some responsibility for this probably falls on Subway.

Q: Is it correct that fans are not allowed to bring their own water bottles into games? If so please explain the reason for this policy.

A: There is no outside food and drink allowed in FAU Stadium but fans are allowed to bring in an empty cup to utilize the water fountains. This policy is consistent with the policies of most FBS facilities.

Notice that they did not explain the reason for this policy. It seems pretty clear that the reason is to make money selling 10 cent water bottles for three dollars, and other beverages for more. Beer vendors didn’t run out of beer, and were not selling water. Saying that other programs have the same policy is the kind of answer you’d expect from a small child.

Q: It also appears that fans can not leave (say to get water from their cars) and return to the game. Is that also correct?

A: Yes, our stadium policy is that there is no re-entry. Once you are admitted (ticket scanned) into FAU Stadium, you may not exit the stadium and re-enter using the same ticket. If you have an emergency and must depart the stadium, fans can visit the fan services locations near sections 114 and 125 where a Fan Services representative can address the situation. This policy is consistent with the policies of most FBS institutions.

No re-entry is a pretty common policy. That doesn’t mean it’s the right policy. They could make a security argument, but there was plenty of security at the stadium and no reason they can’t check people coming back in.

Q: Does FAU plan to change how it handles this in the future? If so, how?

A: With anticipation of larger crowds becoming the norm at FAU Football Stadium we will be doing a meticulous evaluation of all of our gameday policies and procedures to make sure that we are providing a first class gameday experience for our fans. Through evaluation we will make the necessary adjustments and additions to our gameday protocol.

We are hopeful FAU will follow through on this. With a million dollar a year football coach and an athletic director making $300K, FAU fans are entitled to expect better performance, and not just on the field.

I tweeted about the water issue during the game and got some response from both FAU and UCF fans.

Update: Thanks to Jake Elman we see that AD Brian White did tweet about the stadium issues. Click on the tweet and read the replies.

Red Sox Sign West Boca’s Zach Schneider

West Boca native Zach Schneider, a pitcher, signed with the Boston Red Sox as a free agent:

Schneider grew up in the Waterways subdivision of Boca Winds at the far west end of Palmetto Park Road, across the street from his first school, Waters Edge Elementary. He may have attended Loggers’ Run Middle School but we haven’t confirmed that yet. We know he pitched in the summer for the West Boca Snappers.

He moved on to American Heritage Delray, Polk State College (2017 Team MVP) and had an outstanding run at FAU.

We reached out to family and family friends.

So proud of Zach for all his focus and dedication to fulfill his dream since he was a little boy.

Lisa Oken, family friend

Zach was good friends with my daughter throughout elementary school and middle school. I always knew he would make it. He was dedicated to baseball at such a young age, I remember my daughters half-day pool parties – Zach always came late and was always in his baseball uniform! Great kid and an amazing family! Well deserved! Way to go Zach! 

Gail Nobile Field, neighbor and family friend

Schneider had his own comment on Instagram:

We wish him good luck on his journey.

Lane Kiffin FAU Contract Includes Cheap Buyout Clause

Lane Kiffin headshot from Facebook.

Coach Lane Kiffin and FAU are both pretending that his new contract will keep him at FAU for the long haul. The details of that contract have now been released and it shows the lie.

The contract purports to be a 10-year deal. Kiffin will earn a base salary of $950,000 a year. There are some other incentives and perks that add value, but they’re small potatoes compared to the salary and to what top college football coaches earn. Several coaches earn over $5M a year and Nick Saban gets over $11M from Alabama.

Kiffin is at FAU arguably because his somewhat controversial history made it difficult for him to get a job with a top team. See for example Fox Sports. He’s really at FAU to put in a few years demonstrating his competence (he is undeniably a brilliant coach) and stability until a top team is ready for him and needs him.

That’s where the buyout clause in his contract comes in. While it’s ostensibly a 10-year deal, Kiffin can leave at no cost starting January 1, 2022, six years before the end of the contract. If he leaves earlier there’s are set buyout amounts ranging from $2M if he leaves before the end of 2018 down to $500K if he leaves during the 2021 calendar year. Oddly the buyout amounts are cut in half if University President John Kelly stops serving in that “capacity” at any time during the term of the contract.

The Kiffin FAU buyout clause, from pages 11-12 of the contract.

As a side note, the wording of that part about the University President creates some big potential loopholes. If Kelly takes a sabbatical or a brief leave of absence, does that trigger the reduction? If he leaves the position after Kiffin quits, could Kiffin claw back half of whatever he paid?

If a major college football (or NFL) team decides they want Kiffin and are ready to pay him $5M or more, the $1.5M (2019) or $1M (2020) buyout price will be a trivial extra cost. This 10-year contract does little to keep Kiffin in Boca for any longer than the time it will take him to rehabilitate his reputation.

We hope we are wrong. We would love it if Kiffin would stay at FAU. He’s great for the team, for the university and for the community. But the reality is he’ll be gone by the end of 2020.

The full contract (pdf) is below:

Kiffin, Lane Contract 2d Amdt EXECUTED 6.20.18

Still No Signed Lane Kiffin Extension for FAU

Tweet from FAU Coach Lane Kiffin: https://twitter.com/Lane_Kiffin/status/943178921499090950

On December 19, 2017, football coach Lane Kiffin announced that he had reached an agreement with FAU for a 10-year contract extension. The extension still hasn’t been signed, according to FAU.

The same day the agreement was announced we submitted a public records request to FAU for a copy of the new contract. The immediate response, the next day, was that the contract had not been signed yet and would be forwarded to us when it was.

We followed up a few weeks later and were told:

Coach Kiffin’s extension is an agreement in principle and the written details are still being worked out. I will be provided a copy of the new contract when it is completed.

So we waited. Yesterday we asked again and an exchange of e-mails revealed that Coach Kiffin’s extension has not been signed, and that he is still working under the terms of the previous contract.

[T]here is no written contract yet with the extension. Coach Kiffin is still employed under the terms of his existing contract. He and the AD and President reached an agreement in principle on a ten-year extension, which is what he tweeted about. That verbal agreement in principle has not yet been reduced to a written contract.

This matters because some in college football think Lane Kiffin’s stay at FAU is only temporary until he lands a deal with a bigger football school.

From ESPN:

Since his coaching career began in 1997 as an assistant at Fresno State, Kiffin’s longest stop at one place was six seasons as an assistant at USC from 2001 to 2006. As a head coach, his longest stop also was at USC, where he was fired five games into his fourth season.

One would expect that the contract extension would make it harder for Kiffin to leave FAU. If it hasn’t been signed, that means he’s still relatively free to leave for somewhere else.

We would like to hope that Kiffin is here in Boca for the long haul. He’s a great coach and we’d love to see FAU continue to improve. But the lack of a signed extension suggests that he may still be waiting to see if a new opportunity comes up.

We reached out directly to Kiffin and to FAU Football but neither has responded.

Boca High Grad Killed in Motorcycle Accident

Seth Dierksen
Seth Dierksen

An early morning motorcycle accident on Spanish River Blvd claimed the life of Boca High graduate Seth Dierksen, age 22. From the report it appears to have been near the entrance to the FAU campus at roughly 4 am this morning.

From the Boca Raton Police Department:
Officers with the Boca Raton Police Department’s Traffic Homicide Unit are investigating a fatal crash, which happened this morning at 3:57 a.m., in the 800 block of NW Spanish River Boulevard.
The operator of a 2011 Kawasaki motorcycle was traveling east on NW Spanish River Boulevard when he collided with a 2007 International 18-wheeler truck. The operator of the motorcycle died at the scene.
If you have information about this crash, please call Traffic Homicide Investigator Michael Daly at (561) 620-6081.
2011 Kawasaki Motorcycle:
Seth Clayton Dierksen
22 years old
Boca Raton, FL
Injury: Fatal
2007 International Truck:
William Grinslade
43 years old
Winter Haven, FL
Injury: None