If Lane Kiffin is the genius Al Davis thinks he is, the 32-year-old rookie head coach should get his mom on the phone pronto. Lane's got some heavy lifting to do in Oakland, and if anyone knows about keeping the peace in a football family, it's Ma Kiffin.
During 34 years of marriage to Bucs defensive coordinator Monte, Robin Kiffin has raised a daughter (Heidi) and two sons (Lane and Chris, an Ole Miss grad assistant) and forgotten more about the game than most of us will ever know. Her life as a coach's wife -- and mom -- has taken her to Lincoln, Neb.; Fayetteville, Ark.; Raleigh, N.C.; Green Bay, Wis.; Buffalo; Minneapolis; New York; New Orleans; Tampa Bay; Los Angeles; and Oxford, Miss. So we asked Ma Kiffin how she game-planned her family's life. These are her rules:
1. Don't fight football
Mondays were the best nights for the Kiffin kids: Robin let them stay up two hours past their bedtime so they could watch the second half of Monday Night Football with Monte. "She understood the time and energy that football coaches put into their jobs," says Lane. "Sometimes you see wives who get jealous of that, but she really got it."
2. You gotta have faith -- and a big kitchen
"In whatever city we've been in, I've gone to Bible-study classes regularly," says Robin. "Plus, we were the house where all the neighborhood kids played, and I was always cooking for everybody."
3. Rewrite the calendar
"The past few years Lane has been busy with bowl games at USC, so we couldn't have Christmas in December," says Robin. "We'd celebrate ours together in the middle of January."
4. Avoid office slumber parties (when possible)
Robin never told Monte he couldn't sleep at the office. But for most of their marriage, she didn't have to. "It was way different when we first got married, back at Nebraska," she says. "We had an old projector in the basement that he could watch film on. He'd be home for dinner. We'd eat at 6:30, then he'd be downstairs until 10:30."
But in 1995, when Monte left the Vikes for the Saints, Chris and Robin stayed in Minneapolis to sell the house. Alone in New Orleans, Monte became accustomed to late nights at the office. When he joined the Bucs, in 1996, his hours grew longer. It no longer made sense to get home after 2 a.m., then head back to the office at 5 a.m. Says Robin of Monte's dedication: "It's an addiction."
Layla Kiffin, Lane's wife, won't be as lenient as Ma. The daughter of former NFL QB John Reaves -- and sister of South Carolina assistant David Reaves and Southern Miss QB Stephen Reaves -- Layla knows how addictive the game can be. Which is why she made Lane sign a
contract promising he wouldn't sleep at the
office. "I think it takes a certain type of woman to handle the demands," says Layla. "You have to be so independent, because we're basically single moms during the season."
5. Take advantage of access
"Both of my sons were ball boys during training camp, and they'd eat with the players at the training table," says Robin. "Lane, being the entrepreneur that he is, made some money with it by washing the players' cars and running errands for them."
6. Buy a good suitcase
Moving is one of the realities of the coaching world. During one stretch in the 1980s, Heidi had to switch schools three times in three years. "Looking back," she says, "you learn that you can adapt anywhere you go." The moves were just as tough on Mom. "Every time we moved," says Robin, who has her real estate
license, "it was the wrong time to sell."
7. Outwit, outsmart, outlast
With coaches' hours being what they are, getting the family together for the holidays takes on added significance. "No mom wants to cook all day on Thanksgiving and have everyone leave the table after 10 minutes," says Robin. "So to keep people at dinner, I had them write down their three wishes on scraps of paper, and we put them in a hat. Then we went around the table and had to guess who said what. There was one that was always easiest to guess:
'I wanna go to the Super Bowl.' That was Monte's."