In the beefed up world of college football coaching staffs, programs across the country have been padding their numbers with rule-skirting analysts and directors, nebulous titles that rarely capture the talent or resumes that some of the best non-coaching coaches bring to the table.

Maybe it’s an edge in play design.

Perhaps an ace local recruiter.

An extra set of eyes — or 10 — on the game tape.

But in just the past 2 weeks, UCLA’s Chip Kelly and USC’s Lincoln Riley have made staff hires that will have an untold impact on their future and the future of their program.

First, in late-March, the Bruins brought in former long-time Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo as Director of Leadership; Tuesday, USC announced it was bringing on jettisoned Arizona Cardinals head coach and former Texas Tech Raiders head coach Kliff Kingsbury.

With both hires, the Los Angeles schools added more than 2 combined decades of head coaching experience.

And they didn’t have to break the bank to do it.


This, of course, is nothing new. Nick Saban has made a cottage industry out of helping woebegone former head coaches resuscitate their careers, from Lane Kiffin to Steve Sarkisian to Butch Jones.

But Kingsbury’s addition to the USC staff feels a little different.

Kingsbury was thought to be on his Eat, Pray, Love journey following his firing by the Cardinals after 4 seasons, which offered mixed results alongside former No. 1 pick Kyler Murray.

This is not Saban calling on a castoff.

This is a pair of former Texas Tech teammates and disciples of Mike Leach, two Air Raid innovators who see the game the same way. This is Riley bringing in a clone to double-down on the Trojans electric passing game. This is Murray’s two mentors coming together to tutor Caleb Williams.

This is going to be interesting.

“I asked Kliff in passing if it was something he’d be interested in and described it to him,” Riley said Tuesday, according to’s Keely Eure. “He thought about it for a little bit and it just ended up being a great fit really for both sides. He’s obviously got familiarity with our offense; he’s got familiarity with a lot of the members on our staff. So I think that it certainly made sense. Obviously, his experience on the offensive side will be very helpful in terms of game planning, some of those things (analysts) can do off the field. Having another set of eyes there is very, very helpful.”

While Kingsbury’s reputation needs a bit of a repair, he wasn’t exactly on the trash heap like Kiffin or Sarkisian.

In fact, Kingsbury was hired as USC’s offensive coordinator in 2018 before being hired a month later to coach the Cardinals. In some weird ways, this is more than a reunion.

“I know he’s really invested in what we’re doing and really excited,” Riley said. “This isn’t something he is going to come do because he likes some of the people here. Professionally, he sees the opportunity that this is right now, which is a cool statement for our program, that a guy like that would want to come take this role and help this program take another big step, and he recognizes what’s going on. Just another example of where we’re headed and another great bit of momentum for our program.”

Williams, for one, is jacked at the prospect of a a coaching collab that includes the tutors of Murray, Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes, whom Kingsbury led to great success with the Red Raiders.

“It’s cool. He knows the offense in a way; they’re all from the same coaching tree,” Williams said. “Can’t wait to get him here and learn from him. My dreams and goals, being at the next level — he’s done it at the highest levels of coaching.”

You can almost just picture the three of them — Riley, Kingsbury and Williams — dissecting a play in the wee hours of the morning, just giggling at the thought of how they’re going to torch teams.


I can’t imagine Chip Kelly giggling too much with Ken Niumatalolo, but there will be some fireworks.

Whether that happens anywhere near the field doesn’t matter so much.

Creating a director of leadership position for the former Navy coach, who went 109-83 during his 15-year tenure, with 6 bowl wins and 2 Top-25 finishes, Kelly brought Niumatalolo into serve an advisor to players and the coaching staff, including Kelly himself.

For Kelly, this is just the latest addition to a deep staff that goes much deeper than the 10 on-field coaches. Kelly tabbed former USC defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast and former USC offensive line coach Tim Drevno in 2021, then promoted Drevno to offensive line coach when former coach Justin Frye left for Ohio State last year. This offseason, Kelly shifted former defensive coordinator Bill McGovern  to Director of Football Administration and hired D’Anton Lynn to help UCLA’s defense take a step forward.

Niumatalolo should help, as well.

“Yeah, it was awesome that we got a chance to get Ken,” Kelly said. “I know he had a lot of opportunities to go a lot of places. He’s such a well-respected coach in our community. I think everybody kind of looks up to Ken in terms of what the success he’s had and just the type of person that he is.”

His new position will be intriguing, much like Kingsbury’s.

“The more people we can have on deck that can promote what this place is all about, which is books and ball, and you talk about a guy coming from Navy, that’s a place that’s about books and ball,” Kelly said. “We’re just really fortunate to have somebody of Ken’s character and just the type of person he is. The more good people around, the better off you’re going to be, so we were excited to add him to our staff.”