Dang, did y’all hear that Auburn was targeting Lane Kiffin to be the next head football coach out on the Plains? And that Kiffin was reportedly leaning towards accepting an offer to coach the Tertiary Tigers? Well, it didn’t happen.
On Monday, November 21, Starkville, MS-based reporter Jon Sokoloff tweeted:
BREAKING: #OleMiss HC Lane Kiffin plans to step down as the Rebels coach Friday and head to Auburn to become the Tigers next head coach, according to sources
Sources say the Tigers haven’t officially offered the job to anyone yet.
So Lane to Auburn is happening. Story soon.
A clearly irked Lane Kiffin took to Twitter to blow up Mr. Sokoloff’s spot, but stopped short of denying interest in the Auburn job, or committing wholly to staying at Ole Miss. This bit of wiggle room Kiffin left for himself led to a pretty chaotic week for the college football rumor mill. Sokoloff continued to double down on his reporting, even as the Kiffin-to-Auburn smoke seemed to dissipate, and Kiffin continued to blast the WCBI reporter both on social media and during press appearances.
On Saturday, ESPN’s Chris Low tweeted, “Lane Kiffin has reiterated to @OleMissFB officials and staff members that his plan is to remain as the Rebels’ head coach and that he’s not going to @AuburnFootball, sources tell ESPN.” Kiffin replied to the tweet with an apparent confirmation, commending Low for his “professional” reporting and tagging Sokoloff for a final jab at the Starkville reporter. Kiffin was really mad at Jon Sokoloff, y’all.
I don’t doubt for a second that Lane Kiffin was at least strongly considering the Auburn opening; there are simply too many reports suggesting advanced talks between AU and Kiffin to dispute that. I do think Kiffin was at least trying to handle the situation professionally, and was greatly bothered that premature reports ended up causing the exact kind of distraction he sought to avoid.
Details on Kiffin’s apparent extension are still emerging, but this is what we’re hearing:
- The new deal elevates Kiffin to roughly $9M per year, good for fifth in the SEC behind Nick Saban, Kirby Smart, Jimbo Fisher (lol), and Brian Kelly.
- The contract extends Kiffin for at least six years; Ole Miss managed to skirt a state-mandated four-year limit on such contracts by guaranteeing part of the deal through the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation. The four-year limit set by the state has been portrayed as a stumbling block when negotiating with high-profile coaches.
- The deal includes a substantial buyout clause that will hopefully provide Ole Miss with some end-of-season stability the next few years.
Back to the social media drama. In response to the shellacking he’s taken on Twitter, Jon Sokoloff tweeted in defense of his reporting. A 2017 college graduate and a veteran of widely-respected beats in Lubbock and Starkville, Sokoloff has the breadth and depth of experience to know that when an anonymous source with potential conflicts of interest (it was John Cohen, y’all) drops you a tip that you cannot independently verify, you are *obligated* to run it. Offers from national sports media outlets are pouring into Jon’s inbox as we speak.
In the end, Lane Kiffin was able to turn the decision to stay at his current job into the most dramatic storyline of the offseason so far. And while Kiffin may have burned through quite a bit of goodwill with the Ole Miss fan base and athletics department, he’s still the best guy for the job, probably by a long shot. He brings a prolific offense, an aggressive mentality, and a nationally recognizable brand to Oxford. We’ll keep you updated as new details of the extension emerge, and as Kiffin starts making postseason moves with his coaching staff, roster, and more.