On the surface, it doesn’t make too much sense for Ole Miss football coach Lane Kiffin to call it a career in Oxford and leave for Auburn. Yes, as previous stints at Tennessee and USC show, Kiffin historically loves drama and would again get no shortage of that by switching hats for an intra-division foe.
Not that the 47-year-old would mind much. “It seems to me like he doesn’t really care what people think or say,” Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman said this week. “If they do say something about him, he’ll come back. Part of me wishes I was that way a little bit more.”
As it is, Kiffin seemed to have a pretty good thing going at Ole Miss with a 18-5 record in the last two seasons going into Saturday night’s game at Arkansas. Then, the Hogs dropped a sledgehammer on the Rebels in the first half and eventually walked away with a 42-27 win.
That didn’t stop the SEC Network announcers from going on at length about the prospect of Kiffin leaving Oxford as Auburn’s No. 1 choice.
A larger pool of NIL money, which would theoretically lead to better players and a better program (though not *cough* in College Station) has been tossed out as a big reason that Kiffin may want to take the Auburn head football coach position.
“The NIL collective at Auburn is ten times what it is at Ole Miss,” ESPN’s Chris Low said on The Next Round. “That’s why I think, ultimately, Lane would go.”
Misunderstandings about Lane Kiffin and NIL Money?
Low’s assertion about Ole Miss’ NIL collective, however, is baseless, says the executive director of The Grove Collective. On Thursday, Walker Jones told SportsTalk Mississippi that Lowe never inquired into details about his organization and that there’s no way the disparity between the schools is that large considering the collective has gone from less than 100 contributing members two months ago to about 5,000 now.
Jones added he’s confident Kiffin is pleased with the group: “We have delivered on everything that coach has asked us to deliver on and the university as well. We have far exceeded our goals, financially, with membership. Our Ole Miss fans have answered the call and we sit here today in a really, really good position. I feel great about it. I know (Kiffin) feels good about it.”
Aside from the NIL money available to players, there is the fat-cat donor money that lines coaches’ pockets. And that’s something Auburn has plenty of. In the video below, 247Sports’ Josh Pate says he has heard through his sources that the Tigers are able to offer Kiffin a contract in the range of $11 million or more a year. That would be more than double what Arkansas is paying Sam Pittman, who now has a 2-1 record vs Lane Kiffin as a head coach.
Ole Miss, according to SportsTalk Mississippi’s Richard Cross, has offered Kiffin a raise from $7.25 million to something in the $9 million per year range.
More Reasons for Lane Kiffin to Leave Ole Miss Football
On top of extra salary money, Kiffin would also have access to better football facilities and a larger pool of funds to retain assistant coaches.
In recent weeks, both Josh Pate and 247Sports college football analyst Brandon Marcello have said they believe the reasons for Kiffin to leave Ole Miss outweigh those for staying when it comes to one day winning a national championship. In an interview with Arkansas sports radio host John Nabors, Marcello pointed to Kiffin lamenting that he lost his previous defensive coordinator, D.J. Durkin, because Ole Miss was outbid by Texas A&M.
Plus, “he has complained about the attendance at games at Ole Miss at 11:00 AM,” Marcello added. “And if he’s complaining about that right now when they are very successful, what’s that going to look like if he has a six-win season or a seven-win season, or they’re not top 20 in the preseason. I think he would worry about that.”
Essentially, as Marcello foresees it, Auburn brass will make an offer saying “‘Everything that you’re missing at Ole Miss to get you over the hump there, you’re going to have here at Auburn.’ And I think that would be very difficult to turn down for him.”
Another Big Plus for Auburn Football
There’s another issue at play that almost nobody is discussing, Pate says.
That is how state law affects Kiffin’s desire for long-term security. “He wants the 10-year lifetime-changing deal that Jimbo [Fisher] has and that a lot of his peers have. You can’t have it in Mississippi, and it’s not Ole Miss’ fault, it’s not Mississippi State’s fault – it is state law.”
Indeed, a unique Mississippi state law prevents any state employee from having a contract for longer than four years. That is especially ironic in a state with more star college football coaching wattage considering Mike Leach in Starkville and Deion Sanders at Jackson State.
So, “Auburn can offer them a 10-year deal tomorrow if they wanted to. Ole Miss cannot do that,” Pate continues. “And so they’re playing a game with one hand tied behind their back already and there may be a few fingers on the other hand tied behind their back. I’ve been consistently told that matters in this whole thing, so just keep an eye on that.”
In terms of whether Kiffin moving to Auburn would benefit Arkansas, that depends on how much instability such a move would introduce into the Ole Miss football program and how quickly he’d improve Auburn. If he would bring over some of his best players to Auburn (as Lincoln Riley did at USC coming from Oklahoma) and turn those Tigers around as quickly as Brian Kelly turned around the LSU Tigers, then there would likely be no benefit for Arkansas in the coming season or two.
However, if Kiffin took longer to turn Auburn around while also leaving Ole Miss gutted (with some of its better players potentially heading to Arkansas via transfer portal) with a new coach who isn’t as good, then this move would help other SEC West teams. A longer term ramification is what happens after SEC expansion. If Auburn under Kiffin moves into a pod with Alabama, while the Razorbacks move into a separate pod with the Mississippi schools, then Hog fans would come out cheering.
More from Sam Pittman on Lane Kiffin
“…. It seems to me like he doesn’t really care what people think or say. If they do say something about him, he’ll come back. Part of me wishes I was that way a little bit more. We’ve all kind of learned… Why he’s different is we’ve all kind of learned the old fashioned way where you ignore everything, and you take it, take it, take. You’re a coach, you’re supposed to take it. All that kind of stuff, which is, by the way, really weird, that we have to do that. But he doesn’t, and honestly I admire that about him. He uses wit with it, as well, and things of that nature. I think all in all, he’s just being him and having a great time. I respect that, and I respect him.