OXFORD — Lane Kiffin is staying in Oxford as Ole Miss football coach, he confirmed to the USA TODAY Sports Network on Saturday.
“I’m confirming I’m staying (which) is the same thing I have said for a week,” Kiffin said via text.
Kiffin has reportedly been offered a new deal at Ole Miss. Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger reported Kiffin’s new deal is expected to average a salary of $9 million per year with a base salary of six years and roll-overs extending it to eight. Mississippi state law prevents state employees from signing contracts longer than four years, but the contract is run through Ole Miss’ private athletics foundation.
“I didn’t sign (the extension) but I’m staying,” Kiffin texted.
Chris Low of ESPN reported that Kiffin had reiterated to his staff and Ole Miss officials that his plan is to remain with the Rebels, rather than moving to Auburn to replace Bryan Harsin. ESPN’s Pete Thamel added on, noting that his Auburn candidacy has cooled significantly over the 48 hours following the Egg Bowl, citing the pull of Kiffin’s family to stay in Oxford.
According to Dellenger, Auburn’s search moved on from Kiffin and zeroed in on former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze.
“I think it’s safe to say this morning that Lane Kiffin’s Auburn candidacy is over, and that Hugh Freeze has emerged as the top candidate to become Auburn’s next head coach,” Thamel said on College GameDay on Saturday morning.
This news came after weeks of media speculation linking Kiffin to the Auburn job. The Tigers fired Harsin on Oct. 31.
Kiffin stopped short of denying his interest in the Auburn job at every opportunity as the speculation grew until finally saying after the Egg Bowl that he anticipates being Ole Miss’ head coach next season. Should he remain, it would allow the Rebels to keep a coached noted for his offensive mind who has also shown himself to be adept at handling the challenges posed by the modern game like the transfer portal and changed NIL regulations.
Particularly in this era, a departure would have come with significant questions about which Rebels players would have left the program and which would have stayed. By keeping Kiffin on board, the Rebels can build on a team that returns the majority of its key players on offense for 2023.
As the early signing period looms, the news is also big for this year’s recruiting class. Ole Miss’ Class of 2023 holds 13 verbal commitments and ranks 26th nationally. Certainly, there would have been some defections from that group had Kiffin moved to Auburn.
Kiffin officially began his tenure in Oxford in December 2019, when his hire from FAU was made official. Kiffin had previously won the Conference USA title twice with the Owls.
Things didn’t start particularly well for Kiffin with the Rebels. Playing an all-SEC schedule in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ole Miss lost four of their first five games. But Kiffin turned it around later in the season, closing the campaign by winning four out of five — including an Outback Bowl victory over No. 7 Indiana. That marked Ole Miss’ first bowl appearance in five seasons.
In 2021, Kiffin produced just the third 10-win season at Ole Miss since 1975. The Rebels beat ranked Arkansas and Texas A&M teams on their way to the Sugar Bowl, where they fell to No. 6 Baylor.
What happened the following offseason showcased why Kiffin was such an attractive head coach in the eyes of those in the market for one.
Facing a rebuild at Ole Miss, he turned to the transfer portal, bringing in 17 new players, including his eventual starting quarterback Jaxson Dart. The Rebels started 8-1 before a disappointing finish. They lost their final three regular-season games, including the Egg Bowl on Thursday.
David Eckert covers Ole Miss for the Clarion Ledger. Email him at email@example.com or reach him on Twitter @davideckert98.