Sports

Lane Kiffin expects to return to Ole Miss, addresses Auburn job after Egg Bowl loss

Lane Kiffin kept it short when asked about his future with Ole Miss after his team wrapped up its regular season schedule.

After losing 24-22 to the Rebels in the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving night, Kiffin was asked if he expects to become Ole Miss’s coach next season, even if he is offered the job at Auburn. His answer consisted of two words.

“I do,” he told reporters in Oxford, Miss.

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Kiffin’s name has been associated with the Auburn opening since the Tigers’ new athletics director, John Cohen, began his search on Halloween, with Kiffin long seen as the best candidate to replace Bryan Harsin, who was fired after a score of 9-12 in 21 games. Speculation surrounding Kiffin’s candidacy has grown over the past week as the regular season has concluded.

He was asked about the Auburn opening after last weekend’s loss to Arkansas, saying he didn’t know if he was the Tigers’ top contender, and then again on Monday at his weekly press conference to give a preview of the Egg Bowl. During those comments, Kiffin — who has said he doesn’t discuss such things during the season — joked about giving a “pine box” speech like Tommy Tuberville infamously did in 1998 before leaving Ole Miss for Auburn, or a line like Nick Saban’s announced in 2006 that he was not the next Alabama coach shortly before leaving the Miami Dolphins for the Tide. He also expressed satisfaction with his current situation at Ole Miss, where he signed a new four-year contract last December that netted him $7.25 million this season, making him the 11th highest-paid head coach in college football.

Kiffin then took offense to a local Mississippi television reporter who reported Monday night that Kiffin was heading to Auburn on Friday despite the job not being offered at the time. Kiffin took to Twitter to release his own “report” while shooting WCBI’s Jon Sokoloff in Columbus, Miss. news.

“I had to have a team meeting to say his article was wrong,” Kiffin said. “…So yeah I had to do it, therefore had to have a team meeting. They don’t, if there’s other stuff in chat rooms and all that stuff, but if a reporter writes it, that changes the game with it.

Kiffin declined to go into the details of the meeting, other than telling his players the report was inaccurate.

He was also asked on Thursday night if he expects to sign another contract extension with the Rebels after a report emerged last week that Ole was offering Miss Kiffin a new contract and a raise to stay at Oxford. Kiffin is in his third year with Ole Miss and has gone 23-12 in that time, including an 8-4 this season as the Rebels lost four of their last five games after a 7-0 start.

“I don’t know,” Kiffin said. “I mean, I drew three. Does a fourth mean you’ll never leave? So I do not know. I’m much more focused and concerned about the game than whether you sign another contract. And I’m not ungrateful for that, but then again everyone thinks you sign another contract, well, a year ago you said the same thing, and here we are again.

Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.

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