Why Lane Kiffin doesn't believe Auburn rumors impact Ole Miss football's performance
OXFORD — Few coaches in college football have had their names tossed around in coaching rumors over the years more than Lane Kiffin.
With his name still connected to the Auburn vacancy after the Tigers fired Brian Harsin in late October, reporters and fans have questioned whether the rumors have presented a distraction after Ole Miss (8-3, 4-3 SEC) suffered a surprising 42-27 defeat at Arkansas last week.
Even though the Rebels host Mississippi State (7-4, 3-4) in the Egg Bowl on Thursday (6 p.m., ESPN), a lot of the focus remains on the Ole Miss coach.
Kiffin came to his Monday press conference armed with an anecdote from his time at FAU. Back in 2019, word had leaked that Kiffin was taking the Ole Miss job the morning before the Owls were due to take on UAB in the Conference-USA title game. All the players in the locker room knew, Kiffin said. The Owls won, 49-6.
"These same questions were there the same week that we were one play away from beating Alabama," Kiffin said. "There's not much analytics to show that would matter about performance."
Kiffin added the players don't ask him about his future, citing a pro mindset and a knowledge of how he expects them to carry themselves on a day-to-day basis.
He reiterated his happiness at Ole Miss. He also joked about Tommy Tuberville's famous "Pine Box" comment, declaring that he'd need to be carried out of Oxford in a pine box before he took the coaching job at Auburn in 1998. He also joked about Nick Saban's declaration that he would not be the next coach at Alabama while he was with the Dolphins.
"I can get up here and give the 'Pine Box' speech and (say) 'I'm not going to be the next head coach at Alabama,' " Kiffin said. "I can give you those things. I don't know what those mean. Been here three years and have been fortunate enough to have three different contracts. I don't know why a fourth contract makes people feel better. Like I said, we're very appreciative of everything here."
Ole Miss wideout Jonathan Mingo was later asked if Kiffin had made any type of statement to the team about his future. Mingo said he had not. He also said that he didn't believe the issue was a distraction.
"I think the media just blows stuff out of proportion sometimes," Mingo said.
David Eckert covers Ole Miss for the Clarion Ledger. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach him on Twitter @davideckert98.