Lane Kiffin has become a hot name throughout the past few seasons, and it's accelerated since the beginning of the college football season in 2023.
The former Nick Saban assistant has led the Ole Miss Rebels to two 10-win seasons in his first four years with the school, including this past season in which Kiffin led the program to the first 11-win campaign in school history.
Not only has Kiffin’s record this year made him a hot commodity, but his recruiting in the transfer portal the last two years has elevated his name even more-so. Kiffin has Ole Miss amongst the nations top transfer portal classes which includes former five-star Walter Nolen, Chris “Poo” Paul, Princely Umanmielen and several more highly touted.
Kiffin also presumably brings back the SEC’s leading rusher in 2022 Quinshon Judkins for the 2024 campaign, along with leading pass-catcher Tre Harris and quarterback Jaxson Dart. Dart will return to Oxford for his third season as the starting quarterback for the Rebels. And while Kiffin has never had the same starting quarterback for three consecutive seasons as a head coach, here are his impressive stats from year one to year two with those he’s had for two years. The fact that Dart is coming back for a third year is scary, and my prediction in-part because of these factors mentioned is that Ole Miss will win the national championship in 2024
All of these things in theory are great, but only if it actually happens. With all of the positive build up of the Rebels program, attention is garnered from other programs.
Here are some scenarios which could see Lane Kiffin leaving Oxford sooner rather than later:
Why Lane Kiffin could leave Ole Miss sooner than you think
Kiffin’s Desire for an NFL head coaching job: To be fair, this may not even be a desire. But on the flip side, it may be. We have seen coaches like Bobby Petrino and Nick Saban leave their posts at the University of Arkansas and LSU out of the SEC for head coaching jobs and larger paychecks. Both came crashing down quickly and returned to college, but the ever-elusive desire to win the Super Bowl could be a lure for Kiffin as it has other college head coaches in the past.
I point out in my article on why Kirby Smart won’t leave for the NFL points that hopefully for Rebels fans are Kiffin’s logic. One point being that the number of arguably “successful” NFL head coaches leaving college for the pros is quite small. And Jimmie Johnson formerly of the Miami Hurricanes is in fact the only one to win the Super Bowl out of the group. And that was all the way back in the early 90’s with the Dallas Cowboys. With that being said, hopefully Kiffin stays put, but it is worth mentioning.
University of Florida: Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier is entering his third season in Gainesville after doing worse in his second than his first going 5-7. Napier’s recruiting class declined one early signing day by at least 10 spots in the rankings as well. This combined with a daunting schedule and impatient fan base in Gainesville has Napier’s seat scorching hot as I explain in my article on “SEC Coaches on the hot seat in 2024” .
So why Kiffin? Kiffin has routes in Florida back to his days at Florida Atlantic University where he coached the Owls to two 11-win seasons in his three years at the school. Grant its FAU is in south Florida more towards the coast than the University of Florida which sits more inland and in the north central part of the state, but it is still Florida, and the Gators can put up a good bit of money if they want the Ole Miss coach back in the state.
Nick Saban Retires: One of Kiffin’s mentors in Nick Saban is now in his 70’s. And with Kiffin being a former assistant who has done nothing but succeed since, this has been talked about being a landing spot for Kiffin whenever Saban decides to hang it up. Following a legend like Saban is no small task, and expectations would be sky high in Tuscaloosa. But with Kiffin’s mention of desire for more resources, Alabama would undoubtedly be able to provide them.
NFL coaching carousel ripple effect: This is an unknown. But with the NFL season a month or so behind the college season as far as when it concludes, so is the coaching carousel that inevitably ensues. Even if Kiffin does not leave directly for the NFL himself from Oxford, that is not to say that a coach at another premier power five program doesn’t jump ship, causing a ripple effect at the collegiate level of coaching changes.
One theoretical example would be Jim Harbaugh who every year it seems is rumored to be interviewing and interested in NFL head coaching jobs. In 2022, Harbaugh admittedly interviewed for the Minnesota Vikings head coaching position. If a name like Harbaugh were to leave for example, Brian Kelly has been rumored to be a targeted candidate for Michigan, and therefore would open the job at LSU which Kiffin could jump for.
While these are all just scenarios, they are something unfortunately worth the worry for Ole Miss fans who have their program clicking on all cylinders at a level of success the program has arguably never seen. In an article by Saturday Down South‘s Keith Farmer, Kiffin was quoted as saying per Brad Logan,“I needed Oxford and Ole Miss a lot more than it needed me.” Hopefully for Rebels fans this mindset from one year ago remains, but time will have to tell. And it is without question that the potential lures mentioned surround.