Well, Ole Miss fans. It’s that time of year, once again. You’re all used to it by now, wishing it would go away. But it never does. The topic naturally is the everlasting question of Rebels head coach Lane Kiffin. Or, more specifically, where he stands in terms of the college football coaching carousel.
The topic has legitimately become an every year occurrence. And for many Ole Miss fans, they’re growing tired of it. As many fans will tell you, despite the positive views of Kiffin, if it continues, there’s a part of them (however small) that would be okay with him leaving.
Unfortunately, those feelings may get put to the test this off-season. If early conversations are any indication, his name could easily come up in connection with plenty of job openings in the coming weeks. Whether or not he listens is going to end up being the bigger question.
So, where did the question first start? And where could it eventually end?
Was Kiffin Flirting With LSU and Auburn?
Kiffin’s first offseason in Oxford was relatively uneventful. A 5-5 record in a Covid-shortened season was decent, but nothing great. Then, in his second season, he led Ole Miss to a 10-2 record. That was good enough to get the attention of plenty of people. This may have included the athletic department at LSU.
After firing Ed Orgeron, the Tigers needed a new head coach. And there was plenty of speculation that there were eyes on Kiffin, who was already just a few hour’s drive north of Baton Rouge. How serious the talks got is relatively unknown, but there seemed to be some interest there. In the end, Kiffin remained at Ole Miss, and LSU hired Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly.
Then, following last year’s 8-5 season for the Rebels, another suitor appeared interested in Kiffin. This time it was the Auburn Tigers, who had just fired Bryan Harsin. While the LSU discussions the previous year primarily stayed under wraps, Kiffin’s conversations with Auburn did not. At one point, it was even officially reported by a few (primarily local) media members that Kiffin was leaving Ole Miss to head to the Plains.
Kiffin almost immediately disputed the reports, and later that week signed a massive extension with the Rebels to stay in Oxford.
The extension that Kiffin signed put him in the top 10 of highest-paid coaches in college football. The base salary was $8.75 million this season, $8.85 million in ’24, and $9 million in ’25 and ’26. That doesn’t include the numerous performance-based incentives that were also built into the deal.
For Ole Miss fans, this was huge news, as it showed that Athletic Director Keith Carter was willing to do whatever was needed to keep Kiffin in Oxford. However, despite the good news, rational Ole Miss fans realized this wasn’t the last time the conversation was going to come up.
After all, it comes with the territory. The reality is that there are plenty of programs with deeper pockets and better facilities than Ole Miss. And at some point, if Kiffin keeps winning 9-10 games in Oxford, one of them may come calling. It would simply be up to him to determine his own future.
Whether people realized it was going to take less than a year for the rumors to start swirling again is a different story, though.
Texas A&M Comes Open
With the announcement of Jimbo Fisher’s firing from Texas A&M last weekend, the conversation quickly turned to who was in line to replace him. While the coaching search has been somewhat quiet to this point, there’s been no shortage of names that have been floated as potential replacements.
That list has featured names like Duke’s Mike Elko, Kansas’ Lance Leipold, and UTSA’s Jeff Traylor, among others. It has also included Kiffin’s name. This isn’t surprising to Ole Miss fans. And while Kiffin hasn’t publicly addressed any possible rumors, it’s one to keep an eye on.
Texas A&M has plenty of money to spend, even after paying Fisher’s crazy $76 million buyout. And they’re not known to be frugal. They also have one of the best fanbases in football, fittingly known as the 12th Man. These are all factors that would weigh into a decision.
However, despite the advantages, every coach they’ve hired in the past few decades has failed to meet expectations on a consistent basis. The last coach that managed to stay in College Station for more than six seasons? R.C. Slocum from 1989-2002.
The expectations are through the roof, and they don’t hesitate to move on if they feel their coach isn’t meeting them. That can become stressful on a coach, and it’s a factor that goes into the decision-making process as to whether to take the job. Especially if it involves leaving a school that individual is already a head coach at.
If Not A&M, Are There Other Openings That Would Target Kiffin?
While Kiffin to Texas A&M is probably a long shot, it’s an opening to keep an eye on if you’re a Rebel fan. But that won’t be the only job that becomes available. For instance, there’s some speculation that Jim Harbaugh may move from Michigan back to the NFL this offseason. Especially following the sign-stealing scandal the Wolverines are currently embroiled in. If that were to happen, would they give Kiffin a call? Possibly.
That’s just one example of another potential opening. There will be others. And any of those that come open in the near future are almost guaranteed to have Kiffin on their short list of potential replacements. This means this topic could easily become an ongoing theme this offseason.
Expecting Kiffin To Stay Put In Oxford
In all likelihood, Kiffin is probably going to stay at Ole Miss for at least one more season. There are plenty of reasons for that. Number one, the Rebels are one win away from another 10-win season. If they do, it would be their second 10-win season in three years.
Secondly, they’re set to bring back a decent chunk of their team, especially on the offensive side of the ball. With Jaxson Dart and Quinshon Judkins likely returning, there’s a good base to build on for next year. In a Kiffin-style offense, having talent and experience could be a huge difference-maker.
On the defensive side, while set to lose a few pieces, the staff in Oxford has put together a solid recruiting class, focusing heavily on the defensive line. With a defense that has already improved this season, bringing in more talent and depth could be huge. Next year’s future looks bright for the Rebels.
The Bottom Line
In the end, no one but Kiffin himself knows for sure what happens and what his plans are. With an extension and raise from last season, the financial side of it shouldn’t be a huge factor. And the positives heading into next season for Ole Miss should be a major factor in what he ultimately decides.
But other schools are going to come calling if they haven’t already, and they’re going to be prepared to offer plenty to get him to leave Oxford. Unfortunately for Rebel fans, that’s just a part of the business. They should be used to it by now, and this offseason won’t be any different.
It just looks like the stress-inducing part of the off-season started a little earlier this year.