Ole Miss brings Kiffin back to SEC as head coach

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The Lane Train is headed back to the SEC.

Ole Miss confirmed Lane Kiffin has signed on to become the Rebels next coach on Saturday, shortly after he led Florida Atlantic to its second Conference USA championship in his three seasons as coach with a 49-6 win over UAB.

Kiffin, who informed FAU’s team of his move following the game, recorded 10 or more wins in two seasons with the Owls and finished with a 26-13 record. Kiffin also had been a strong candidate for the coaching vacancy at Arkansas, but pivoted to Ole Miss earlier in the week, sources said.

“I couldn’t be more excited to welcome Coach Kiffin to the Ole Miss family,” Ole Miss athletic director Keith Carter said in a statement. “As we entered this process, we were looking for energy, innovativeness and a program builder who could excite our student-athletes and fans. Coach Kiffin checked every box and is a home run for our program. I look forward to locking arms with him to take Ole Miss Football to a championship level.”

The Ole Miss job will be the fifth head-coaching job for Kiffin, 44, who also coached Tennessee, USC and the NFL’s Oakland Raiders.

“I am truly honored and humbled to join the Ole Miss family, and recognize this as a special opportunity to lead Rebel Football into the future,” Kiffin said in a statement. “… Our staff and I will work tirelessly to recruit and develop successful players for this program, and I look forward to producing many exciting memories to add to Ole Miss’ storied football legacy.

“I am excited to get to Oxford and begin the groundwork of building a championship program that Mississippi’s flagship university deserves, and I’m thrilled to be back in the greatest athletics’ conference in the nation. Hotty Toddy!”

Kiffin spent 2014 to 2016 as Alabama‘s offensive coordinator, helping the Crimson Tide to an SEC championship in 2014 and a national championship in 2015. Kiffin was named FAU’s coach prior to the College Football Playoff in 2016, and Alabama coach Nick Saban parted ways with him following the Tide’s CFP semifinal victory over Washington.

It’s been a wild ride for Kiffin, known for trolling anybody and everybody on Twitter, including fans and former bosses, and for putting together high-powered and entertaining offenses on the football field.

“I’m never going to apologize for having fun. Who says you can’t have fun and still win football games?” Kiffin told ESPN earlier this year. “But I’ve learned along the way and am not the same person I was when I was younger. None of us are. I’ve been so fortunate to learn under two guys like Pete Carroll and Nick Saban, both of whom are great coaches, but have different styles. I think I’ve been able to combine those styles.”

Kiffin’s first head-coaching job came in 2007 with the Raiders, who hired the 31-year-old USC assistant. Al Davis fired Kiffin four games into his second season, and Kiffin was scooped up to be Tennessee’s head coach in 2009. He went 7-6 during his only season with the Vols, which featured plenty of fireworks both on and off the field.

After 13 months in Knoxville, Kiffin left for what he called his “dream job” at USC when Carroll went to the NFL. With the Trojans facing heavy NCAA sanctions, Kiffin went 28-15 at USC and was fired five games into his fourth season following a loss to Arizona State.

Florida Atlantic’s win Saturday over UAB means Kiffin has been a part of five conference championships in the past six years with five different quarterbacks.

Kiffin replaces Matt Luke at Ole Miss and will become the Rebels’ fourth different head coach in the past 10 seasons. Luke was fired after just three seasons at Ole Miss, the first of which he was the Rebels’ interim coach before being named the permanent coach following the 2017 season. Luke was 15-21 as Ole Miss’ coach, including a 4-8 finish this season.

Kiffin becomes the fifth current SEC head coach who has served as an assistant for Saban.

Ole Miss hosts Alabama on Oct. 3, 2020.

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