Once the news of Harsin’s firing became official, rumors began to grow even more rampant.
Despite the rumored interest, Kiffin elected to stay at Ole Miss which led him to sign a hefty extension. More than four months after the speculation cooled off, Kiffin is opening up about the situation.
In a recent interview with Alex Scarborough of ESPN, Kiffin says that he struggled with the criticism he received despite making what he feels was the right move.
“We screw up all the time. But when you think you’re doing the right thing and then you’re really criticized for it — especially by your own people — I struggled with that because I feel like I went through a decision-making process that you’re supposed to go through,” Kiffin said. “I mean, you got to decide. It’s your life and your family’s life.”
Most of the criticism he received was due to his team’s performance over the final three weeks of the season. Auburn fired Harsin on Oct. 31, which was two days following Auburn’s 41-27 loss to Arkansas which moved their record to 3-5. Following that date, Ole Miss lost three straight games to Alabama, Arkansas, and rival Mississippi State.
Most believed that Ole Miss’ poor performance was due to Kiffin being distracted by the speculation of him leaving for Auburn. Kiffin says that he informed his team privately before the Rebels’ game against Mississippi State on Nov. 24 that he was indeed staying in Oxford.
“I felt that it would have been a distraction to make this big statement 24 hours before the game and making it about me,” Kiffin said. “So, I thought I was doing the right thing by saying, ‘OK, I’m going to avoid making this about me, you guys go play. But just so you know, you don’t have to sit here and worry that your coach is leaving tomorrow after the game or something. I’m staying, I just haven’t made it known publicly.’ I told them thinking that’s what obviously matters the most, and because we lost it wasn’t done right. If we won, nobody would’ve cared.”
Kiffin publically shot down the talks of his interest in Auburn following his team’s loss to Arkansas on Nov. 19 by saying that he was “very excited about the future.” Six days later, he reportedly signed a contract extension to stay at Ole Miss, which paved the way for Hugh Freeze to earn the job.
Auburn’s decision to hire Freeze has been a positive one to this point, as Auburn has already seen an uptick in high school recruiting as well as transfer portal additions. The turnaround on the gridiron has yet to be seen, but his tenure off to a great start nonetheless.