Ole Miss football must learn to bounce back. Lane Kiffin hopes this Taoist parable can help

OXFORD ― Ole Miss football players and staff members who entered the Manning Center on Monday morning would have found a short parable taped to most of the practice facility's doors.

Posted on pieces of computer paper in plain black ink, the parable tells the story of an old farmer who experiences a variety of outcomes that most people would consider inherently positive or negative. When the farmer's neighbors offer condolences or congratulations after each of these events, the farmer responds only with: "Maybe."

Meant to teach readers to divorce themselves from good or bad outcomes, the parable holds a Taoist origin. Taoism, a form of religion and philosophy, originated in ancient China and "instructs believers on how to exist in harmony with the universe," according to National Geographic. Rebels coach Lane Kiffin thought the message could help his team after it suffered a 24-10 defeat to No. 11 Alabama on Saturday.

"I was really directing it at some players who were down about their performance and how they played and plays they could have made and missed signals that made some plays look really bad," he said. "It's just, 'Hey, can't control that now. There may be some good reason for it down the road.' "

College football condenses a year's worth of intense emotional — and financial — investment into just 12 weekends of regular-season action. The annual sample size offered to fans and evaluators alike is minuscule, and often can lead to rapid, drastic changes in public perception.

No. 20 Ole Miss (3-1, 0-1 SEC) is feeling the effects of that dynamic this week, having failed to truly test an Alabama team that many perceived to be vulnerable heading into the game. Kiffin hopes the parable helps those within his program resist the urge to draw new conclusions about themselves.

"All of a sudden one team's great, and the next week they're horrible," he said. "You go to throw an interception and they drop it, then you go and score two plays later and all of a sudden you're the greatest thing ever. It was really just about, you don't know why things happen. You gotta go back and worry about what you can control and it ends up being a great thing."

A visit from No. 12 LSU (3-1, 2-0) on Saturday (5 p.m., ESPN) will further test the Rebels' mettle — in more than one sense.

Ole Miss players spent most of the offseason describing their attempt to improve the program's culture. Quarterback Jaxson Dart, who spearheaded those efforts, said he felt at times like last season's team was a group of "front-runners."

"Things were going really good and we're able to make plays all the time, and then when we hit adversity, it almost seemed to slow down and we almost couldn't find a way to get over the hump," Dart said earlier this season.

When the Rebels suffered their first loss on the road to LSU in 2022, they reacted by going 1-4 down the stretch.

How effective were Ole Miss' efforts to make sure a collapse like that doesn't happen again?

We're about to find out.

"We've got a lot of football in front of us," Kiffin said. "And a huge one this week."

RUNNING INTO PROBLEMS: Lane Kiffin explains why Ole Miss football run game faltered to new low against Alabama

David Eckert covers Ole Miss for the Clarion Ledger. Email him at or reach him on Twitter @davideckert98.

Get the latest news and insight on SEC football by subscribing to the Unfiltered newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox.

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss football face test of efforts to improve culture