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Lane Kiffin is officially returning to the SEC.
After reports surfaced Friday night that the former Tennessee head coach and Alabama assistant was close to a deal to become the Ole Miss head coach, the school announced his arrival in the minutes after Kiffin’s Florida Atlantic won the Conference USA title.
Kiffin replaces Matt Luke.
"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 an Ole Miss statement. "I am especially grateful to [athletic director] Keith Carter, Chancellor [Glenn] Boyce and the entire Ole Miss family for their trust and confidence. 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.”
The announcement came just after Kiffin deflected a question on CBS Sports Network about the job.
Kiffin, 44, has been the head coach at Florida Atlantic for the past three seasons. His team went 11-3 in his first year before dropping to 5-7 in 2018. FAU is 10-3 this season after easily dispatching UAB on Saturday.
"Coach Kiffin deserves our thanks and a great deal of credit for continuing to build our football program to high levels of success,” FAU athletic director Brian White said. “I've informed the team that Defensive Coordinator Glenn Spencer will serve as interim head coach.”
The hire is a coup for Ole Miss as Arkansas was also reportedly showed interest in Kiffin and Missouri fans also longed for the thought of the FAU coach coming to Columbia. He’d be a splash hire for a program longing for the success of the Hugh Freeze era. Without the drama or NCAA sanctions.
Kiffin, however, isn’t exactly low key. He’s the guy who became an NFL head coach at the age of 31 in 2007 with the Oakland Raiders and was fined by Conference USA for tweeting a picture of blind referees after a game earlier this year. If Luke, a guy who played at Ole Miss and called being the team’s head coach his dream job, was the safe hire, Kiffin is about the polar opposite of that.
Kiffin is 60-34 as a college coach
Kiffin got his first college head coaching job at Tennessee in 2009. The Vols went 7-6 before he left for USC — where he was previously the offensive coordinator — to replace Pete Carroll after Carroll left for the Seattle Seahawks.
As USC was hit with NCAA sanctions, Kiffin went 28-15 in three-plus years with the school. He was fired after a 3-2 start to the 2013 season.
That firing put Kiffin in coaching limbo. He joined the Alabama staff as the team’s offensive coordinator in 2014 and spent three seasons under Nick Saban.
Kiffin took the FAU job ahead of the College Football Playoff at the end of the 2016 season. He coached in the Peach Bowl but then left for FAU exclusively before the national title game.
That relationship with Saban will make Ole Miss’ annual matchup with Alabama even more fun over the next few seasons. And it’s also worth noting that the Rebels play Tennessee in 2021. That game would be Kiffin’s first return to Neyland Stadium as a head coach since he was employed by the Vols.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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