Lane Kiffin at least knows his story when it comes to how coaches have handled questions about taking other jobs — particularly in the state of Alabama.
The Ole Miss head coach was asked again Monday if his name will be associated with the Auburn vacancy, namely if his players approach him with their own questions about his future with the Rebels. Kiffin said his players don’t ask him about things like that — “they know how we work” — and went on to refer to two infamous quotes from Tommy Tuberville and Nick Saban in 1998 and 2006, respectively.
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“I mean, I don’t know what else to say,” Kiffin told local reporters during his weekly press conference in Oxford, Miss. “I’m very happy here, as we just discussed. The difference of where this program is now compared to three years ago and I feel like we have really good support. I mean, I can come up here and tell you whatever it was — the Pine Box speech and, ‘I’m not going to be the next head coach in Alabama.’ I can give you these things, so I don’t know what they mean. I don’t know what else to say.”
Kiffin was, of course, referring to Tuberville’s infamous comments 24 years ago when he was head coach at Ole Miss shortly before his Auburn takeover. At the end of the 1998 season, Tuberville was asked if he could leave for another job, to which he said, “You have to carry me out of here in a pine box.” Less than a week later, Tuberville was named Auburn’s head coach.
The other reference Kiffin dropped was about his former boss in Alabama. In 2006, Saban was still with the Miami Dolphins and was repeatedly questioned about opening in Alabama after The Tide fired Mike Shula at the end of that season. On December 21, 2006, just over three weeks after the Alabama job was posted, Saban said infamously, “I gotta say, I’m not going to be the Alabama coach.”
Two weeks later, Saban left the Dolphins to take over in Alabama.
Kiffin’s name was linked to the Auburn job before the Tigers fired Bryan Harsin on Halloween, and excitement surrounding the 47-year-old coach has only grown louder in recent weeks, with multiple reports suggesting he is the main target of the New Auburn was athletics director John Cohen. Another report surfaced late last week that Ole Miss Kiffin was being offered a new deal that would make him one of the top 10 highest paid managers in the country if he stayed at Oxford.
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Kiffin, who signed a new contract with Ole Miss last year, is currently the 11th-highest paid coach in the country, making $7.25 million this season.
“I mean, I’ve been here three years and I’ve been lucky enough to have three different contracts now, so I don’t know why people suddenly feel better about a fourth contract,” Kiffin said. “Like I said, we really appreciate everything here.”
Kiffin, who has expressed confidence in his players’ ability to block out outside noise – such as his name reappearing on the coaching carousel – was also asked if he has concerns it could become a distraction during Rivalry Week. Ole Miss meets Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving Day. He said he’s thought about it and even asked his coaching staff.
“Like analytics, we study the past,” Kiffin said. “We played at FAU in the last game, the conference championship, and this morning ESPN leaked that we were the Ole Miss head coach. The whole team knew it and we went out and won at 40. Same questions same week we were one play away from beating Alabama. So there isn’t a lot of analysis to show that would matter to the players’ performance.”
Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.