Oct 15, 2022; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi Rebels head coach Lane Kiffin walks off the field during a timeout during the first quarter of the game against the Auburn Tigers at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Fast Lane? Kiffin drama spices up Egg Bowl

Ole Miss and Mississippi State are not where they wanted to be on Thanksgiving weekend, and it remains to be seen whether Lane Kiffin is coming to the party known in Mississippi as the Egg Bowl.

The Rebels (8-3, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) were ranked in the AP Top 10 after winning their first seven games, but they’ve lost three of their past four, and the defeats have come by an average of two touchdowns.

The Bulldogs (7-4, 3-4) were ranked No. 16 after starting the season 5-1, but they have lost three of their past five overall and three of their past four SEC games.

To add a dash of drama, reports Kiffin was on the verge of bowing out of his job at Ole Miss to accept an offer at Auburn surfaced Monday night. Kiffin himself replied to the report with a matter of fact “news to me,” to lead off a string of social media posts denying he’d be anywhere except the annual Battle for the Golden Egg on Thursday night in Oxford, Miss.

The winner’s season will look a whole lot better before the teams head off to their respective bowl games.

“It seems like there’s not a lot of love in the relationship, I guess is the positive, nice way of putting it,” Kiffin said of the rivalry. “It means a lot to a lot of people. We’ve been fortunate to turn it back our direction the last couple of years and trying to keep it that way.”

Kiffin and Mississippi State coach Mike Leach are both in their third seasons. The Rebels won 31-24 two years ago and 31-21 last season.

“I think we’ve come a long ways with the program,” Kiffin said. “I think we’ve turned over the roster, improved the roster. Obviously improved on-field production and made the program a lot more visible nationally to recruit to than where it was when we got here.”

Ole Miss took a 42-27 loss at Arkansas last Saturday.

Many of the Bulldogs, including record-setting junior quarterback Will Rogers, have yet to experience a victory in the rivalry game.

“It would mean everything,” Rogers said of winning Thursday. “That’s all I’m really worried about right now. Coach Kiffin has done a great job of getting their guys ready to play and getting them excited, so I know they will be ready to play.

“We have to answer the call and we have to be ready to go Thursday night.”

Leach has emphasized to his players the importance of avoiding getting caught up in the rivalry.

“The biggest thing is focusing on doing the best you can and being the best team that you can be and leave it at that,” Leach said. “Otherwise, if you distract yourself with a bunch of other stuff, you’re not going to help your approach or help what you’re trying to do.

“You just go out there, lock in, try to improve and try to get better this week to be the best team that you can be.”

But the players from Mississippi on both teams understand the importance of the game.

“This is the game that everybody thinks about every year,” said Rogers, who is from Brandon, Miss. “It doesn’t matter where we play it or who is ranked higher or what the records are. It’s the biggest game of the year, every year.”

–Field Level Media

Jul 18, 2022; Atlanta, GA, USA; Mississippi head coach Lane Kiffin speaks to the media during SEC Media Days at the College Football Hall of Fame. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Lane Kiffin renews criticism of NIL compensation

Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin did not hesitate to renew his concerns regarding name, image and likeness when he took to the podium at SEC Media Days in Atlanta on Monday.

Kiffin originally expressed his grievances with NIL during an interview on National Signing Day in February, making some light-hearted comments regarding the amount of money he believed Texas and Texas A&M offered recruits in the 2022 recruiting class.

Kiffin, who will be in his third season at Ole Miss, his fourth head coaching job, has not been reluctant to share his feelings about rules for providing compensation to college athletes.

“It’s like a payroll in baseball,” Kiffin said Monday. “What teams win over a long period of time? Teams that have high payrolls and can pay players a lot. We’re in a situation not any different than that. I said day one, you legalize cheating, so get ready for the people that have the most money to get players. Now you have it.”

Kiffin was also bothered that there is no upper limit on NIL funds, and coaches do not determine how those funds are distributed.

“If you got boosters out there deciding who they’re gonna pay to come play and the coach isn’t involved in it, how’s that work?” Kiffin said. “Do they just go pick who they want?”

First-year LSU head coach Brian Kelly chimed in on NIL, but with a much softer stance.

“I don’t feel like we’re being outbid by anybody,” Kelly said. “I don’t think that’s the place of NIL anyway.”

Kiffin is 77-42 in stints with Tennessee (2009), Southern California (2010-13), Florida Atlantic (2017-19) and Ole Miss (2020-21).

In Kelly’s 18 seasons, he is 166-62, including 113-40 in 12 years at Notre Dame before he took the LSU job in November. He also coached at Central Michigan and Cincinnati.

–Field Level Media

Mississippi Head Coach Lane Kiffin returns to Neyland Stadium before an SEC football game between Tennessee and Ole Miss in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021.

Kns Tennessee Ole Miss Football

Lane Kiffin agrees to contract to remain at Ole Miss

Lane Kiffin has agreed on a contract to remain at Ole Miss, the school announced Saturday night.

Terms of the deal weren’t immediately revealed. ESPN reported the deal will average $7.5 million a year.

Kiffin, 46, is 15-7 in two seasons with the Rebels, including a 10-2 record this season. Ole Miss is currently ranked eighth.

“We are committed to winning championships at Ole Miss, and Coach Kiffin is the person to lead us to those heights,” Rebels athletic director Keith Carter said in a news release. “With his winning edge, offensive vision and recruiting prowess, he has quickly cemented our team among the best in the nation, and this is just the start.

“With major facility projects on the horizon, we are investing in this program like never before and look forward to building on the foundation that Coach Kiffin has established.”

Ole Miss will play in a New Year’s Six game against an opponent to be announced Sunday. The Rebels won 10 regular-season games for the first time in their history.

“We are extremely appreciative of Chancellor Glenn Boyce, Director of Athletics Keith Carter, and the entire Ole Miss administration for their commitment and support of our football program,” Kiffin said in the news release. “Sustained success takes a commitment from everyone, and we are excited to continue the work to build a program that makes the entire Ole Miss community proud. I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for our fans, players, and staff. The future is bright! Hotty Toddy.”

Kiffin is 77-41 in 10 seasons as a college head coach, including stops at Tennessee (2009) Southern California (2010-13) and Florida Atlantic (2017-19). He also went 5-15 as an NFL head coach with the then-Oakland Raiders in 2007 (4-12) and part of 2008 (1-3).

–Field Level Media

Oct 17, 2020; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Ole Miss Rebels  head coach Lane Kiffin reacts to a call during the fourth quarter against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Arkansa won 33-21. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

SEC admits replay error, fines Kiffin

The Southeastern Conference admitted a refereeing error that proved costly to Mississippi in a loss to Auburn on Saturday, while at the same time fining Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin $25,000 for calling out the error on Twitter.

Kiffin had retweeted a comment from an Ole Miss alumnus that read, “Y’all are a disgrace @SEC your officiating is absolutely atrocious. @SECOfficiating If y’all want to just keep gifting Auburn wins, just say it.”

On the play in question, the Rebels were kicking off after taking a 28-27 lead with 5:43 remaining. Auburn return man Shaun Shivers may have had the ball graze off his finger before it went into the end zone, where Ole Miss recovered the ball. However, the refs ruled that Shivers never touched the ball, giving the Tigers the ball on a touchback, and the replay crew never reviewed the play.

Auburn later scored a touchdown with 1:11 left to win 35-28.

The conference announced in a statement Monday, “SEC has determined the replay official should have stopped the game for further review of the (kickoff). In the football officiating replay process every play is reviewed but, when appropriate, the game is stopped for further review.

“Because the play was not appropriately stopped for further review, the necessary slow-motion view of the play was not viewed by the replay official to determine if the ruling on the field should have been reversed.”

The statement went on to detail Kiffin’s fine, pointing out that he violated SEC Bylaw 10.5: “Criticism of officials or the officiating program by institutional personnel is absolutely prohibited. Comments on officiating are to be directed only to the Conference office. All reports or comments pertaining to officiating or game management responsibilities, or concerning student-athletes, coaches or officials, shall be directed only to the Conference office. Public comments related to officiating by officials, coaches or institutional personnel are prohibited.”

Kiffin didn’t back down, though, saying Monday, “Everybody in the country could see (the ball) hit him.

“I asked the side judge, ‘Why aren’t they replaying it? Do I need to challenge it?’ He said, ‘They’ve already looked at it. There’s nothing there.’ I’m not allowed to say anything about the conversation, but I really wish that our fans and players could hear what I was told.”

Kiffin went one step further Monday evening, retweeting a post from a reporter with The Athletic: “Lane Kiffin: Replay blew it. SEC: Replay blew it. Also SEC: Here’s a $25,000 fine, Lane, for correctly pointing out we blew it.”

Kiffin subsequently tweeted, “Where can I find 25,000 pennies??” before changing it to 250,000 pennies and then 2.5 million pennies. He finally added, “Was just checking to see if @SEC would review my math to get it right this time??? After future review it’s 2.5 million pennies. Thanks for stopping to get it right”

–Field Level Media