Lane Kiffin’s Name Continues to Come Up for Florida Coaching Vacancy
Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin is the hot name on sports radio, ESPN and the SEC Network as one who should be considered to take over for the fired Dan Mullen at Florida.
Don’t do it, Coach.
Kiffin came to Ole Miss after coaching at a Florida school. I am a Florida native. I was born and have spent the majority of my life in the state. Even when I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force to see the world, I was stationed at Hurlburt Field, Fla.
Sure, Kiffin coached at Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton. But I am from the panhandle.
Contrary to geographic beliefs, there are two Floridas. There is the Florida that is South Beach and Epcot. Then there is the Florida of the panhandle, the big bend and down through Ocala.
The University of Florida is stuck in the middle. It is an easy drive to Orlando, but the original name of Gainesville is Hogtown. It is home to the rural areas that produced Tom Petty, but tries to display the persona of Margaritaville. It does not have a true identity like Ole Miss does.
Kiffin spent his time in Boca Raton. Gainesville is not Boca Raton. So, using the excuse that Kiffin would be returning to Florida is like someone saying leaving Ole Miss for Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College because they are in the same state is a valid argument.
But the biggest reason Kiffin should not consider this is the fan base. The coach has expressed a bit of displeasure with Rebel fans not filling Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. At Florida, it is typically the fan base expressing displeasure with its coach.
With a win over Mississippi State Thursday, Ole Miss will be a certainty for a New Year’s Six bowl after leading the Rebels to their first ten-win regular season in school history. Not even Johnny Vaught did that (although his teams had a shorter regular season) and his name is on the stadium.
Dan Mullen was in the SEC title game last year and was fired before the next season was over. Florida fans had been calling for his head since early in the season.
Ole Miss fans are quick to congratulate a coach for his success. Florida fans are quick to blame a coach for any perceived failure.
Just look at the Gators’ history on the subject. Steve Spurrier, who has a statue outside Bill Hill Griffin Stadium, “retired” before the end of a season to get out of there. Oh, after his retirement, Spurrier coached the Washington Redskins and South Carolina.
Urban Meyer said he had to leave due to health reasons and to spend more time with his family. He immediately took a job as a television commentator and was away from his family four days a week. As for his failing health (we all remember the ambulance ride in the middle of the night), it didn’t stop him from taking the Ohio State job or his current employment with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Those coaches just wanted out of Gainesville.
I don’t know much, but I know Florida fans.
I covered the story when Spurrier left the Gators. I talked to a prominent alum/booster of Florida and even after all Spurrier had done for his alma mater, the man told me, “Who does Spurrier think he is? If it wasn’t for Florida, he would be an assistant coach at Duke.”
Ole Miss fans are grateful. Florida fans are entitled.
Forget Spurrier and Meyer, just ask Ron Zook and Will Muschamp about their times in Gainesville and compare that to the experiences Matt Luke and Hugh Freeze had in Oxford.
Keith Carter at Ole Miss will listen to the fans, but ultimately, the decisions are his. Scott Stricklin has found the fans have much more influence over decisions at UF than at his previous stop at Mississippi State. In fact, some analysts are saying if Stricklin had not fired Mullen last week, his own neck would have soon been on the chopping block.
Florida is going to back up a Brink’s truck full of money to lure Kiffin. It will show him a filled stadium and the plans for a new football facility.
Ole Miss has a facility and if the team keeps up this success, Vaught-Hemingway will be filled.
(By the way, notice Arch Manning does not have Florida on his wish list.)
The bottom line is Florida might be perceived by some as a more prestigious job – the school is the fifth largest in the nation by enrollment. But it does not have the atmosphere Ole Miss has. There is no Grove there.
Kiffin has the better job right now. Carter will do all he can financially to keep his coach.
Then Gators may match or beat it.
But don’t do it, Coach.