Lane Kiffin comments on the firing of Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin
OXFORD, Miss. – When Lane Kiffin walked into his Monday press conference, he was most likely expecting to hear reporters ask about the bye week, last week’s win at Texas A&M, and the upcoming game against Alabama in two weeks.
What he did not expect was a media member to break the news to him that Auburn coach Bryan Harsin had been fired.
“We were in meetings, so I actually didn’t know that,” Kiffin said.
“When you’ve been through something like that, you obviously have empathy for people. It is what it is in this profession. I’m not complaining because…get paid a lot of money and it’s part of it. But when everybody roots for everybody to get fired and it’s so great and everything, it’s not just that person. It’s a ton of people besides his family…a lot, especially where the staffs have increased now, kids are uprooted from schools and all those things. I understand why fans root for it. I get it all, but there is a very personal side to it. A lot of adults, kids, where something like that happens, they’re going to be affected.”
Coach Kiffin on Bryan Harsin being fired
Kiffin has been the first name mentioned as the next coach at Auburn, but his statement Monday may have indicated a reason he would not be interested in heading to the Plains.
When a coach is fired – or takes a new job – it affects others including the coach’s family.
The third-year coach seems to be entrenched in the culture of Oxford. His daughter is now in high school in town, his son seems to enjoy his time at Ole Miss and of course, Juice the dog is a local celebrity. Kiffin put it best with a statement he made in early September.
“I look at it as, you go around town, there’s so much excitement around the program, season ticket sales and everything — but I feel like I needed Oxford and Ole Miss a lot more than it needed me,” Kiffin said. “I enjoy it here. It’s been awesome. It’s been really cool.”
Kiffin was also asked if he talks to his players or to recruits when his name comes up in association with an open job.
“I never do with the team, never have. Recruits, you deal with that all the time. I would guess any time that you’ve probably taken jobs and haven’t been at one place forever, I bet every coach gets that. I get that all the time from recruits. That’s just part of it. Recruiting is competitive. That gets used against us. We’ve been dealing with that for a long time. It’ll be nothing new.”
Kiffin’s situation in Oxford makes sense, but there are dollars involved. Money is not a category in which Auburn is lacking. The Tigers could back up an armored truck to Kiffin’s door and show him enough money to take care of his family for generations.
Auburn used money to lure Harsin away from his beloved Boise State and it had better have been worth moving his family across the country. He lasted fewer than two seasons in Tigerland. He got there with the help of then-athletic director Allen Greene who left Auburn earlier this season. From there, the writing was on the wall about Harsin’s departure.
Now, former Mississippi State athletic director John Cohen will take over at Auburn with a five-year deal worth $1.5 million per year. Cohen spent six years as the AD in Starkville, so he is well aware of Kiffin — who was hired a little more than a month before Cohen hired current Bulldogs’ coach Mike Leach.
Should Kiffin pass on the job – and it is almost certain he will be or has been approached – Auburn could attempt to go after a coach with two things in common with Kiffin. Hugh Freeze is a former Ole Miss coach, and he has the same agent Kiffin employs, Jimmy Sexton.
Freeze, now at Liberty, recently agreed to a fully guaranteed eight-year, $40 million contract to stay with the Flames. But Auburn could easily come up with the estimated $20 million buyout to get him out of Virginia.
If those two coaches fall through, who would Auburn pursue?
THE ONES WHO MAKE SENSE
Jeff Grimes, offensive coordinator at Baylor
Grimes served as the offensive coordinator at Auburn the last time it won a national championship. But is that name flashy enough for the Auburn boosters?
Deion Sanders, head coach at Jackson State
Cohen has been living close enough to Jackson to see what Coach Prime has done with an FCS, HBCU school. Sanders is a relentless recruiter who could bring some quality transfers – including his sons – to Auburn. But do the powers that be want a coach they cannot control? Sanders is just as rich, if not richer, than the boosters.
Kenny Dillingham, offensive coordinator at Oregon
Kenny Dillingham, offensive coordinator, Oregon. Dillingham was the Auburn offensive coordinator the last time the Tigers were really a good team. He turned freshman Bo Nix into a winner and has shown him the ropes at Oregon to put Nix’s name back in the national spotlight after his star tarnished at Auburn. But, like Grimes, does he have the name recognition the Auburn people want?
Todd Monkin, offensive coordinator at Georgia
Monkin has head coaching experience and SEC experience. He also took Stetson Bennett from two-time walk-on to a Heisman candidate and national champion. But like the other coordinators, he may not be flashy enough.
Bill O’Brien, offensive coordinator at Alabama
Bill O’Brien joined head coach Nick Saban’s staff in January of 2021 to serve as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach after six-plus years as the head coach of the NFL’s Houston Texans.
THE LONG SHOTS
Matt Rhule, former head coach of the Carolina Panthers
Rhule just was let go by the NFL team and has more than a few paydays due to him. Instead of sitting on a beach for a year or so, does he really want to jump into the Auburn situation?
Kevin Steele, defensive coordinator at Miami
Kevin Steele, defensive coordinator, Miami. Steele seemed to be the obvious pick a few years back as the Auburn coach. He did not get the job and now is with the Hurricanes. Steele has two things against him – he is in his mid-60’s and Miami’s defense is not bad, but the team is terrible.
Jamie Chadwell, head coach of Coastal Carolina
Chadwell is a great coach and with Cincinnati losing to UCF last week, he has his team in contention for a New Year’s Six berth. But his name and his school may not be big enough for the Auburn power brokers.
THE UNSPOKEN ONE
There is one coach that makes sense who has a name that has not surfaced. How about James Franklin from Penn State? His buyout is only $12 million. He took over a program in disarray at Penn State after current-Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien could not revive the Nittany Lions from the Joe Paterno/Jerry Sandusky scandal.
College football is a copycat game. If an innovative offense works, others will follow it. LSU went north to hire Brian Kelly from Notre Dame and he has the Tigers tied for the lead in the division after a not-so-hot start. If Kelly could do it on the Bayou, Franklin could do it on the Plains.
Stay tuned to The Rebel Walk for more info on the upcoming coaching carousel.
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss)
Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.
He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.
A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.
Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.
He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.
Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.