Lane Kiffin kept it brief when asked about his future at Ole Miss after his team wrapped up its regular-season schedule.
Following the Rebels’ 24-22 loss in the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving night, Kiffin was asked if he anticipates being Ole Miss’ coach next season, even if he is offered the job at Auburn. His response was two words.
“I do,” he told reporters in Oxford, Miss.
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Kiffin’s name has been associated with the Auburn opening since new Tigers athletics director John Cohen began his search on Halloween, with Kiffin long viewed as the top candidate to replace Bryan Harsin, who was fired after going 9-12 in 21 games. Speculation surrounding Kiffin’s candidacy has grown in the last week as the regular season has wound down.
He was asked about the Auburn opening after last weekend’s loss to Arkansas, saying he didn’t know if he was the Tigers’ top candidate, then again on Monday during his weekly press conference to preview the Egg Bowl. During those remarks, Kiffin — who has said he doesn’t discuss such things during the season — joked about making a “pine box” speech like Tommy Tuberville infamously did in 1998 before leaving Ole Miss for Auburn, or a line like the one Nick Saban delivered in 2006 about not being the next coach at Alabama shortly before he left the Miami Dolphins for the Tide. He also expressed his satisfaction with his current situation at Ole Miss, where he signed a new four-year deal last December that is paying him $7.25 million this season, good for the 11th-highest paid head coach in college football.
Kiffin then took ambrage with a local television reporter in Mississippi who reported Monday evening that Kiffin was heading to Auburn on Friday despite the job not being offered at that point. Kiffin took to Twitter to issue his own “report” while shooting down the one from Jon Sokoloff of WCBI in Columbus, Miss. After Thursday’s loss, Kiffin addressed that situation, saying he had to hold a team meeting to address Monday’s “falsely reported” news.
“I had to have a team meeting to say his article was wrong,” Kiffin said. “…So, yes, I had to deal, had to have a team meeting because of that. They don’t, when there’s other stuff in chat rooms and all that stuff, but when a reporter writes it, that changes the game with it.”
Kiffin declined to go into specifics of the meeting, beyond telling his players the report was inaccurate.
He was also asked Thursday night if he expects to sign another contract extension with the Rebels after a report surfaced last week that Ole Miss offered Kiffin a new contract and raise to remain in Oxford. Kiffin is in his third year with Ole Miss and has gone 23-12 during that time, including an 8-4 mark this season, as the Rebels lost four of their final five games after a 7-0 start.
“I don’t know,” Kiffin said. “I mean, I’ve signed three. Does a fourth one mean you’re never leaving? So, I don’t know. I’m much more focused and worried about the game than whether you sign another contract. And I’m not acting ungrateful for that, but again, everybody thinks you sign another contract, well, a year ago you said the same thing, and then here we are again.”
Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.