Kiffin and Leach

Who were those masked men? Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin, left, and Mississippi State coach Mike Leach talk before the 2020 Egg Bowl.

When Mike Leach and Lane Kiffin were hired as the football coaches at Mississippi State and Ole Miss Mississippi became a part of the national conversation.

Unlike many Ole Miss and MSU hires through the years these guys already had national profiles.

They had won games and impacted other programs, but part of the interest in their moves to new jobs is that they themselves are interesting.

They present themselves publicly in what might be considered a non-traditional approach. Translation: They’ll speak their mind.

Their opinions might not always be on topics close to their programs like who has the lead in a quarterback competition or why a player got fewer snaps in a given game. They’re just as prone to comment on politics or the state of their sport, but they’ll tell you what they’re thinking.

Sometimes the topics are random.

Leach’s image has grown with some of his legendary press conference rants on topics ranging from pirates to Big Foot to his favorite cartoons.

If you’re a beat writer trying to gain a greater understanding of play-calling in the fourth quarter of the previous game it can make you pull out your hair, but for college football fans who don’t rise and fall with Mississippi State it’s great theatre.

Kiffin is similar.

Any question has the potential to take an unexpected turn though I felt in covering his first Ole Miss season that it was easier to keep him on task than I thought it would be with Leach.

While the press conference is comfortable ground for Leach, Kiffin is more active on Twitter.

Early in the pandemic Leach removed one of his tweets, an attempt at humor that became a controversy. He’s been more careful since then. He’s tweeted just twice this month, while Kiffin might tweet twice in 10 minutes. Kiffin much more active on Twitter, most of his efforts tied to recruiting.

A year and a half ago the decision was made at Daily Journal World Headquarters to cover the 2020 SEC spring business meeting in Destin because it would be where Leach and Kiffin came together publicly for the first time. That meeting was eventually wiped out by COVID-19, as was SEC Media Days.

As Media Days makes its return Monday More than half the league’s coaches – including Mississippi’s two entires – will be appearing for the first time, a combination of those hired for the 2020 season and those hired for this season.

Leach and Kiffin both have a season under their belts, a year of Zoom interviews and a body of work at their new places.

Some of the anticipation that makes Media Days fun will be lost, but when it’s their time in the main ballroom you could hear anything.

Including some football.

PARRISH ALFORD is the college sports editor and columnist for the Daily Journal. Contact him at parrish.alford@journalinc.com.

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