OXFORD • New athletics director Keith Carter said he would pursue a current head coach but would also consider Power Five conference coordinators in his effort to find the next head coach for Ole Miss.
What Carter came away with were both of those – and more.
News of an agreement between Ole Miss and Lane Kiffin broke late Friday. He led Florida Atlantic (10-3) to the Conference USA championship on Saturday – with a 49-6 win over UAB – and will be formally introduced in Oxford on Monday.
Carter out-maneuvered the SEC school from his native state, Arkansas, which also had high interest in Kiffin, to attract him to Ole Miss.
The son of a successful NFL assistant coach, Kiffin climbed the ladder early as an NFL head coach with the Oakland Raiders at age 31, an experiment that ended just four games into his second season. He also had head coaching jobs at Tennessee and Southern Cal with mixed results.
After an abrupt airport runway firing by Southern Cal AD Pat Haden following an 0-2 start to Pac-12 play in 2013, it was as an SEC offensive coordinator at Alabama that Kiffin’s career starting trending up again.
“I was the youngest coach in modern NFL history. Like I said earlier, it was way too much, too early. Not from a football standpoint but from a life standpoint,” Kiffin wrote in a first-person account of his career penned in 2018 for the website Athletes For God.
It’s not that those early years were without success.
Kiffin took over a USC program devastated by NCAA sanctions and scholarship cuts and won 10 games and the Pac-12 South Division title in his season season.
A year later, however, the Trojans were preseason No. 1 in both major polls but finished unranked.
Kiffin credits Alabama coach Nick Saban for taking a chance on a guy whose reputation was “tarnished.”
During Kiffin’s three years in Tuscaloosa the Crimson Tide won a national championship and three-straight SEC championships.
At Alabama Kiffin’s tempo spread offense ranked second, fourth and first in SEC scoring in his three seasons.
His time there also included losses to Ole Miss in Oxford and in Tuscaloosa before Alabama won in Oxford in 2016.
Kiffin was a finalist for the Broyles Award, presented to the nation’s top assistant coach, after the 2014 season.
Throughout his time there his occasional spats with Saban made the Internet roll.
It was part of Kiffin’s remaking.
“Learning under coach Saban was incredible,” Kiffin wrote. “He made me a better coach. Thanks to my time with coach Saban I was able to land the head coaching job at Florida Atlantic.”
FAU, after a 1-3 start, won 11 games and the C-USA championship in Kiffin’s first season. The Owls were 5-7 in 2018 against a schedule that included two top-10 non-conference opponents and three losses by a touchdown or less within the conference.
This season FAU went 9-3 with losses to Ohio State and UCF to start the season. The Owls’ lone conference loss was 36-31 at Marshall.
The Owls currently rank No. 4 in C-USA in passing, No. 8 in rushing but No. 1 in scoring at 34.1 points a game.