Ole Miss finalizing deal with Kiffin, sources say

Lane Kiffin is zeroing in on a return to the SEC.

Sources told ESPN that Ole Miss is finalizing a deal with Kiffin, currently in his third year at Florida Atlantic, to be the Rebels’ next head coach. They hope to announce Kiffin as early as Saturday.

The former Tennessee head coach and Alabama offensive coordinator has the Owls in their second Conference USA championship game on Saturday. They won the league title in 2017 in Kiffin’s first season in Boca Raton. The Ole Miss job would be the fifth different head coaching job for Kiffin, who just turned 44 earlier this year.

Arkansas also had discussions in the last week with Kiffin about its head coaching job.

It’s been a wild ride for Kiffin, who’s renowned for trolling anybody and everybody on Twitter, including fans and former bosses, and for putting together high-powered and entertaining offenses on the football field.

“I’m never going to apologize for having fun. Who says you can’t have fun and still win football games?” Kiffin told ESPN earlier this year. “But I’ve learned along the way and am not the same person I was when I was younger. None of us are. I’ve been so fortunate to learn under two guys like Pete Carroll and Nick Saban, both of whom are great coaches, but have different styles. I think I’ve been able to combine those styles.”

Kiffin’s first head coaching job came in 2007 with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders when he was a 31-year-old assistant at USC. Owner Al Davis fired Kiffin four games into his second season, and Kiffin was scooped up to be Tennessee’s head coach in 2009. He went 7-6 during his only season with the Vols, one that saw plenty of fireworks both on and off the field. After 13 months in Knoxville, Kiffin left for what he called his “dream job” at USC when Carroll went to the NFL.

With the Trojans facing heavy NCAA sanctions, Kiffin went 28-15 at USC and was fired five games into his fourth season following a loss to Arizona State.

Kiffin spent the 2014-16 seasons at Alabama under Saban as the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator and helped to open up and revolutionize the Tide’s offense. They won an SEC championship in 2014 and a national championship in 2015. Kiffin was named the FAU head coach prior to the College Football Playoff in 2016, and Saban parted ways with Kiffin following the CFP semifinal victory over Washington. Alabama lost to Clemson in the championship game that season.

If FAU wins the Conference USA title Saturday, that would make it five conference championships in the past six years that Kiffin has been a part of with five different starting quarterbacks.

While he wasn’t looking to leave FAU and was appreciative of all the support he received in Boca Raton, Kiffin told ESPN earlier this year that having a chance to get back into the SEC again would be an opportunity that would be difficult to pass up.

Kiffin is set to replace Matt Luke at Ole Miss and become the Rebels’ fourth different head coach in the last 10 seasons. Luke was fired after just three seasons at Ole Miss, the first of which he was the Rebels’ interim coach before being named the permanent coach following the 2017 season. Luke was 15-21 as Ole Miss’ coach, including a 4-8 finish this season.

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