Auburn football: Could Lane Kiffin emerge as surprise coaching candidate?

Auburn football at Vanderbilt Stadium Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020 in Nashville, Tenn.Nas Vandy Olemiss 005
Auburn football at Vanderbilt Stadium Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020 in Nashville, Tenn.Nas Vandy Olemiss 005 /

One of the most exciting names that have surfaced in relation to the recently vacated Auburn football head coach role is Lane Kiffin. Could he be a surprise coaching candidate on the sidelines in 2021?

The college football world was dealt a surprise piece of news this past Sunday afternoon when Auburn football head coach Gus Malzahn was vacated from his post as the voice of the locker-room.

Let’s be clear here: this was not a decision fueled by recommendations from the players. He was about as beloved as they get, and his own players have since stuck up for him in the aftermath of his firing.

That said, he is gone, and he needs to be replaced. In this cruel world of Power 5 Conference football, the news cycle is so quick that names were popping up as Malzahn was cleaning out his office two days ago.

Side-note: you’re taking reporting too far when you spy on a man who just lost his job and is spending his last moments in the office he spent the last seven years at.

Anyway, the most intriguing name that has popped up is that of former USC head coach Lane Kiffin. Kiffin, a long-time coach with experience as a head coach and offensive coordinator in the SEC, was employed by Alabama, Tennessee, and now Ole Miss.

Peter Thamel of Yahoo sports loved the prospect of Kiffin as the foil for Nick Sabin after serving as his assistant in 2016 and getting let go ahead of the National Championship game.

ESPN’s Mark Schlabach also broke down why he (and other Auburn football head coaching candidates) would be a good fit for the role:

"Why he’s a fit at Auburn: He might be the perfect remedy for Auburn’s elephant-sized ailments: He’s fearless as a playcaller, is outspoken in the media and on social media, loves to needle Saban (his former boss), and can recruit with the best of them. Plus, Kiffin has a track record of getting the most out of his talent. The Rebels lead the SEC in total offense (563 yards) and rushing (206.5 yards) and rank third in scoring (39.8 points) and passing (356.5 yards). He has a 65-38 record in five-plus seasons at four schools — Tennessee, USC, Florida Atlantic and Ole Miss. As Alabama’s offensive coordinator, Kiffin helped the Tide finish 14-1 and win the CFP national championship in 2015."

Clearly, the benefits of Kiffin on the Plains would be the boost to the offense his game-planning would provide. His recruitment efforts are also notorious, especially after leading the Florida Atlantic Owls to a Conference-USA Championship in his first season in Boca Raton.

Schlabach mostly seemed dismissive of the idea of Kiffin leading the Tigers, though:

"Why he’s not a fit at Auburn: Kiffin is wrapping up his first season at Ole Miss. He left after only one year at a previous stop, when he bolted Tennessee following the 2009 season to become USC’s new coach. Ole Miss fans probably shouldn’t worry too much — unless Kiffin mentions how they’ll have to “carry me out of here in a pine box.” Kiffin relished the spotlight and controversy earlier in his career, but he seems to have mellowed a bit with age. Sources tell ESPN that Kiffin’s buyout from Ole Miss would be $5 million."

Kiffin is one of the NCAA’s biggest wild-cards. If he decides he wants to jump ship from Ole Miss, he probably will. Perhaps the prospect of playing spoiler against the Alabama Crimson Tide in one of college football’s greatest rivalries will be enough to get Kiffin to take that $5 million buyout and join one of the proudest programs in the Power 5.

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