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Kiffin confirms decision to stay at Mississippi amid Auburn interest

Lane Kiffin is staying as the football coach of Mississippi, Kiffin confirmed to the USA TODAY Sports Network on Saturday.

‘I’m confirming I’m staying (which) is the same thing I have said for a week,’ Kiffin said via text.

Kiffin has reportedly been offered a new deal at Ole Miss. Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger reported Kiffin’s new deal is expected to average a salary of $9 million per year with a base salary of six years and roll-overs extending it to eight. Mississippi state law prevents state employees from signing contracts longer than four years, but the contract is run through Ole Miss’ private athletics foundation.

‘I didn’t sign (the extension) but I’m staying,’ Kiffin texted.

Chris Low of ESPN reported that Kiffin has reiterated to his staff and Ole Miss officials that his plan is to remain with the Rebels, rather than moving to Auburn to replace Bryan Harsin. ESPN’s Pete Thamel added on, noting that Kiffin’s Auburn candidacy has cooled significantly over the last 48 hours, citing the pull of Kiffin’s family to stay in Oxford.

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According to Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated, Auburn’s search moved on from Kiffin and zeroed in on Freeze in recent hours. Dellenger reported that negotiations could be finalized as soon as Saturday night.

‘I think it’s safe to say this morning that Lane Kiffin’s Auburn candidacy is over, and that Hugh Freeze has emerged as the top candidate to become Auburn’s next head coach,’ Thamel said on ‘College GameDay’ on Saturday morning.

According to Dellenger, Kiffin’s new deal is expected to average a salary of $9 million per year with a base salary of six years and roll-overs extending it to eight. Mississippi state law prevents state employees from signing contracts longer than four years, but the contract is run through Ole Miss’ private foundation. It had not yet been signed, as of noon ET.

This news came after weeks of media speculation linking Kiffin to the Auburn job. The Tigers fired Harsin on Oct. 31.

Kiffin stopped short of denying his interest in the Auburn job at every opportunity as the speculation grew, until finally saying after the Egg Bowl that he anticipates being Ole Miss’ head coach next season. Should he remain, it would allow the Rebels to keep their brilliant offensive mind, who has also shown himself to be adept at handling the challenges posed by the modern game like the transfer portal and changed NIL regulations.

Particularly in this era, a departure would have come with significant questions about which Rebels players would have gone and which would have stayed. By keeping Kiffin on board, Ole Miss can build on a team that returns the majority of its key players on offense for 2023.

As the early signing period looms, the news is also big for this year’s recruiting class. Ole Miss’ Class of 2023 holds 13 verbal commitments and ranks 26th nationally. Certainly, there would have been some defections from that group had Kiffin moved to Auburn.

Kiffin officially began his tenure in Oxford in December 2019, when his hire from Florida Atlantic was made official. Kiffin had previously won the Conference USA title twice with the Owls. 

Things didn’t start particularly well for Kiffin. Playing an all-SEC schedule in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rebels lost four of their first five games. But Kiffin turned it around later in the season, closing the campaign by winning four out of five — including an Outback Bowl victory over No. 7 Indiana. That marked Ole Miss’ first bowl appearance in five seasons. 

In 2021, Kiffin produced just the third 10-win season at Ole Miss since 1975. The Rebels beat ranked Arkansas and Texas A&M teams on their way to the Sugar Bowl, where they fell to No. 6 Baylor. 

What happened the following offseason showcased why Kiffin was such an attractive head coach in the eyes of those in the market for one. 

Facing a rebuild at Ole Miss, he turned to the transfer portal, bringing in 17 transfers, including his eventual starting quarterback Jaxson Dart. The Rebels started 8-1 before a disappointing finish. They lost their final three regular-season games, including the Egg Bowl on Thursday.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY

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