Late Monday night, the sports director for WCBI News in Mississippi, Jon Sokoloff, detonated a grenade in the college football carousel by reporting that Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin would be accepting Auburn’s head coaching job. Sokoloff’s tweet specifically stated that Kiffin’s being named Auburn coach was imminent and that he would step down on Friday after Thursday’s Egg Bowl clash against Mississippi State.
Kiffin later tweeted out a printout of a typed report that attempted to turn the tables by insinuating Sokoloff was leaving his station for WLOX. Kiffin being outed as the next Auburn coach ahead of the Egg Bowl would have made things untenable for Kiffin, which explains why he would mock the report.
Interestingly, his ridiculing of Sokoloff isn’t an outright denial. He didn’t even try to say Sokoloff was wrong. A year ago, Lincoln Riley adamantly insisted he “was not going to be the next head coach at LSU.” Riley could be awarded points for honesty, and demerits for giving a misleading statement. Lane Kiffin better not be leaving Ole Miss now because he’s dug himself into an even deeper hole when he probably should have tamped down the rumor mill.
The veracity of Sokoloff’s tip is still up in the air, but we won’t have a definite answer until Auburn names Kiffin, interim coach Cadillac Williams, or someone else as its next head coach. However, Sokoloff has credibility as an information broker. On Oct. 29, he reported that Mississippi State athletic director John Cohen would fill the AD vacancy at Auburn days before his hiring was announced. Clearly, there’s smoke, and Sokoloff’s information pipeline is solid.
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However, Kiffin is a master gaslighter. Kiffin’s corny tweets didn’t even calm the rumors. If anything, his focus was on being as edgy as possible. He’s one of the most online coaches in college football and he thrives on Elon Musk’s Twitter. Prior to Sokoloff kicking up Auburn rumors, Kiffin made sure to let everyone know that he was focused on preparing for the Egg Bowl, not on the Auburn opening.
Kiffin’s mocking tone in his tweets clarifies the appeal he has with recruits. When you realize he’s spiritually a teen still, everything makes sense. The trolling, the Twitter hijinks, the immaturity. He’s the coach who doubles as your friend whereas Kelly or Nick Saban emanates stern dad energy.
Ole Miss also denied Sokoloff’s report, which hopefully doesn’t mean that they’re also oblivious to who their coach is. Kiffin and his run-heavy offensive attack have been a success at Ole Miss. Prior to their consecutive defeats in the month of November, the Rebels were a top-10-ranked program. Ole Miss will hold onto Kiffin as long as it possibly can, but the end of the Kiffin era is probably drawing near and the Rebels sound like they’re in denial.
We met Kiffin when he became the head coach of the Oakland Raiders at the age of 31 in 2010. He left Oakland in tumult. Then, Kiffin departed Tennessee in a maelstrom for USC and was abandoned on the tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport by Trojans Athletic Director Pat Haden. The night Kiffin abandoned his last SEC job at Tennessee, fans rioted outside the complex where his resignation press conference was to be held. Avoiding a shitstorm this time around is probably worth keeping the facade up for a few more days.