The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

Ole Miss' Kiffin refuses to tie himself in knots

312 days ago
Kevin Scarbinsky
Photo: AP Photo/John Bazemore

Lane Kiffin, fresh off another Egg Bowl victory, a 10-win season, a Sugar Bowl trip and an off-season full of Juice - his pet Lab turned social media star - remains just plain fresh.

Case in point: Coaches always wear a tie to SEC Football Media Days. Kiffin showed up Monday with an open collar. If the Ole Miss coach accurately relayed the exchange he had on the subject with Greg Sankey, the commissioner sounded a little jealous.

According to Kiffin, "He's like, 'Man, I've always wanted to do that.' I'm like, 'Well, don't just do things the way they were done before.' He was like, 'I was waiting for someone to do it.' So maybe the commissioner won't have a tie next year. Because why are we supposed to wear a tie? Just because it was done before?"

This is believed to be the first Kiffin-commissioner conversation in which counsel was offered and the coach was not on the receiving end.

If Kiffin didn't set a record for "likes" in a single paragraph at the podium at this event, it's OK. His team set an actual record last season, and though he said he wasn't aware of it, his explanation for it had to be music to high school recruits and transfer portal prospects alike.

Ole Miss went for it on fourth down 49 times last season, an FBS record, and converted 31 times. So, like, why? Kiffin provided three extremely reasonable reasons.

He believes in the philosophy of a mentor who won national titles. No, not the one everyone kept asking about Monday. Kiffin said it stuck with him that former USC coach Pete Carroll said, "Don't just do things really well. Do them better than anybody's done them before."

Analytics plays a key role in the decision-making, along with the willingness to answer for the attempts that went wrong. Like in last year's loss to Alabama.

"It's not easy," Kiffin said. "Like anything, if everything was easy, everybody would do it. I get a lot of coaches don't follow the analytics because it's very hard for that press conference afterwards or that stadium to turn on you when it doesn't work."

The final reason he gave for rolling the dice so often helps explain why Kiffin is uniquely positioned to succeed in an uncertain era where the rules of engagement in the critical areas of player acquisition and retention seem to change daily. Going for it on fourth down sends a powerful message to current players and prospects alike.

As he said, "We sell that we believe in you."

As Kiffin prepares for his third season at Ole Miss, it's getting easier to believe in him as a coach with the ability to be a consistent winner in the SEC. He's now won 10 games at least once at three of his four college head coaching jobs, and the fourth deserves an asterisk because he stayed at Tennessee for only one year.

Let other coaches complain about how to cope with NIL and collectives and player agents. Kiffin will follow his own philosophy: "We don't think outside the box. We just create a new box."

Put another way: Don't tie yourself in knots. Just ditch the tie.