Reports linking Kiffin, Ole Miss

By: Bob Holt
Published: Saturday, December 7, 2019
Florida Atlantic coach Lane Kiffin looks over his team before an NCAA college football game against UCF on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Jim Rassol)
Florida Atlantic coach Lane Kiffin looks over his team before an NCAA college football game against UCF on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Jim Rassol)

FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas football team might be facing Lane Kiffin in the SEC West next season instead of having him coach the Razorbacks.

Several media outlets reported Friday night that Kiffin -- the Florida Atlantic coach considered a top candidate to fill Arkansas' vacancy -- is nearing a deal with Ole Miss.

"The feeling around the college football world tonight is that Ole Miss has outflanked Arkansas in the Lane Kiffin sweepstakes, such as it is," USA Today columnist Dan Wolken tweeted Friday night. "Obviously still a fluid situation and nothing gets done until after tomorrow's games, but the Razorbacks may need to make contingency plans."

Kiffin had been scheduled to appear on his live radio show Thursday night, but he instead taped it earlier in the day. Reports then surfaced Kiffin interviewed with Ole Miss officials Thursday night in Boca Raton, Fla.

Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek and deputy athletic director Jon Fagg interviewed Kiffin earlier this week in Boca Raton, according to multiple reports.

Ole Miss Athletic Director Keith Carter, a Perryville native who played basketball for the Rebels, fired Matt Luke as Ole Miss' coach Sunday after the team finished the season with a 21-20 loss at Mississippi State to fall to 4-8.

If Kiffin is hired by Ole Miss, a contingency plan for Arkansas could be Appalachian State Coach Eliah Drinkwitz. Drinkwitz, an Alma native, has led the Mountaineers to an 11-1 record in his first season as a college head coach, including road victories over North Carolina 34-31 and South Carolina 20-15.

Appalachian State plays Louisiana-Lafayette in the Sun Belt Conference Championship Game in Boone, N.C. The game is set for 11 a.m. today and will be televised on ESPN.

Sources confirmed to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that Drinkwitz interviewed for the Arkansas job.

Drinkwitz, 36, graduated from Arkansas Tech University and was a high school assistant coach for Alma and Springdale before breaking into college coaching as a quality control analyst at Auburn. He then was an assistant at Arkansas State University, Boise State and North Carolina State -- where he was offensive coordinator from 2016-18 -- before getting the Appalachian State job.

Kiffin and FAU (9-3) play Alabama-Birmingham in the Conference USA Championship Game in Boca Raton. The game will kick off at 12:30 p.m. and be televised by the CBS Sports Network.

FAU President John Kelly said Friday during a meeting of the school's board of trustees that he expects to know by Sunday whether Kiffin will remain the Owls' coach.

Kiffin, 44, has an overall coaching record of 60-34 in eight seasons at Tennessee, Southern California and FAU. He has a 25-13 record with the Owls, going 11-3 with a Conference USA title in 2017.

The son of former Arkansas defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, he also had a 5-15 record as coach of the NFL's Oakland Raiders.

The fact Yurachek hasn't announced a new coach yet could indicate it is someone who is coaching in a conference championship game today. Otherwise, with the NCAA's early signing date of Dec. 18 looming, why wait to make a hire?

Barry Lunney Jr., an Arkansas assistant coach since 2013 and the team's interim coach for the last two games after Yurachek fired Chad Morris on Nov. 10 after a 45-19 loss to Western Kentucky, also has interviewed for the job, sources confirmed.

The Razorbacks were 0-2 in Lunney's two games as interim coach, losing at No. 1 LSU 56-20 and to Missouri 24-14 in Little Rock, but they played more competitively than in their final games under Morris.

Indiana Coach Tom Allen, who according to FootballScoop.com drew strong interest from Arkansas, agreed to a contract extension with the Hoosiers through the 2026 season that will pay him $3.9 million annually, it was announced Friday. Allen, an Arkansas State assistant coach in 2011, has led Indiana to an 8-4 record this season.

Washington State Coach Mike Leach, who interviewed with Arkansas officials earlier this week, agreed to a contract extension through the 2024 season with the Cougars, it was announced on Thursday.

Sports on 12/07/2019

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