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Guilbeau: Wouldn’t It Be Cool If Lane Kiffin Stayed At Ole Miss?

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Here is a nightmare scenario for LSU:

Baylor coach Dave Aranda takes the USC job. Louisiana coach Billy Napier takes the Florida job. And Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin takes the Miami job, which is not open yet, but that doesn’t seem to matter anymore.

The Hurricanes (6-5, 4-3 ACC) have slipped from 8-3 and 7-2 of a year ago, and apparently Manny Diaz — just in his third season — is in trouble. Never mind that Miami will have its 10th season of seven wins or fewer since 2006, even if Diaz wins one more game.

One day soon, a college football brand name is going to name a new coach before it actually tells the present one he’s done. It’s going to happen.

Kiffin still owns a beautiful home in Boca Raton, Florida from when he was coach at Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton from 2017-19 before moving to Ole Miss, where he rents. Boca Raton is about an hour from the Miami campus by car — three by boat. Think of the recruiting possibilities.

And where would that leave LSU? Iowa State’s Matt Campbell? Hmm.

If LSU does not get Aranda or Napier soon, one is going to wonder what LSU athletic director Scott Woodward has been doing most of this season since firing Coach Ed Orgeron back on Oct. 10 after a 3-3 start. At the time, Orgeron was 8-8 over two seasons following the 15-0 national title in 2019-20.

Maybe Woodward has already made a double secret hire. He could pull it off. He is an extremely bright, talented and experienced person in political, governmental and university affairs as well as athletics. And goodness knows, he has made great football hires as athletic director in the past. While at Washington, he hired USC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and Chris Petersen from Boise State, and at Texas A&M, he hired Jimbo Fisher from Florida State. And he just got women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey to LSU last spring from Baylor, where she won three national championships.

But if he does not already have somebody, he could be scrambling and will regret not showing more interest in Napier and getting him when he could get him — before the Florida job just opened. Same goes for Kiffin, who is the best coach of any listed anywhere for the various openings.

If Kiffin goes to Florida, he could haunt LSU for years the way Steve Spurrier did with the Gators from 1990-2001.

Spurrier was 35-19 from 1983-85 as the coach of the Tampa Bay Bandits of the USFL and was previously an assistant at Florida, Georgia Tech and Duke. He was out of a job in 1986 after the USFL folded, and he wanted to be LSU’s head coach following that season when Bill Arnsparger left. An overpopulated search committee instead hired defensive coordinator Mike Archer, who had no head coaching experience. After coaching Duke from 1987-89, Spurrier went to Florida and beat LSU 11 out of 12 times, including seven times by three touchdowns or more. Even LSU coach Nick Saban lost to him, 41-9 and 44-15.

Kiffin is a young Spurrier — innovative, brash, rebellious, yet respectful of older coaches and tough defenses like his dad, NFL defensive whiz Monte Kiffin.

Woodward avoiding Kiffin — if he has — is ridiculous. Oh, Kiffin, 46, is a rich bachelor who was formerly married and dates women in their 20s. Gosh, that’s unique. It is also legal. And in what decade is Woodward living?

Yes, members of Woodward’s athletic department and football and tennis coaching staffs looked the other way, enabled and covered up the alleged sexual assault crimes of former players Derrius Guice and Drake Davis and the strange behavior of former coach Les Miles. So fire them. You should have already. But do not overreact by making future hires to make up for firings you should have executed.

Aranda and Napier could be excellent at LSU, and you wouldn’t have to worry about gossip. But as a Redlands native and an alum of Cal Lutheran, Aranda has California roots. That town and school are an hour from USC. And some of the most beautiful parts of the country are in that area for Aranda, his wife and three kids. And Napier and his wife and four kids could really enjoy being just two hours from Disney World. Napier also may like Florida jumping on him immediately, whereas LSU kept him on a lukewarm back burner.

Kiffin at Florida would likely dominate one or the other at LSU. Kiffin has had his issues. He was not ready to be the Oakland Raiders head coach at 32 in 2007, and he failed miserably as USC’s coach in 2012 and ’13 after a good start. He was still somewhat immature as Alabama’s offensive coordinator from 2014-16, but he was still great — the best Saban has ever had calling plays. Then Kiffin saw the light at Florida Atlantic and now at Ole Miss. He is an offensive genius. LSU has never had such a thing as a head coach, or even close to it.

But what if Kiffin doesn’t go to Florida or LSU and just stays at Ole Miss? Hot coaches have crashed and burned at Florida — Will Muschamp and now Dan Mullen. Kiffin does make $4.5 million at Ole Miss and should be up for significant raise, considering his 9-2 and 5-2 mark in the SEC this season heading into the Egg Bowl.

The worst thing about Ole Miss’ program is that its stadium seats only 64,000. Kiffin marveled just last month at the atmosphere and noise of 102,455-seat Neyland Stadium at Tennessee, where he coached one year. Naturally, he would like that kind of home field advantage. Something like that may never happen at Ole Miss.

But Ole Miss does have something going for it that could keep Kiffin for several more years.

Last Friday night, Kiffin was in Baton Rouge. It would have been a great time for Woodward to visit with him, and maybe he did. But Kiffin was there to watch Archie Manning’s grandson Arch Manning — the No. 1 pro style quarterback in the nation for the class of 2023 and son of Archie’s oldest son Cooper — play for Newman High of New Orleans against Episcopal of Baton Rouge in a playoff game.

If Kiffin stays at Ole Miss and gets Manning to come to his grandpa’s school, look out. Just consider the other prospects he could recruit to play with Manning or defend his offense.

Kiffin’s long range future should be in the NFL. He’s a young Sean Payton too. Moving to Florida or Miami or LSU is not going to get him to the NFL any sooner. He could stay at Ole Miss and be just as successful and make nearly as much or as much money. With Georgia now under Coach Kirby Smart, only 45, it may be better to stick in the West. Saban, 70, is going to retire within the next five years, one would think.

Kiffin could ride Manning to the NFL — or to that NFL team in Tuscaloosa.

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

Guilbeau has been on the LSU beat since 1998 with multiple outlets in Louisiana, prior to that he had covered both Auburn and Alabama. He won first place for his game feature on LSU's upset at Florida last season from the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He was also named Beat Writer of Year, by Louisiana Sports Writers Association in July; placed in three Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) categories – Beat Writer, Explanatory, Game Coverage – last spring. Guilbeau was also the FWAA first-place winner for columns in 2017 and was also the top overall winner in 2016 FWAA placing first for his game story, second in columns, and receiving honorable mention for features.

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