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Lane Kiffin has been vocal about the role that Name, Image and Likeness plays in the modern era of college football since the NCAA passed its legislation in July of 2021. The 46-year-old head coach is frustrated by the discrepancy in funds across the country.
Although Ole Miss is not the most penurious program on the Power Five level, the Rebels are at a disadvantage. The University of Mississippi has the second-lowest total enrollment in the SEC.
Only Vanderbilt has a lesser enrollment. And the Commodores don’t even count because their athletic and academic structure is different than the rest of the conference.
With such a small enrollment, Ole Miss has a small alumni base— especially when compared to schools like Texas A&M, Georgia, Alabama and LSU. That list doesn’t even include non-SEC programs like Michigan, USC, Ohio State or Texas.
A small alumni base means that there are less donors. Less donors means less money.
Money is crucial for success. That is not a secret, but it is even more true today with NIL than it was when finances were handled under-the-table prior to 2021.
There is a direct correlation between those that have larger NIL funds and their success on the recruiting trail. The Aggies’ historic 2022 recruiting class is the perfect example.
Kiffin doesn’t have the same NIL fortitude at his disposal, though Ole Miss’ top NIL arm, the Grove Collective, has seen tremendous growth over the last year. It had a huge spike in donations after rumors started to swirl around Kiffin’s potential departure for Auburn, and has been innovative in how it approaches the space.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a discrepancy between the NIL funds in Oxford and Athens, College Station or Tuscaloosa. There is.
Is Lane Kiffin the Billy Beane of the SEC?
As someone who is not shy when it comes to expressing how he feels on any topic, ever, Kiffin drew an interesting comparison on Tuesday night. He sat down to watch Moneyball and likened the Athletics to the Rebels.
Moneyball, for the few who have not seen it, tells the story of the Oakland Athletics. The organization, led by general manager Billy Beane, was tasked with competing for championships against teams with a much larger payroll.
Oakland didn’t have nearly as much money as New York, Boston, or even Tampa Bay. It was broke when compared to the rest of the league, so it used a unique approach to roster assembly that led to a few deep postseason runs.
As Kiffin was watching the movie, he appeared to draw the comparison between Ole Miss and the Athletics, and Texas A&M and the Yankees. There was a cryptic, unfinished “@t…” in his tweet, but it’s fair to assume who the tag was implying, considering the history between the two.
Again, the Rebels are not broke. Not by any stretch of the imagination. They simply are not rich in comparison to other programs with larger bases and, in turn, deeper pockets. Like the A’s.
The Grove Collective is flourishing compared to where it was, but there is still a long way to go. There is a discrepancy— one that Kiffin is (not-so) subtly pointing out.