Lane Kiffin returns to SEC as Ole Miss coach after leading FAU to conference title

Ole Miss has landed its apparent top target to replace Matt Luke, announcing Saturday that it has come to terms with Lane Kiffin to be its next head football coach. Kiffin, who led FAU to a dominant 49-6 victory over UAB in the Conference USA Championship Game earlier in the day, previously served as Tennessee coach in 2009 and Alabama offensive coordinator from 2014-16.

A formal introduction is scheduled for Monday at 2 p.m. ET in Oxford, Mississippi. 

"I am truly honored and humbled to join the Ole Miss family, and recognize this as a special opportunity to lead Rebel Football into the future," Kiffin said in a statement. "I am especially grateful to [athletic director] Keith Carter, Chancellor Boyce and the entire Ole Miss family for their trust and confidence. Our staff and I will work tirelessly to recruit and develop successful players for this program, and I look forward to producing many exciting memories to add to Ole Miss' storied football legacy. I am excited to get to Oxford and begin the groundwork of building a championship program that Mississippi's flagship university deserves, and I'm thrilled to be back in the greatest athletics' conference in the nation. Hotty Toddy!"

Kiffin just wrapped up his third season in Boca Raton, Florida, where he led the Owls to a 10-3 record and two Conference USA Championships. He was 26-13 overall at FAU and 61-34 all-time as a college football head coach. The program won nine games combined in the three seasons before he took over. Following the win over UAB on Saturday, Kiffin deflected questions about him leaving for Ole Miss. "Today was about these players, about this team and about this community, this university, winning a conference championship again, going to a great bowl game," Kiffin said. 

Still, the official announcement was made on Ole Miss' Twitter account a short time later. 

"I couldn't be more excited to welcome Coach Kiffin to the Ole Miss family," said Carter in a statement. "As we entered this process, we were looking for energy, innovativeness and a program builder who could excite our student-athletes and fans. Coach Kiffin checked every box and is a home run for our program. I look forward to locking arms with him to take Ole Miss Football to a championship level." 

Kiffin led the Vols to a 7-6 record in 2009, including an appearance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. However, he left soon thereafter to become the coach at USC where he went 28-15 and was fired five games into his fourth season.

Kiffin reemerged as Alabama's offensive coordinator the following season. For three years, he helped usher the Crimson Tide offense into the modern era of spread offenses. Under Kiffin's direction, three different players at Alabama (wide receiver Amari Cooper, running back Derrick Henry and quarterback Jalen Hurts) won the SEC Offensive Player of the Year award. In 2016, the Tide finished 15th nationally in points per game. 

Prior to emerging as Ole Miss' top target, Kiffin was linked to the vacancy at Arkansas, which fired coach Chad Morris earlier in the season.

The Rebels fired Luke following a season-ending loss to Mississippi State. Ole Miss will face Tennessee in a cross-division SEC game in 2021. 

CBS Sports Writer

Ben Kercheval joined CBS Sports in 2016 and has been covering college football since 2010. Before CBS, Ben worked at Bleacher Report, UPROXX Sports and NBC Sports. As a long-suffering North Texas graduate,... Full Bio

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