In keeping Kiffin Ole Miss wins in ways it may not be considering

Nov. 26—OXFORD — Ole Miss didn't win Thursday. It did win Saturday, but it was hard for many in the fan base to enjoy the magnitude of the victory.

Reports began to surface Saturday morning that Rebels coach Lane Kiffin would sign the restructured Ole Miss contract — the one that will bump his salary north of $9 million a year — and will not become the head coach at Auburn.

That's a win for Ole Miss.

The Rebels couldn't keep Tommy Tuberville, a coach that both they and Auburn wanted in 1998.

There's significance in the fact that a rival SEC school couldn't swoop in and take the Ole Miss coach.

Regardless of the issues surrounding football management at Auburn it's still a school with an endowment in excess of $1 billion compared to $775 million at Ole Miss.

However, the joy that should be felt in keeping a coveted coach is tempered because the coach let the courtship continue for so long.

The vibe that comes from the reports, the tweets and Kiffin's general handling of things is that his apparent coming fourth season as Ole Miss coach is more because somewhere in the Auburn discussion the two sides reached an impasse.

The week of doubt and Kiffin's public tiff with WCBI's Jon Sokoloff were not helpful for Ole Miss football.

It wasn't the only reason Kiffin didn't earn a third-straight win over Mississippi State. It wasn't even the main reason. That would be the well-prepared plan of Bulldogs' defensive coordinator Zach Arnett.

But somewhere in answering how Ole Miss, after a 7-0 start, lost for the fourth time in five games was the Kiffin Drama.

The good news for Ole Miss is that keeping Kiffin wasn't the only way it won.

Ole Miss won because it showed it could commit more than $9 million a year to the salary of a head coach. It also won because during the week The Grove Collective announced available cash in excess of $10 million as it continues to grow.

Ole Miss people have answered the call in fund-raising for Name, Image and Likeness. NIL is a marathon, not a sprint, but the Rebels are pointed in the right direction.

The next time Ole Miss finds itself in need of a new football coach it can point to Kiffin's salary and its growing NIL funds along with its current enhancement of facilities and, at some point, another round of work on the stadium.

It can also point to how quickly Kiffin breathed life into the program.

Maybe a corner was turned Saturday in the Kiffin-Ole Miss relationship, and the two settle in for a productive run without the annual questions of his future.

If that corner never gets turned Ole Miss has worked itself into a position to find another very good football coach.

PARRISH ALFORD is the college sports editor and columnist for the Daily Journal. Contact him at parrish.alford@journalinc.com.