Lane Kiffin's Football Redemption Story Just Got A Lot Richer

by Ricardo Johnson

Lane Kiffin has certainly had himself an adventurous football career. After graduating from Fresno State in 1996, he bounced around a couple of universities before ending up at USC, where he served as an assistant coach for several years. He took a head coaching job with the Oakland Raiders in 2007, becoming the youngest coach in NFL history at the time.

However, Kiffin's tenure with the Raiders was short-lived. The team fired him three games into his second season, with former Raiders owner Al Davis accusing Kiffin of being "a flat-out liar" and "bringing disgrace to the organization." He finished his Raiders coaching career with a 5-15 record.

Kiffin returned to the college ranks, accepting a job with the Tennessee Volunteers. After just one season, he left to coach the USC Trojans (a spot that opened up after Pete Carroll left to coach the Seattle Seahawks). Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton summed up Kiffin's Volunteers tenure nicely: "Brief."

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

At USC, Kiffin had to overcome harsh sanctions against USC from the NCAA as a result of the Reggie Bush investigation. The former running back was found to have accepted impermissible benefits, and the university suffered as a result. Despite a modestly successful second season, Kiffin finished his last 11 USC games with a record of 4-7. The team fired him in September 2013 at 3 a.m., inside a small room at the airport before the team headed back to campus following a road game.

That was three stops in a row where Kiffin left the team in a disappointing state. He headed to Alabama the following season, but it was as an offensive coordinator. Would he get another shot at head coaching?

It took three years, but the answer was yes: Kiffin was jumping from the mighty SEC to…Conference USA. It was a step down in prestige, but Kiffin had big things in store for his new school, the Florida Atlantic Owls. He led the team to an 11-win season in his first year and a 10-win campaign in his final one, which was good enough to score a job from the Ole Miss Rebels.

During last year's Covid-shortened season, the Rebels finished a mere 5-5, but a win in the Outback Bowl set the stage for this year. Kiffin and the Rebels have amassed a 10-2 record—the first 10-win season in school history—and will be playing in the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day. 

For reaching that level of success, the Rebels just rewarded Kiffin with a lengthy contract extension, worth $7.5 million annually. His journey featured plenty of bumps in the road, but Kiffin is getting the last laugh to the tune of a hefty contract.