Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin says college football is a professional sport

Lane Kiffin: People's Hero.

Lane Kiffin: People’s Hero.
Image: Getty Images

Lane Kiffin isn’t the hero college football was looking for, and certainly not the one we thought we were getting, but he may be the hero college football needs. The 47-year-old Ole Miss coach watched last week’s SEC drama unfold in kind of shocked glee (a man of the people), and in an interview published by Sports Illustrated, he took a very different approach than many of his peers took on the ever-changing state of college athletics. Rather than complaining about injustice or corruption and throwing thinly veiled accusations at his opponents, he takes it all on with open arms and full acceptance of reality – which increasingly looks like the only way to survive. in the sport.

While very few college coaches have spoken out explicitly against the NIL theory since its official inception last July, many have criticized the way it has played out, saying it was not being used “in the right way”. manner” or that the “spirit” of the rule is not respected. They use buzzwords like “unsustainable” and “semi-pro” and try to convince the world that this new legislation dooms the future of college athletics.

And while you might agree with some parts of that sentiment, no one wants to hear that stuff spew out of someone’s mouth making something in the $10 million range from a career. coaching kids who have (supposedly) brought nothing home for decades. Of course, the open secret of getting a little extra recruiting help from boosters has been around for a long time and is recognized, but now that money can openly be used as a recruiting tool, everyone is against it. the “spirit” and “ethics” of it all. In other words, coaches and administrators are upset that they no longer have full control over the kids, especially given the transfer portal’s lax rules.

Enter Lane Kiffin. Eternally likeable these days (unless you’re a Tennessee fan), genuine on social media, quick with a joke, and unapologetic himself, Kiffin was the only major coach in the program to come forward and say what we all think:

“We are a professional sport and they are professional players.”

Who would have thought, indeed? Amid all the proselytizing and grandstanding, the honest truth about the state of Lane’s sport freaking Kiffin. Kiffin, of course, was unappreciated for much of his career. Considered a failed nepotism hire with the Raiders, he also performed poorly at Tennessee and USC (“left on the tarmac” anyone know?) before Nick Saban took him under his wing in Alabama. Now head coach of Ole Miss, he does stunts like unfollowing everyone on Instagram except Arch Manning, telling reporters that the Saban-Fischer the drama should have aired on Pay-Per-View, done Nick Saban impressions, and most importantly, been funny on Twitter, the latter of which is a surefire way to win people over.

In the SI interview, he openly asserts that players need to be paid, and while the presence of collectives is questionable for just about everyone involved in the sport, he refuses to blame the players themselves for it. If money is at their disposal, particularly if they come from a financially unstable background, income would obviously be a major factor in their decision to go to college – and he’s willing to not look down on them for that. Everything is welcomed with acceptance.

“A lot of people sit down and say, ‘Oh, it’s going to go away. The NCAA will fix it! ‘OK Go ahead and wait,’ he told SI. is here. I don’t spend time like other people, ‘How long is he here? How are they going to fix this!?’ I don’t care. It’s here… People tried to avoid it. ‘We don’t do that shit!’ Almost all of these people are unemployed.

Knowing the NCAA, he’s right – it will take years to make any sort of change. He takes no shot at the reality of NIL. He knows players are paid to come in and there will be a lot of issues in the system that will need to be addressed, and he also said he thinks the performance gap on the pitch will widen, at least temporarily. , for the best schools. But at the same time, he knows that NIL isn’t going anywhere fast, and he’s dealing with it — frankly, a refreshing respite from complainants, including Saban.

While everyone mourns the past, he opens his eyes wide to the future of the sport. He reinvented himself just in time to be the face of college football’s new guard — that is, if he can win.

Sara R. Cicero