Lane Kiffin believed he had toe-tapped the line much like a wide receiver on the boundary.
Ole Miss' coach didn't expect to be fined by the Southeastern Conference for his retweet of a fan's criticism of the SEC's officiating crew in the wake of the Rebels' narrow loss to Auburn, which appeared to benefit from an improperly officiated call on a kickoff that appeared to glance off the Auburn return man and into the end zone without recovery by either team.
League commissioner Greg Sankey viewed it differently, and he called Kiffin to let him know he and Ole Miss were being slapped with a $25,000 fine.
“Yeah, I was very surprised,” Kiffin said Wednesday on the SEC coaches' teleconference. “It was not for [saying he wished he could share the call from SEC officiating head John McDaid]. It was for the retweet where a fan said something about the officials. I retweeted, I did not think that was fineable.
“It'd be one thing if I tweeted something and wrote something on it. So I was surprised when the commissioner called and told me. It was after I'd already spoken to the media, thought that I'd handled a very frustrating situation, getting told by them one minute by the league and John McDaid, this is what happened and they're apologetic for it. You guys don't get that explanation. Our fans don't. It's very frustrating for me.”
Kiffin joked on Twitter that the fine would come from the college fund of his son, Knox, but he clarified the fee doesn't actually come from his salary, which averages nearly $4 million per year at Ole Miss.
“Usually it doesn't come from your salary, usually you just, I guess, write a check to the league office,” Kiffin said.
Kiffin did not seem optimistic about his ability to appeal the fine nor his ability to win an appeal – if it is even allowable. Previously, an SEC source said institutions could not appeal punishments because the parameters have been decided by the league's members.
“I do not know that. I think that was asked and someone said they've got a policy pretty blanketed that basically the commissioner can do whatever he wants,” Kiffin said. “So it doesn't sound like it.”
Kiffin, whose Rebels this week face a winless Vanderbilt team in Nashville, bemoaned to Sankey that he didn't feel he had gotten value from this fine.
“I did say to him, when he said he was fining me, I said, 'Well, that's not real exciting that I didn't even get to say anything or make a joke,'” Kiffin shared. “I just got fined for a retweet; that's not really worth it.”
And, no, Kiffin won't hand-deliver the fine in pennies to the league's headquarters – roughly 185 miles from Ole Miss' Oxford campus.
“Someone sent me the penny thing and I thought that was kind of funny,” Kiffin said of paying the $25,000 fine with 2.5 million pennies. “Maybe that makes the fine more worth it, I guess, if it makes some people laugh.
“Plus I feel like that would be a long way to have to wheel a lot of pennies. You'd have to wheel them all the way to Birmingham. In the state of Alabama.”