Lane Kiffin doesn't understand Ole Miss' COVID-19 contact-tracing procedures, and, if he now understands the logic in Southeastern Conference officials' decision not to stop play and review a controversial kickoff in Ole Miss' loss Saturday against Auburn, Kiffin isn't allowed to explain.
Both topics are dominating the early-season storylines for the Rebels, who Kiffin shared are again going to be without key defensive players this week due to COVID-19 testing and protocols.
And, oh yeah, Kiffin admits he's spoken with SEC head of football officials John McDaid – but Kiffin isn't allowed to discuss what the SEC office told him about last Saturday's game. With the Rebels clinging to a 28-27 lead, they kicked deep to Auburn and the Tigers' return man appeared to have the ball glance off his finger and bound into the end zone. Officials blew dead the play before anyone recovered the football.
“I really struggled with this a lot. I just had the conversation with them to explain what happened. I really wish for our players, for our fans that they could hear what I was just told,” Kiffin told reporters. “I asked and can't really share, if you want to call it, their explanation. The TV copy and everybody in the country can see (the kickoff) hit him.
“I asked the side judge, 'Why aren't they replaying it? Do I need to challenge?' He said they've already looked at it, there's nothing there. I'm not allowed to say anything about the conversation, but I really wish the fans and players could hear what I was told.”
Per a collegiate official who spoke to FootballScoop, the proper interpretation of the rule on a kickoff that touches a member of the receiving team: "The receivers have to recover and it would be a touchback. If the kicking team recovers, touchdown."
Kiffin points out that non-answer answers aren't really acceptable for head coaches, stopping just short of flat-out saying that such responses seem fine for the league office.
“You know what I'd really like, I'd really like when guys ask me questions about managing a game or how I play players, just to say that's a personal thing and I can't discuss it with you,” Kiffin said. “I'd really like to be able to answer those questions like that.”
Likewise, Kiffin doesn't understand what he believes are inconsistencies in COVID-19 protocols; not handling positive or negative tests but merely the contact tracing elements.
“We got some more in the last three days. It's becoming very challenging,” Kiffin said of missing players due to COVID-19 protocols. “We had two starters out last week and for whatever reason, it continues to hit us on defense.
“And I still don't understand, if I get it, and Adam (Kuffner) is around me, I'm out for 10 days and Adam's out for 14 days. That's really difficult. Losing close contacts that continue to test negative.”
Kiffin emphasizes retesting after a positive test isn't the issue he finds baffling.
“That's not the problem. The problem is the contact tracing,” Kiffin said. “Those guys can't test out. So they continue to test negative but yet you can't bring them back for 14 days. That, to me, is the part that's really frustrating. Schools have different rules. I think in some cases School A is going to play the guy when School B doesn't. That's really frustrating.”