Lane Kiffin has been Ole Miss’s head coach for three days, and already the Rebels’ hire is paying off in dramatic terms.
According to a report Wednesday from Aaron Suttles of The Athletic — who covers the Crimson Tide as well as anyone — Kiffin is working to bring as many current, former and potential Alabama coaches as he can get his hands on. That list starts with Scott Cochran, whom Suttles reports Kiffin has offered an on-the-field coaching spot in order to get him to leave Tuscaloosa.
Cochran is widely viewed as the most important staff member in Tuscaloosa other than The Man himself, joining Saban’s staff as the strength and conditioning coach in 2007 and remaining in place ever since. In fact, Cochran is the only Alabama staff member still in the same role dating back to Saban’s 2007 hiring outside of Saban. He also makes $595,000 at Alabama, fifth highest among strength coaches in all of college football.
Other coaches on Kiffin’s radar include current secondary coach Karl Scott, former Alabama defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi and former Alabama defensive line coach Bo Davis. Lupoi spent 2014-18 on Saban’s staff, rising from a defensive analyst to defensive coordinator, and is now the Cleveland Browns’ defensive line coach. Davis deposited multiple stints as Saban’s defensive line coach and now works in the same role with the Detroit Lions.
In addition to hiring ace recruiters with SEC experience, Suttles reports the hirings are driven by a personal animosity Kiffin harbors toward Saban, stemming from his curt dismissal in between the College Football Playoff semifinals and finals in the 2016 season. As Suttles writes:
It’s been nearly three years since Saban unceremoniously fired Kiffin, his offensive coordinator, two days after Alabama beat Washington in the 2016 College Football Playoff semifinal at the Peach Bowl. Saban fired Kiffin a week before the national championship game. Kiffin was embarrassed. Kiffin was angry. Kiffin hasn’t forgotten.
That dismissal fueled Kiffin’s desire to return to the SEC and a burning passion to exact revenge on Saban, multiple people with knowledge of the matter told The Athletic.
The timing here is hilariously ironic, as Wednesday’s bombshell follows the Tuesday night premier of an HBO documentary on the friendship between Saban and Bill Belichick, which includes an exchange where Saban expresses frustration at former assistants who — often having taken SEC jobs — attempt to build their new staffs by pilfering the former boss.
“We’ve always had sort of a mutual respect for how we sort of take each other’s people,” Saban says to Belichick, via AL.com. “It’s one thing that I always try to emphasize to the guys: what I have a tough time with, aight, is we’ve had however many guys who have worked here who are at Georgia, Tennessee — whoever, wherever — is when they get those jobs, and in most cases you’ve helped them, is they have a hard time understanding why they can’t take your people.
“I’m gonna help you get a job, (only) so that you can take what I’ve tried to build here and destroy the continuity of what I have? It’s amazing how some of the assistants don’t understand why that’s not a good thing.”
Cochran isn’t just one of Saban’s “people.” He’s his person, the lone direct line from the beginning of the Crimson Dynasty to today and, in fact, the only coach (again, outside of Saban himself) who deals with the players on a daily basis that hasn’t changed over during the time Alabama’s rising seniors have been on campus. (Suttles’ report does not touch on Cochran’s answer to Kiffin’s reported offer, but from the way it’s written it seems as if Cochran passed.)
That conversation above was recorded last spring, so Saban couldn’t have known at that time Kiffin would return to his life in the form of a division rival trying to poach his most valuable staff member.
But, boy oh boy, I think we can all agree it’s a shame HBO’s cameras didn’t capture his reaction to this Lane Kiffin move.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.
Update> Matt Zenitz of AL.com reports that Lane did not offer Cochran a spot at Ole Miss.
Per Zenitz, “Contrary to a report, Lane Kiffin hasn’t offered Cochran a job at Ole Miss.” Zenitz added, “While Kiffin has relationships with both Cochran and Lupoi dating back to their time together at Alabama, it’s extremely unlikely either will end up being part of Kiffin’s staff at Ole Miss.”