In college football, Thanksgiving week means essentially three things: rivalry weeks, such as Auburn-Alabama in the ‘Iron Bowl,’ Ohio State-Michigan in ‘The Game,’ Washington-Washington State in the ‘Apple Cup’ and Oregon-Oregon State in the old ‘Civil War;’ it means the onset of the Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs; and it brings coaching searches in many instances to or near their conclusions.
That’s where things stand now at Auburn University, which fired the ill-fated Bryan Harsin midseason and has worked to secure his next head coach in the Tigers’ ongoing, perpetual battle to escape Alabama’s elephant-sized shadow.
At the top of Auburn’s list has been and continues to be Lane Kiffin, the Ole Miss coach who’s won a national title as Alabama’s offensive coordinator and in short order turned around both the Rebels’ program and prior to that Florida Atlantic University’s program.
Too, Kiffin can recruit, he’s proved to be ‘The Portal King’ with a competitive, 8-3 roster fortified with double-digit NCAA Transfer Portal additions between the 2021-22 seasons, and obviously Kiffin knows the ins and outs of the Alabama program from his time as Nick Saban’s offensive play-caller.
Multiple sources continue to tell FootballScoop that Kiffin is the lead target; but Auburn is aware that until a deal is done anything can happen. It’s also important to note that despite receiving contract extensions and raises in each of the past couple years after strong seasons atop the Ole Miss program, Kiffin is able to exit Oxford, Mississippi, for a relatively negligible fee in the world of college football.
As noted in the FootballScoop podcast updating this search and others, the Auburn game plan appears to be “Kiffin, he’s clearly their No. 1 choice … and I’m not sure who’s No. 2. But it’s a big gap.”
Hugh Freeze appears to be the No. 2 candidates behind Kiffin, and while he and new Auburn AD John Cohen have never worked together, they shared plenty of time together in the Magnolia State when Cohen was at Mississippi State in the Bulldogs’ athletics administration and Freeze was head coach at Ole Miss. Some believe that shared history has hampered Freeze’s candidacy, at least from a standpoint of being considered atop the Auburn list; however we hear he is considered a viable candidate should the Lane Train not come to town.
Auburn has done, and continues to do diligence regarding other candidates including background work on other head coaches currently in the top 10.
Matt Rhule, sources tell FootballScoop, has been in the discussion; although signs do not currently point in that direction on this search.
It should also be noted that Cadillac Williams has done everything Auburn has wanted in this role. He has rallied the players and the fans. We discussed on multiple podcasts that if Harsin were to be fired Auburn was expected to move Cadillac into this role exactly for that reason. He has served Auburn University well and it is expected he will be offered a significant role moving forward. Auburn would love to pair Kiffin with Cadillac if possible, if Kiffin doesn’t happen it opens a whole new world of possibilities.
As highlighted above and more deeply on the podcast below, until the ink is dry, anything is possible. Enjoy the Iron Bowl and then get yourself ready for the real fun.
Here’s the FootballScoop ‘Coaching Search Update’ podcast, with all the latest information at college football’s biggest openings:
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