Lane Kiffin on conference realignment: ‘SEC is a whole ’nother animal’

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

True to style, Lane Kiffin started the question-and-answer segment of his SEC Media Days appearance Monday with some flair.

Asked about trick plays and what he remembered from dominant Alabama coach Nick Saban’s philosophy with them, the Ole Miss coach let out a laugh.

“Well, (UGA coach) Kirby Smart used to say sometimes you come up here and just (talk) about Alabama. So our first question somehow is about Nick Saban, so ... That’s pretty usual,” Kiffin said. He and Smart are former Saban assistant coaches.

Much of the conversation at SEC Media Days, which started Monday at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, centered around the big picture of conference expansion or realignment, with Texas and Oklahoma set to join the SEC in 2025 and USC and UCLA set to join the Big Ten in 2024.

But Kiffin, entering his third season at Ole Miss having overseen a leap from a 5-5 record in Year 1 to a 10-3 record in Year 2, zeroed in on the SEC when asked about challenges those four teams (USC, UCLA, Texas, Oklahoma) could face.

“You know, they’ve been playing in great conferences and against great opponents,” Kiffin said. “I mean, I just say how it is. I don’t know that there’s a huge jump into the Big Ten. I think going to the SEC is a whole ‘nother animal. I think the draft picks, national championships prove that coming out of the SEC.

“I just said, it’s a different world. Said it for a long time: The SEC just means more. And it does. It’s different, it’s ahead of the game. Now, over the last five, 10 years, the players started coming that didn’t used to come from the Northeast and West Coast very often at all. That transition I feel like started with Alabama especially, and now they’re coming to the SEC.”

Kiffin added: “That’s a big challenge. I know everything obviously is about money nowadays or else teams wouldn’t be going with playing all over the place, breaking up these awesome traditions. The coaches got to deal with it and get ready for a different world.”

Kiffin also addressed being on the inside of the SEC while there’s volatility or uncertainty swirling on the outside, as conference realignment shakes out, and again expressed frustration with potentially losing traditions in the college football landscape.

“I haven’t really thought about it that way,” Kiffin said. “I’ve said, just like I mentioned, the SEC is the top of everything. So people are always trying to chase the SEC and figure it out. I don’t know the history behind the moves, but I’m sure it had something to do with the SEC starting the unique moves for that to happen, for traditional teams like USC and UCLA to move like that, so ... Not that my opinion matters on it, but I don’t like that. I think there’s so much tradition. When you go to places, you’ve been to USC, all these different places, you see how passionate fans are about certain things, what matters, rivalries. For those to be dismantled for money is kind of a shame.”