LOS ANGELES — Long after he was infamously left on the tarmac at LAX, the stage is set for Lane Kiffin to return to Los Angeles — this time, as coach of Ole Miss.
USC will welcome Ole Miss — and presumably, Kiffin — to the Coliseum to open the 2025 season, which would be 12 years after the Trojans fired him, the school announced Monday. The Trojans will then head to Oxford, Miss., in September 2026 for the second half of a home-and-home agreement.
Kiffin was hired at Ole Miss in December after a successful three-season run at Florida Atlantic. He had spent the previous three seasons at Alabama, where he landed as an assistant following his unceremonious exit at USC.
The former coach’s ties to USC trace to 2001, when he was hired as the tight ends coach under coach Pete Carroll. Kiffin, the son of former Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, remained on staff through the 2006 season, serving eventually as offensive coordinator, before taking a job as head coach of the Oakland Raiders.
By 2010, following a failed stint with the Raiders and a one-year layover as head coach at Tennessee, Kiffin returned to USC, taking over as head coach as the program dealt with the ramifications of crippling NCAA sanctions. He lasted three seasons before he was fired in September 2013 early in the morning after a lopsided loss to Arizona State.
This month, Kiffin bristled in a radio interview with Colin Cowherd that he still felt his USC tenure “wasn’t graded on a fair scale.”
“We weren’t 1-10,” Kiffin said. “We had 30 less scholarships and when (sanctions) hit, all your juniors and seniors can leave then you have to sign a No. 1 recruiting class in the country with kids knowing they can’t play in a bowl game for two years. Everyone said I couldn’t coach … but everyone forgot about that.”
Whether Kiffin — or even USC’s current coach Clay Helton — are still in their current positions five seasons from now remains to be seen. But as USC moves forward under new leadership in its athletic department, the scheduling of a potential reunion is a sign that the program and its former coach are ready to move forward.
It also doesn’t hurt to add an SEC opponent to USC’s future nonconference slate. The Trojans currently are scheduled to face Alabama in its season opener in 2020, but that game could be in jeopardy because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Otherwise, USC is scheduled to face Notre Dame (2020-2026), New Mexico (2020), San Jose State (2021, 2024), Brigham Young (2021, 2023), Rice (2022), Nevada (2023) and Fresno State (2026, 2028) in its future nonconference schedules.