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Ole Miss hires Kiffin as coach

OXFORD, Miss. — Lane Kiffin is back in the Southeastern Conference vowing to lead Mississippi the kind of consistent success it has lacked for much of its history.

“We didn’t come here to be good,” the new Ole Miss coach said Monday. “That’s not why we’re here today. We came here to be great.”

Kiffin agreed to a four-year deal worth $16.2 million, including $3.9 million in 2020. He takes over for Matt Luke, an Ole Miss alum who was fired after going 15-21 in three seasons.

New Ole Miss athletic director Keith Carter said at the start of this coaching search that he wanted to find someone who could command a room and galvanize a fan base that had grown tired of losing.

Carter believes he found that person in Kiffin, a former Tennessee and Southern California coach who just led Florida Atlantic to its second Conference USA title in the last three years. Kiffin went 26-13 at Florida Atlantic and owns an overall record of 61-34 in eight seasons.

The excitement of Ole Miss’ fan base about Kiffin was evident from the reception he received, with a crowd gathering to watch his plane land in Oxford well before his introductory news conference.

“A lot better than another tarmac experience that I had,” Kiffin quipped in reference to the time he got fired as Southern California’s coach near the team plane after a 2013 loss to Arizona State.

Kiffin takes over an Ole Miss program that hasn’t had a winning season since going 10-3 in 2015 and winning the Sugar Bowl. The Rebels went 4-8 this season.

But the Rebels have shown they can win, as Kiffin is quick to point out.

Kiffin noted that Alabama lost just two regular-season games when he was the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator from 2014-16. Both those losses came against Ole Miss.

“You can win there because I saw it,” Kiffin said. “No one else was beating us. I always kind of said that’s a premier job that at times has performed like that and at times hasn’t. That’s partly why we’re here today. It’s our job to bring it back to where it’s been before and sustain” that success.

Those Ole Miss teams that beat Alabama were coached by Hugh Freeze, who resigned in the summer of 2017 after university officials found a “pattern of personal misconduct” that started with the school’s investigation into a call to an escort service.

Elsewhere:

n Sam Pittman backed away from the microphone and wiped his eyes, his emotions getting the better of him as he addressed a throng of Arkansas fans Monday afternoon.

Pittman was introduced as the 34th head coach in program history, ending an almost one-month search for a new Razorbacks leader after former coach Chad Morris was fired after less than two full seasons and a 4-18 record.

Pittman, 58, is no stranger to Arkansas having served as an assistant coach under Bret Bielema from 2013-15 before taking a job as the offensive line coach at Georgia under Kirby Smart. Pittman also coached at North Carolina and Tennessee.

“I’m a wreck,” Pittman said as he tried to gather his emotions. “This means a lot to me.”

After regaining his composure, Pittman, who signed a 5-year, $15 million contract, said the team would put in the work to try and climb out of the cellar of the SEC West. Pittman inherits a program that has lost 19 consecutive conference games.

n Ohio State defensive end Chase Young won the Bronko Nagurski Award given to the nation’s top college defensive player on Monday night.

Young was the nation’s most dominant player on defense this season, recording 16 1/2 sacks and forcing six fumbles in 10 games for the Buckeyes. His best game came against then-No. 13 Wisconsin when he had four sacks and two forced fumbles in a 38-7 victory.

The 6-foot-6, 265-pound Young joins a list of former Nagurski Award winners that includes Aaron Donald.

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