Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin Calls College Football a ‘Professional Sport’ While Discussing NIL, Other Changes

by Bryan Fyalkowski

Give Lane Kiffin a microphone and the quotes will start flowing out like a busted dam.

In an exclusive Q&A with Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger, the Ole Miss head football coach shared his true feelings about the NCAA’s Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) rules, the current state of recruiting and Alabama’s Nick Saban.

Kiffin shared his opinion that NIL money is now the most important factor in recruiting.

“It’s not the size of the stadium, not the head coach, not the campus or the conference. The No. 1 thing will be money. And how would you blame them?” he said. “Go ahead and build facilities and these great weight rooms and training rooms, but you ain’t gonna have any good players in them if you don’t have NIL money. I don’t care who the coach is or how hard you recruit, that is not going to win over money.”

Kiffin addressed hollow concerns that so much money funneling to the players – instead of coaches and/or administrators – is unsustainable.

“You’ve got to think that it is here to stay,” he said. “To say that it’s not sustainable, why? Ten years ago, no one would have said schools were going to pay coaches $10 million a year. Well, they do now. Donors pay $30 to $40 million to one coach when they fire him, but they’re not going to raise $20 million a year for players? Yeah, they are. If there’s something big-money people are motivated to do, they do.”

Kiffin remarked that he considers college football to be operating on a professional basis already.

“How are we not a professional sport? What is the difference? [Players] are making money. They can opt into free agency,” he said. “We’re a professional sport, and they are professional players. Contracted employees without contracts. They can get out whenever they want. And how is it not being seen that, unless there are changes of rules around caps and contracts, how is every elite college player not at the end of their season [entering the portal]?”

Alabama, Nick Saban Against Everybody

Lane Kiffin was the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2014-2016 under Nick Saban. He weighed in on Alabama’s operation and how he sees the head coach’s legacy shaking out.

“If you’re Alabama, how does your gap not continue to widen? You were already signing No. 1 classes,” Kiffin said. “Now there’s a money factor involved, and you have top resources for that and you have the portal so you are replacing. If you have holes anywhere with guys leaving, they’re just going to replace them. You see them doing it. Here’s the best players out there not playing at Alabama. They can come take these spots.”

He added, “People always ask me when Nick Saban will retire. Before, I said, ‘Not for a long time.’ He’s driven and he works like he’s 30. Now, it’ll be never. Why would he? You get the best players, have free agency to pluck the best players. He’ll be there forever. He might double his championships.”

In the end, Kiffin identified that college football would operate in “tiers” of the top 8-10 teams, then the next 8-25 in the next tier, and then everybody else from 25-130. Essentially, in his mind, the rich will get richer because of the resources they have.

“Take professional sports. [Imagine if] instead of winning and drafting at the end, you win and draft at the top,” Kiffin said. “You are Team Whatever and you draft in the top-five every year and get a higher cap than everybody you are playing against, and in free agency, you get the first pick by using your higher cap. How is that not going to separate?”

Uncensored quotes from the “Portal King” never disappoint.