Ole Miss’ Nutt to resign season’s end
|Record through Nov. 5, 2011.|
OXFORD, Miss. -- After more than a year without a Southeastern Conference victory, Mississippi coach Houston Nutt will resign.
The fourth-year Rebels’ coach will lead the team for the remainder of the season, athletic director Pete Boone said at a press conference Monday. Boone also announced that he will step down as athletic director by the end of 2012.
The Rebels have lost 12 consecutive Southeastern Conference games, including Saturday’s 30-13 loss to Kentucky. Mississippi is 2-7 this year, including 0-6 in the SEC. Nutt is 24-23 in his four years in Oxford.
“I’m grateful to coach Nutt for his commitment to our university and his commitment to our football program,” Ole Miss Chancellor Dr. Dan Jones said. “I know we’re all disappointed in the lack of success over the last two years.”
Nutt, 54, did not attend the first hour of the press conference. He said during his weekly teleconference with reporters that he hadn’t heard from the administration about his job status.
He is making approximately $2.7 million this season. Boone said the coach has a $6 million buyout clause in his contract. If no one on Nutt’s staff is retained by the next coach, the total buyout will be about $8 million.
Boone said he didn’t make an emotional decision about Nutt’s future, but instead weighed the total decline of the program during the past two seasons, which have produced a combined 6-15 record.
“Our goal is to compete for championships,” Boone said. “And we are not making progress in that regard.”
Ole Miss will play Louisiana Tech on Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium before ending the season with two conference games against LSU and Mississippi State
Nutt’s stunning fall was hard to fathom just two years ago. The veteran coach came to Oxford after a 10-year tenure at Arkansas and immediately led Ole Miss to an 18-8 record during his first two seasons, including back-to-back Cotton Bowl victories against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.
It was the Rebels’ best back-to-back seasons in nearly 40 years.
But those victories came with recruits brought to Ole Miss by former coach Ed Orgeron, who was widely seen as a terrific recruiter but terrible game-day coach. Once the roster started filling with Nutt’s recruits, the talent level dropped noticeably.
The downfall began in the 2010 season opener, when Ole Miss was stunned by lowly Jacksonville State 49-48 in double overtime. It was the first time in program history that Ole Miss has lost to a team from the Football Championship Subdivision level.
Things never improved from that point. The Rebels finished with a 4-8 record last season and have been even worse this year. Though Ole Miss has a core of encouraging freshmen, including receivers Nickolas Brassell and Donte Moncrief, it wasn’t enough to win an SEC game or persuade the Ole Miss administration that Nutt was the right person for the job going forward.
Ole Miss has been a largely mediocre program for decades, but the Rebels’ recent troubles were particularly embarrassing. The 12 straight SEC losses are the most in program history and Nutt has lost two straight to rival Mississippi State. A fan-based group called Forward Rebels bought several full-page advertisements in area newspapers, criticizing the administration and calling for new leadership.
The new coach will be the Rebels’ fifth since 1998 and third since 2007.
Boone has been the Ole Miss athletic director for 14 years during two separate tenures. His last two football hires -- Ed Orgeron and Houston Nutt -- have not turned out well.
Jones said that former Ole Miss quarterback Archie Manning and FedEx executive vice president Mike Glenn will lead the search for both a new football coach and an athletic director. Jones will have the final decision on both hires.
Jones said hiring a coach before an athletic director would not be an ideal situation, but was confident the university would make quality hires.
“I’m anxious to sit down with the committee and see what they have to say,” Jones said.
Ole Miss assistant coaches and players streamed through the football facilities on Monday afternoon, but didn’t receive official word of the news until just before the announcement.