Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hiring Nutt Great Move for Ole Miss

This morning, Ole Miss hired former Arkansas coach Houston Nutt as its 36th football coach in school history.

In less than 24 hours, the question as to who the next coach will be has changed to a deal being completed by brunch.

Just as soon as Nutt left his coveted football position in Fayetteville Monday evening, the schools wanting him for their own lined up around the block.

Not only had Ole Miss made Nutt its No. 1 choice to replace Ed Orgeron, but so had Baylor, which got rid of Guy Morriss last week. Georgia Tech, which fired Chan Gailey, had reportedly set its sights on the former Razorback head man, while Nebraska, which wanted Nutt four years ago before hiring Bill Callahan, was also a possibility to go after the run-happy Nutt.

In the fast-paced world of coaching hires, Nutt clearly rose to the top of many schools’ wish lists.

Who could blame Ole Miss and other schools for looking at Nutt? He had a tremendous 10-year run at Arkansas. He led the Razorbacks to three Southeastern Conference West titles, eight bowl games and 75 wins. Oh yeah, he was the SEC Coach of the Year in 2006. Sure he was just 2-5 in bowl games with the Razorbacks, but going to bowl games is something the Rebels have forgotten how to do.

Thanks to a win over then-No. 1 LSU this past Friday, Nutt now has 111 career wins in 15 seasons as a head coach.

Nutt knows how to win
The man knows how to win and win big, and schools like Ole Miss, which has suffered through four straight losing seasons, and Baylor, which hasn’t been good since Grant Teaff piloted the Bears in the 1970s through the early 1990s, were ready to offer Nutt in the neighborhood of $2 million per year in the attempt to end the losing.

There seem to be several reasons why Nutt is no longer at Arkansas, but winning games, big games, has never been much of an issue. Sure Arkansas fans would have loved to win one or both of the SEC title games the Razorbacks were involved in, but it’s hard to argue with the overall success of the Razorbacks under Nutt.

Not only has the program flourished since Nutt took over for Danny Ford in 1998, Arkansas is on solid footing from a talent standpoint so that even his successor should be able to produce a winning season in 2008.

With players like Felix Jones, Jonathan Luigs, Casey Dick, Malcolm Sheppard, Andrew Davie, Jerrell Norton, Alex Tejada and Jeremy Davis still having at least a year of eligibility left, Nutt has left the cupboard pretty full for the next coach, which says a lot about the stability of the program.

Sure, star running back and Heisman Trophy front runner Darren McFadden is just a junior, but he wasn’t coming back even if Nutt was there in 2008.

Nutt loved by his players
The Arkansas players loved Nutt and they have always given him every ounce of effort. In a one-game setting, Nutt has proven he is one of the best, if not the best, coach in the SEC time and time again.

He has shown the ability to adapt his coaching skills around the players on the roster, and rather than force them to do something they couldn’t do, he has made them better by coaching to their strengths.

It didn’t take a rocket scientist, or better yet, somebody with a high football IQ to recognize that Nutt was the best coach available to fill any and all of the openings in college football currently. His record and accomplishments on the field speak for themselves.

Thankfully for Ole Miss’ sake, the school was able to hire a quality coach like Nutt to run the program. Negotiations continued to progress throughout the night Monday, while a press conference to announce his hiring will be Wednesday.

All of this is indeed good news for Rebel fans all over the state, the South and beyond. Hope and excitement is sure to return to a fan base that became fractured, to say the least, under Orgeron. The hiring of Nutt in this wild, wacky coaching search business is a good thing and obtaining Nutt’s services to lead the Rebels in 2008 and beyond is definitely an upgrade and a reason to celebrate for many reasons.

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