Monday, September 19, 2011
Nutt not the only one feeling the heat
By ESPN.com staff
It’s not a news flash that all is not well right now with the Ole Miss football program.
The Rebels are coming off an embarrassing 30-7 loss to Vanderbilt, their seventh straight SEC loss dating back to last season. Their average margin of defeat in those seven losses is 17.6 points.
After a 4-8 season a year ago, the last thing Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt needs is another losing season.
He also doesn’t need an athletic director grandstanding the way Pete Boone did Monday at Nutt’s regularly scheduled news conference.
Boone was the first to speak, and he was quick to promise fans that they would see a “totally different team” than the one they saw last weekend in Nashville.
Boone and Nutt had already met privately Sunday. Boone sent out a letter later Sunday night to Ole Miss donors and season-ticket holders asking for their continued support and assuring them that the problems with the football team would be dealt with “head on with solutions for improvement.”
All this sounds good, and Boone has every right as athletic director to meet with his coach and offer suggestions.
But if you ask me, this whole thing reeks of Boone trying to save his own neck as much as it does his trying to steer the football program back on track.
Why upstage your coach like that publicly, especially three games into the season? All you’re doing is making an already difficult situation for Nutt and his staff an impossible situation.
Those athletic directors who are genuinely strong and secure in their jobs don’t have to make public spectacles of the situation when things get tough.
They say what they have to say to their coaches in private, make any suggestions they have to offer in private and otherwise keep a low profile.
They certainly don’t come to their coach’s weekly news conference and tell the world that the way Ole Miss is playing right now is unacceptable.
Everybody knows that. We don’t need Boone to get up in front of the cameras to tell us that.
Why pour salt into the wound? Support your coach and do it in such a way that exudes being a leader.
The truth is that it may be too late. It sounds like Boone has his own issues.
A group calling itself “Forward Rebels” had already taken out advertisements around the state of Mississippi prior to last Saturday’s game questioning the leadership of the Ole Miss administration. That same group made it clear that it was the administration that was the problem and not the coaches, players or fans.
There’s blame to go around, and clearly Nutt faces an uphill battle if he’s going to survive at Ole Miss.
Those back-to-back Cotton Bowl victories his first two seasons are getting further and further in the rear-view mirror. That’s what happens when you lose two in a row to arch-rival Mississippi State, seven consecutive league games and three out of four to Vanderbilt.
When Nutt had a chance to speak Monday at his news conference, followed by Boone’s guest appearance, Nutt was asked if he felt like he were coaching for his job.
“This is my 14th year (in the SEC), and it’s like that every day,” Nutt responded.
Indeed it is. The pressure in this league to win, with all the money being paid to coaches and all the money being generated, is mind-numbing.
Coaches understand that. They deal with it in their own way and accept the inevitable: You’re on the hot seat in the SEC the second you take the job.
But in this case, it’s obvious that Nutt’s not the only one in Oxford feeling the heat.
So is the guy who led off the news conference earlier Monday.