Saturday, November 24, 2007
Coach Ed Orgeron out at Ole Miss after 3 years
JACKSON, Miss. -- A dreadful final month on and off the
field cost Mississippi's Ed Orgeron his job, even though his bosses
had said his future was secure.
Orgeron was fired Saturday, a day after the Rebels lost 17-14 to
rival Mississippi State to finish 3-9 and winless in the
Southeastern Conference for the first time since 1982. Off the
field, Ole Miss was embarrassed by the disciplining of 20 players
who stole from hotels the Rebels were staying in on Friday nights.
"I told him that the chasm had grown too deep to go forward
into next year," Ole Miss athletic director Pete Boone said
Saturday. "He understood that, accepted it and was as strong a man
as you can imagine Coach O being. It was a very gentlemanly
conversation that we had."
Orgeron lasted only three seasons and the firing came as a
surprise to the Rebels.
"This is shocking," Ole Miss cornerback Dustin Mouzon said.
"I didn't see it coming. I didn't want this to happen. I have a
lot of respect for coach O and the staff. I grew a lot under them.
I am sad to see him go."
Orgeron, who finished 10-25 at Ole Miss, was a promising choice
when Chancellor Robert Khayat and Boone hired him to replace David
Cutcliffe in 2004. Cutcliffe went 4-7 in his last season, his only
losing year in six with the Rebels.
Orgeron came to Oxford from Southern California, where he was
defensive line coach for two national championship teams and had
built a reputation as one of the best recruiters in the country.
Boone said he did not feel the hiring was a mistake.
"He had a great resume, he had recommendations from top-caliber
coaches, he had been in successful programs, he had been an
integral part of those programs, he was recognized nationally as a
great recruiter," Boone said. "Based on the information you have
at the time, you make the call. Now I would not go back and try to
Boone said he has a plan to replace Orgeron but was not ready to
discuss details, including how quickly he'd like to hire a new
coach. He said assistant coaches Hugh Freeze and John Thompson will
run the program and will continue to recruit.
The school will pay Orgeron 75 percent of his $900,000 salary
through 2009, minus whatever he makes in his next job.
Khayat told the AP in October that Orgeron's job was safe and he
believed the coach would eventually field a winner even if it took
five or six years. Khayat said Saturday the firing was made more
difficult by his endorsement.
"What makes it really tough is that he is so passionate and
committed and works so hard," Khayat said. "I've never known
anyone who works harder or was more emotionally invested than coach
Orgeron and I personally have a lot of affection for him and a lot
of respect for him and I regret that this situation did not work
Orgeron did not respond to messages left at his home and on his
cell phone. In an interview The Associated Press last month, he
talked about his rough start and what he felt was constant
criticism from fans and local media.
Fans made fun of the 46-year-old Galliano, La., native for his
Cajun accent and fired-up manner, and would not let his prior
problems with alcohol and history of partying rest.
"It just wasn't the same relationship here," said Orgeron, a
former Miami assistant. "I just didn't understand some of the
things. When I first got here, my troubles at Miami, I'd dealt with
those things. I'm eight years sober now, I have a new life. I'm a
father. I've done some fantastic things in my personal life that
never haunted me in Los Angeles."
This season was particularly difficult because Orgeron's
recruiting efforts were only partially evident on a defense that
finished near the bottom in most SEC statistical categories.
Meanwhile, at least six players were suspended for not going to
class and other violations of team rules. Fans and local media also
quibbled with the idea of suspending those players, but leaving
those who stole about $780 worth of radios and pillows from two
hotels on probation. There also were questions about some of Orgeron's personnel
choices after quarterback Brent Schaeffer, benched most of the
season, stung LSU for 302 yards two weeks ago. Linebacker Tony Fein
became the team's most effective linebacker after sitting for much
of the first six games.
Most disappointing was Friday's loss to Mississippi State. The
Bulldogs scored 17 points in the final eight minutes after Orgeron
chose to go for it on fourth-and-1 at midfield with 10 minutes
left. Orgeron took the blame for the loss.
"My endorsement several weeks ago was with anticipation that we
would finish on a strong note," Boone said. "Coach O and I both
thought we would. But that did not happen."
Boone met Saturday morning with Khayat, then told Orgeron of