Mississippi's Nutt will resign at end of season

Associated Press
FILE - In this Oct. 29, 2011 file photo, Mississippi coach Houston Nutt is pictured in the second half of a 41-23 loss to Auburn in their NCAA college football game at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala. The call for Nutt to step down or be fired has intensified after struggling Mississippi lost to Kentucky over the weekend in a battle of winless SEC teams. (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File)
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OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Houston Nutt came to Mississippi with the goal of becoming the first coach to lead the Rebels to the Southeastern Conference championship game.

It didn't happen, far from it. Over the past year, the Rebels couldn't win a single SEC game.

"The thing about the SEC that I know," Nutt said. "They pay you to win."

By that standard, he didn't earn his salary over the past two seasons. That's why Nutt said Monday he wasn't surprised he was asked to resign at the end of the season.

The Rebels have lost 12 consecutive Southeastern Conference games, including Saturday's 30-13 loss to Kentucky. Mississippi is 2-7 this year, 0-6 in the SEC. Nutt is 24-23 in his four years in Oxford.

He'll stay to lead the Rebels for the season's final three games, beginning with a home contest against Louisiana Tech on Saturday.

Mississippi athletic director Pete Boone announced the move during a press conference with members of a somber coaching staff filling the back of the room.

Boone also said he will step down as AD by the end of 2012.

"I wanted to be the first coach to take them to Atlanta. One of the best venues out there," Nutt said. "We fell short of that goal. But I think we've made significant progress.

"I believe our program is in better shape than it was when I arrived."

Nutt is making approximately $2.7 million this season. Boone said the coach has a $6 million buyout clause in his contract. However, if no one on Nutt's staff is retained by the next coach, the total buyout will be about $8 million.

"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."

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 hosts 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 54-year-old coach came to Oxford after a 10-year tenure at Arkansas and immediately led Ole Miss to an 18-8 record over his first two seasons, including back-to-back Cotton Bowl victories over 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.

"This is the toughest conference in America," Nutt said.

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 next coach will be the Rebels' fifth since 1998 and third since 2007.

Boone has been the Ole Miss athletic director for 14 years over two separate tenures. His last two football hires — Ed Orgeron and 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 good decisions. He said he hadn't put together a list of qualifications for a new coach or athletic director.

"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 most didn't know until just before the announcement. Nutt said he would address the team later Monday afternoon.

Nutt said his immediate focus would be on beating Louisiana Tech, but after the season he wanted to continue his coaching career.

"I'll try to sit down with (my wife) and drink some iced tea," Nutt said. "And then we'll see what happens."

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