We wrote Saturday that after Ole Miss's inexplicable 30-7 loss to Vanderbilt, Houston Nutt had eclipsed Mark Richt as the SEC coach on the hottest seat in the league. Unfortunately for Nutt, the actions of Rebel athletic director Pete Boone since that defeat have done nothing to disprove that assumption.
Monday, Boone took the highly unusual step of speaking at Nutt's Monday press conference, preceding his coach's remarks with some 13 minutes of commentary on the Rebels' predicament. "[Nutt is] committed to correcting some of the issues that he sees are correctable and fixable within the program," Boone said. "And that's what his job is, and that's what he'll be doing."
"I appreciate Pete Boone meeting with the staff and myself, appreciate what he did the last 24 hours," Nutt said (not all that convincingly, in our opinion). "But now bottom line is that it's up to us as coaches, as players to do our jobs."
Boone's appearance at the press conference might be viewed as the dreaded "vote of confidence" that so often signals the beginning of the end for an embattled coach, but Nutt would no doubt take that over Boone's other action in those "24 hours": sending an open letter to Ole Miss fans that asked for support but also called the loss to Vanderbilt "unacceptable." Courtesy of the Clarion-Ledger, an excerpt:
Is there any doubt that "we discussed several areas that needed improvement" is administrator-speak for "I told him to quit embarrassing himself, or else"?
The fullness of the Ole Miss football experience that you deserve and have generously invested in, has not lived up to expectations recently. Coach Nutt and I met today and discussed the current state of Ole Miss football. Both of us are extremely disappointed in our performance this year. We agreed that to be successful, this disappointment must be met head on with solutions for improvement. We discussed several areas that needed improvement and I support Coach Nutt in his effort to correct those areas.As I have said, Saturday’s performance and our running two-season SEC record are unacceptable. Our commitment to compete at a championship level is as strong as ever and we will succeed!
There's two things that might save Nutt's job even in the event the season continues to turn sour: that his back-to-back Cotton Bowl championships remain a nearly-unprecedented feat for the Rebels since the Archie Manning days, and that he has a substantial buyout (thanks to the ever-ingenious machinations of agent Jimmy Sexton) that the Rebels -- already in the midst of a sizable fund-raising campaign to upgrade both the basketball and football facilities -- may not be able to afford.
But it won't help Nutt that Boone may be under a little bit of pressure, too. Though likely only a vocal minority of Ole Miss fans, a group calling itself "Forward Rebels" took out ads in multiple newspapers (including, again, the Clarion-Ledger) after the Vandy debacle claiming that "the Ole Miss administration is the problem":
For a full-size version, click here, but know it's not Nutt the ad is referring to when it says "our leadership has failed us."
Again, that's not to say Boone is under that much heat at this time. But if his coach continues to struggle to the point that either Nutt goes or they both do, we suspect Boone will do his best to find the money for the buyout ... and that the pain of that search likely explains why he's making no secret of his desire to see Nutt turn things around as quickly as possible.
Ad image HT: Friends of the Program.