By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
OXFORD, Miss. – Houston Nutt has become an easy target on the message boards over the past few months and that culminated with the announcement on Monday that the 2011 campaign would be his last.
Easy target simply because the Rebels are 2-7 this season and haven’t won a Southeastern Conference game in six tries this year. But, realistically, in looking back at the numbers, it’s hard not to be impressed by what Nutt was able to accomplish during his four-year tenure at Ole Miss.
Yes, it’s been only four years since Nutt took over the program and it was as recent as January 2, 2010 that the Rebels were hoisting their second consecutive Cotton Bowl trophy after a commanding 21-7 victory against Oklahoma State.
That makes you think, doesn’t it?
“We got off on a great start those first two years,” Nutt said Monday in his press conference. “We had back-to-back January 1st bowls for the first time in 50 years. To me, that was a real signal. It is difficult, but I believe it can be done here. It is a wonderful place. You are in the most competitive, talented league in America.”
Here is just a snapshot of some of Nutt’s accomplishments while at Ole Miss:
• Overall record of 24-23 at Ole Miss (.511), including an 18-8 (.692) tally over his first two seasons in Oxford.
• The 2008 SEC Coach of the Year by the SEC Coaches and the Touchdown Club of Atlanta.
• Produced back-to-back nine win seasons in 2008 and 2009, marking the first time that had occurred at Ole Miss since 1961-62.
• Broke a four-year bowl drought for the Rebels with back-to-back victories in the Cotton Bowl, which marked the first time Ole Miss had accomplished that feat since 1960-61.
• In his first season in Oxford, Nutt led one of the greatest turnarounds in school history, reviving a Rebel squad that was coming off four straight losing seasons and a 3-8 campaign with no conference wins in 2007. With a 9-4 record (5-3 in the SEC), it marked the team's best improvement from one season to the next since legendary Ole Miss Coach John Vaught's debut in 1947.
• In his four seasons in Oxford, Nutt’s teams have recorded five wins against ranked teams and three victories against top-10 squads.
• Has mentored eight Rebels to be drafted by NFL squads, including two first-rounders for the first time in school history in 2009 with Michael Oher and Peria Jerry.
Nutt will coach his final game for the Rebels on Nov. 26 at Mississippi State, but it’s important that the accomplishments that he achieved over the past four years not be so easily forgotten when his tenure in Oxford comes to a close.
Nutt said Monday that no one wanted the Ole Miss program to be successful more than he did.
“Nobody puts more pressure on myself than me,” Nutt said. “I know we want to win. We don’t plan for 2-7. We plan to win and go to a bowl game and that was our goal.”
And while Nutt has always been committed to winning on the field, some of his most notable successes have come off the field. He was named the 2009 Fellowship of Christian Athletes Coach of the Year, donated a gift of $100,000 to the University in April 2009 to create scholarships for deserving student-athletes and go towards the indoor practice facility. He has had numerous student-athletes named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll, including 22 Rebels in 2009.
“You should be very proud of the young men that make up our football team,” Nutt said. “We have fine young men that do it right and you don’t always get to hear about them. We do a great job with academics. We take it personally and we want our guys to graduate. I am really proud of how there are a lot of young men that graduated and walked across the state. They changed their lives. We have some real difference-makers in these coaches.”
And, while ultimately, Nutt won’t have the opportunity to fulfill one of his goals of winning an SEC Championship at Ole Miss, he said Monday that given the chance to do it all over again, he wouldn’t change much.
“I felt like we had a really good plan in place,” Nutt said. “I love recruiting in this area. We have one of the most beautiful campuses in the world; we have a lot of positives. We have an indoor facility that is just awesome. Just looking back, I wouldn’t change anything, except I want more wins.”