COLUMN: If there is a college football coach out there that has been looking for a tough challenge, a really tough challenge, then Ole Miss is the perfect job for you.
Archie Manning has got to love Ole Miss to have gotten himself involved with a reclamation project like Ole Miss has become.
Outside of what is going on at Penn State, I’m not sure there is a tougher job to hire to right now. North Carolina is looking for a coach, but the Tar Heels are 6-4 and headed to a bowl and a coach doesn’t have to compete against the likes of Alabama and LSU each year. Arizona is 2-8 like Ole Miss, so maybe that makes things an even sell, but that’s not saying much.
This football situation has become more than just getting a new coach and new staff to lead the way. There has to be a serious evaluation of the roster as well. Inexperience and youth are the biggest reasons outgoing coach Houston Nutt has said the team has not won, but it’s more than just playing too many freshmen.
The players had a golden opportunity to make a tough, disappointing season a little bit better by defeating Louisiana Tech this past Saturday night. It was a chance to win one for Nutt and his staff as they head out of Oxford. A win would have given them some needed momentum heading into the two biggest games of the season against No. 1 LSU and Mississippi State.
But winning is not something this team can do, at all. Neither is playing hard or smart or with precision.
There seems to be no sense of pride to this team, old or young, and that doesn’t bode well for the future. This team isn’t close to winning next year with this type of attitude, this type of execution and training habits.
Louisiana Tech hadn’t beaten an SEC team since it defeated Mississippi State in 2008. That was Sylvester Croom’s last year, the same MSU team that was pounded into the ground at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in the “Egg Bowl.”
The cold, hard reality of this whole thing is that Ole Miss isn’t going to be much better next year, not with these much inexperience and lack of effort and a schedule that is beyond daunting. Current MSU coach Dan Mullen didn’t produce a winning season in his first season after Croom left and I believe the same is going to be true for the Rebels in 2012. The next coach is playing for 2013, like it or not.
That’s why I think the task facing Manning and the rest of the committee is a tough one. Oxford is a great place to live and Ole Miss has facilities, those are some of the positives. What Ole Miss is sorely lacking is a winning attitude, experience and apparently enough pride to want to get things turned around, to even play hard for a coach that has done a lot for them.
Finding the next coach is not an impossible hire, I don’t want anybody to misunderstand me, but that next coach has got to want to take on a huge challenge, one that not only includes turning this group around, but playing all the tough teams in the SEC every year and recruiting in a state that has two Division I programs cutting up the talent pie.
I know whoever takes on that role, whoever the committee recommends to Chancellor Dan Jones to hire, is not going to lay down. If these players thought Nutt was demanding, I got news for them, they’re about to really be pushed. A guy like Kirby Smart is going to do it the Nick Saban way, which means zero tolerance for anything.
Mike Leach has a reputation for being tough, for being accountable. He was the coach that put a player at a desk at midfield during practice to prove a point about studying harder. Rich Rodriguez, well he was the coach that worked the Michigan players longer than NCAA rules allow. It’s obvious he doesn’t accept losing or any other excuses about playing without passion.
These final two games are not going to be pretty for Ole Miss, not if the players can’t do any better than Saturday’s performance and many of the others we have all seen from them this year. There have been times this season where I thought this team would fight, give a more inspired effort after a bad loss, but each time I’ve been disappointed. This team simply doesn’t have it in them. They can’t even keep a game close any more. It’s what makes the job a tough one to fill and the reason why this committee has to work hard to make sure that the right person is hired so that a year like this doesn’t happen again. (November 14, 2011, Page 1B)