OXFORD – A Ku Klux Klan rally at Ole Miss prior to the Rebels’ 25-23 win over LSU may not bring back songs and symbols of the old South, but it may have a negative effect on football recruiting.
On his Sunday afternoon teleconference, Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said “about eight student-athletes” canceled recruiting visits because of the Klan’s presence.
“I’m just glad all the recruits who were here got to see the atmosphere last night. It was a very safe, exciting time. They got to witness one of the best football games played this year,” Nutt said.
An estimated crowd of 250 watched as 10 Klan members attempted to address them with their disapproval of the administration’s removal of the song “From Dixie With Love” from the band’s playlist.
The Klan was shouted down from the crowd and dispersed early.
NCAA rules prohibit coaches from commenting publicly on the high school and junior college athletes they are recruiting.
Nutt did not used the words “negative recruiting” but talked at length about stories recruits were hearing and the surprise many of them expressed at the unity and togetherness of the Ole Miss staff and players he says they witnessed.
“That’s fine. It’s not going to help them. This is one program in the state that’s getting very strong,” Nutt said.
Recruits who did not make the trip have been contacted or are being contacted by Nutt and his staff.
“I was really disappointed that some of them didn’t show. I think a couple had been on campus before. I’m in my second year, and this is the least racial … This is a wonderful community. It’s an unbelievable school with one of the most beautiful campuses in the country and a program that’s getting ready to go to back-to-back bowls, hopefully back-to-back Jan. 1 bowls. There are so many positives.”
Nutt said his recruiting is very strong right now, made that way by the Rebels’ three straight wins, the last two within the SEC against Tennessee and LSU.
Nutt has a very diverse coaching staff with an African-American defensive coordinator, Tyrone Nix, and four other African-American assistant coaches. There are minorities within the administrative staff as well.
“They were chosen and picked to be hired, because I felt like they were the best (for the jobs),” Nutt said.
The Rebels’ 2009 recruiting class was ranked No. 18 by Rivals.com. Nutt says he expects a class “equal to that or better” for 2010.
“Right now we’ve got a lot of recruits swimming to the boat. That’s what happens when you win,” he said.
Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal