By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Ole Miss athletics director Pete Boone took the unusual step of addressing media Monday at his football coach’s weekly news conference, but these are unusual times, he said.
Not only are the Rebels coming off a 30-7 loss to Vanderbilt, traditionally considered the weakest SEC program, but Boone awakened Monday to find full-page ads in six newspapers – across the state and in Memphis – calling out the school’s administration for what the ads say is sub-standard achievement, presumably in football, though the sport was not named.
Neither Boone nor Ole Miss chancellor Dan Jones, the ranking athletics decision-makers, were named, but the ad said, “The administration is the problem, and it’s time for a change.”
The ads were placed by a group known as “Forward Rebels,” whose website says it’s mission is to “facilitate unity, education and empowerment of Ole Miss fans” through a “mutual exchange of information between the fans and the administration.”
They were placed and paid for before the debacle in Nashville where Vanderbilt enjoyed its largest margin of victory against an SEC foe since defeating Mississippi State 49-19 in 1971.
Before Boone met with media Monday, he met with Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt on Sunday, another step outside the normal routine.
“I think we have some rare circumstances with the progression of the season,” Boone said. “There are obviously some disappointments, and I just felt like as opposed to walking around on egg shells it’s time for he and I to have a good understanding.”
Boone said he did not discuss strategy with Nutt but told the Rebels’ fourth-year coach he thought he should see more emotion from the team.
“Mainly from my perspective, probably a little bit more fire, a little more attitude,” he said, adding that he believes he’ll see quick improvement, beginning Saturday at 11:21 a.m., when the Rebels host SEC East foe Georgia at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. “I expect that our team will come out and fight. I expect our coaches will come out with a lot of enthusiasm.
“I think our fans are going to come out and support and be loud, and I do think that it will be a totally different sort of team than we had in Nashville.”
Boone did not address questions regarding evaluation of Nutt for the remainder of the season or if there were certain mandates Nutt had to meet to keep his job.
Nutt is under contract through 2013, and the university could owe him as much as $6 million for early termination depending on the timing of the release.
“It’s early in the season. The main thing this team needs now is for all of our loyal supporters to be there Saturday,” Boone said.
Boone met with Nutt but also with the assistant coaches, saying he wanted to do what he could to clear the air and let them coach.
Nutt said he appreciated Boone meeting with him.
“Anyone who was disappointed Saturday, multiply that 99 times for me,” he said. “We’ll get the right attitude. That wasn’t it Saturday. I understand. It’s a bad vibe right now.”
The root of the vibe is bad offense, Nutt said.
Through three games, the Rebels rank No. 95 or lower in NCAA statistics in every major category on offense. Out of 120 major college teams, Ole Miss is No. 115 in total offense.
The Rebels have scored only 20 points in two games against major college teams, six of those provided by the defense with an interception return against BYU.
“It’s up to us as players and coaches to do our jobs. We have to be better on offense. That’s the bottom line.”
As for the Forward Rebels campaign, Boone said he did see the add, “but I’m not paying much attention to it.”
To do so would take away time he should be thinking about the athletics department, he said.
Boone also said he doesn’t spend time thinking about his level of support within the fan base.
“I don’t put a lot of worry or thought behind those kinds of things. I certainly am not arrogant and overconfident. I feel every day I need to earn my keep. Mainly because it’s about Ole Miss, and I’m going to do whatever it takes to help Ole Miss athletics be successful.”