By Parrish Alford
Former Ole Miss chancellor Robert Khayat will be signing his book “The Education of a Lifetime,” today at the Lee County Library at 2 p.m.
Shortly before its release in late August, Khayat discussed the book and several other topics at a luncheon with a small group of media.
Khayat was actively engaged in athletics throughout his time at Ole Miss, and one of his biggest decisions in that realm came when he walked out of a meeting between athletics director Pete Boone and football coach David Cutcliffe in December of 2004.
Cutcliffe was well-liked in the community and was 44-29 on the field, but Khayat stands by his decision not to intervene.
“Certainly, I think there are times when you do break chain of command,” Khayat said. “I didn’t think that was one of them.”
The Rebels were 4-7 in Cutcliffe’s sixth and final season. They would be sub-.500 in five of the next seven seasons under Ed Orgeron and his successor, Houston Nutt, until chancellor Dan Jones hired Hugh Freeze, and the Rebels were 7-6 in 2012.
Khayat said Boone had his complete backing during that time, noting Boone’s leadership with the athletics budget and facilities and contributions that extended to the general financial well-being of the university.
“People don’t know this, but he sat in on our administrative council meetings, and he brought wise business principles to what we were facing, and we were facing bankruptcy in 1996. That’s just the truth.”
Khayat continued: “I didn’t consider changing Pete out, because Pete was doing one of the things we so desperately needed, and that was to improve facilities and financial conditions. We built $150 million worth of athletics facilities and got state of the art places and even had a track for the first time in the history of the university. Pete wasn’t doing so well at inter-personal relationships, but he was building the facilities, and he was building a strong balance sheet. The trade-off was that he didn’t do as well at shaking hands and greeting.”