OXFORD – For what it’s worth, Houston Nutt says his thoughts aren’t in Kansas any more.
If they ever were.
After meeting with the Ole Miss administration Tuesday morning, Nutt released statements in which he talked about building the Rebels’ program, expressed enthusiasm for how that’s going and praised the university and the city of Oxford.
The positive reinforcement comes a day after a bit of uncertainty around the program, because no clear voice was speaking to its direction.
On Monday the Kansas City Star reported that Nutt had spoken with University of Kansas officials about that school’s coaching vacancy.
Not long afterward, Ole Miss athletics director Pete Boone commented on the report and said, “There’s nothing to it.”
As the story has evolved it looks like there wasn’t “much” to it.
The problem with the last 24 hours is just that … 24 hours. A complete news cycle in which Nutt’s alleged interest in the Kansas job was validated because he didn’t deny it.
Nutt’s name linked to Kansas is something along the lines of Bill Belichick’s name being linked to the Raiders job. Maybe not that dramatic, but you get the idea.
Why go to Kansas? There are two possible reasons.
For starters, the landscape of the Big 12 North Division is vastly different than the SEC West. Missouri and Kansas have had moments in the sun recently, but the brand names just aren’t there. The Big 12 North has one ranked team right now, Nebraska at No. 20.
It was that Nebraska team that showed what can happen when you reach a conference championship game. Get your plan together, execute and you may spring an upset over a favored opponent.
So run the table in the Big 12 North, win the title game, and you could find yourself playing for the national championship.
Listening to Kansas wasn’t about money for Nutt.
His Ole Miss contract includes an annual automatic rollover to four years, the maximum allowed by the state. Built into his restructured deal last year was an automatic pay increase. He was already making more than fired Kansas coach Mark Mangino.
Questions of control
When it isn’t about money, another motivation often nearby is control.
Nutt is trying to give himself every opportunity to compete. In his assessment, that means expanding degree options to include some that might be more appealing to football players.
It appears there’s some movement in that area.
During the season Nutt cited an academic policy that is “different” at Ole Miss, one that kept him from handling discipline as he wanted. He said that policy was something he wanted to “reevaluate at the end of the season.”
Boone says the academic policies at Ole Miss – class attendance and drug policies set forth by the SEC – are in line with those common to “most universities.”
What is not common to most universities is a December period of indecision by the head coach, and now Nutt is 2-for-2 in that regard after Auburn made a push for him last season.
That is a sort of occupational hazard for a successful coach, but it seems at some point that could be damaging to program-building.
Perhaps the 24-hour period expired without a lot of notice from recruits.
In two seasons Nutt has revived excitement at Ole Miss, leading the Rebels to back-to-back January bowls for the first time in 30 years.
Making them into SEC West winners will require more program building.
And less time in the news cycle.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily about Ole Miss athletics at NEMS360.com.
Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal