By Ole Miss Media Relations
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Fellowship of Christian Athletes has selected University of Mississippi Head Football Coach Houston Nutt as the recipient of the 2009 FCA Grant Teaff Coach of the Year Award and retired Indianapolis Coach and Super Bowl winner Tony Dungy as the recipient of the FCA Grant Teaff Lifetime Achievement Award.
Both coaches were recognized during the FCA Breakfast held Wednesday, January 13, at the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Convention in Orlando, Fla. The awards were presented by Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, and Dal Shealy, executive director of the FCA football coaches ministry.
“I am appreciative of the FCA and what they do throughout the country,” Nutt said. “I’m humbled and honored to receive this award. FCA is really important to our program at Ole Miss. To have people like Jason Cook, Fish Robinson and Isaac Jenkins available for chapel and Bible study is really outstanding.”
After being named the University of Mississippi’s 36th head coach on Nov. 28, 2007, Nutt has quickly reversed the Rebels’ football fortunes as he has guided Ole Miss to a level of success not experienced in Oxford in 40 years.
Nutt’s first two seasons at the helm have produced consecutive nine-win records for the first time since 1961-62 and back-to-back January bowl victories for the first time since 1960-61.
“This prestigious award reflects Houston Nutt’s commitment to the total well-being of the young men entrusted to him,” said Ole Miss Athletics Director Pete Boone. “Under his leadership, student-athletes are exposed to growth in mind, body and spirit.”
Named after Grant Teaff, former Baylor coach, AFCA Executive Director and member of the FCA Board of Trustees, the Coach of the Year Award presented by FCA recognizes a football coach who exemplifies Christian principles and who is involved in FCA. The award is also based on the success/performance of the coach’s team that season. Previous winners include Tommy Bowden, Tommy Tuberville, Jim Tressel, Sylvester Croom and Phil Jones.
“I’ve watched Coach Nutt over many years as a coach and leader,” said Shealy, former FCA President and award selection committee member. “His teams at Murray State, Arkansas and Ole Miss played to a high level and set standards of excellence. Coach Nutt has always encouraged the ministry of FCA, and his players have been involved on and off campus. We are pleased to honor him as our 2009 FCA Grant Teaff Coach of the Year.”
During his time in Oxford, Nutt has also given back to the community in a variety of charitable causes. In April 2009, he and his wife Diana committed a gift of $100,000 to the University of Mississippi to create scholarships for deserving student-athletes and to go towards the Indoor Practice Facility.
Nutt also took part in the Second Annual Coaches Tour presented by Under Armour, traveling to military bases throughout the Middle East to visit U.S. Troops. Nutt joined several other coaches in heading to the gulf on a USAF KC-135 Refueling Tanker and visited more than 12,000 troops and traveled 20,000 flight miles.
The coaches participated in meet-and-greets at various bases and coached flag football teams made up of servicemen and women. The head coaches also hosted a symposium where audience members had the opportunity to ask questions.
Including his decade of success at Arkansas, Nutt has guided his teams to 10 bowl berths in the past 12 seasons, most of any SEC Western Division coach during this span. Nutt’s squads recorded eight or more wins in eight of those 12 campaigns and nine or more victories in eight of those seasons in the SEC.
Rising as high as No. 4 in the national rankings this year, Nutt’s Rebels knocked off No. 8 LSU, Tennessee and Arkansas en route to a second straight berth in the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic, in which Ole Miss prevailed over No. 18 Oklahoma State 21-7. After finishing with a 9-4 record, the Rebels were ranked No. 20 in the final Associated Press poll and No. 21 in the USA TODAY Top 25 coaches poll.
The 2009 campaign saw Nutt earn his 50th career coaching victory in SEC play (52-47). He is just the 14th conference coach all-time to reach that mark and only the third current coach. With a 93-56 overall mark as an SEC coach, Nutt ranks 18th all-time in the league in coaching victories and behind only Steve Spurrier among active coaches.
In his first season in Oxford, Nutt led one of the greatest turnarounds in school history, reviving a Rebel squad that was coming off four straight losing seasons and a 3-8 campaign with no conference wins in 2007. With a 9-4 record (5-3 in the SEC), it marked the team’s best improvement from one season to the next since legendary Ole Miss Coach John Vaught’s debut in 1947.
Projected to place fifth in the SEC Western Division in the 2008 preseason, Nutt’s first Rebel unit finished second in the West, ended the season on a six-game win streak and earned a No. 14 final national ranking.
Nutt’s efforts earned him SEC Coach of the Year honors (SEC Coaches and The Touchdown Club of Atlanta) for the third time in his decorated career and AFCA Region Coach of the Year accolades for the fifth time.
In his two seasons at Ole Miss, Nutt has continued his reputation as a giant killer, as his Rebels have registered a 5-3 record against ranked teams and a 3-2 mark against top-10 teams, including a 25-23 victory over eighth-ranked LSU this year.
The 2008 Ole Miss squad knocked off three top-20 foes away from Oxford, including the defending national champion in No. 18 LSU and the eventual title holder in No. 4 Florida. The third win was a resounding 47-34 defeat of No. 8 Texas Tech in the 2009 Cotton Bowl.
The upset over the Gators – their lone blemish of the season – provided Nutt his fifth win against a top-five opponent as a head coach. In all five wins, Nutt’s team entered the game unranked, and four of the wins came on the road.
Also the 2006 SEC Coach of the Year, Nutt has recorded 21 victories over ranked opponents, including the 50-48 overtime win at eventual national champion and No. 1-ranked LSU in his final game as Arkansas mentor. He has had 25 victories while his own team was ranked.
Nutt, who was also named SEC Coach of the Year in 2001 and National Coach of the Year in 1998, guided Arkansas to three final national rankings, including a No. 15 finish in 2006. While coaching the Razorbacks for 10 years, Arkansas won three SEC Western Division titles and eight bowl berths.
A former quarterback at Arkansas and Oklahoma State, where he graduated in 1981, Nutt also served head coaching stints at Boise State and Murray State, where he captured two OVC Championships.