Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ole Miss hires former Arkansas coach Houston Nutt

Associated Press Writer

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Houston Nutt wasn't out of a job for long: He was hired as Mississippi's football coach just hours after resigning at Arkansas.

Nutt agreed to a contract late Monday night, and replaces Ed Orgeron, who was fired Saturday after the Rebels lost to rival Mississippi State and finished 3-9.

The hiring of Nutt was confirmed by a person close to the program who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the announcement had not yet been made.

Nutt resigned even though the Razorbacks upset then-No. 1 LSU 50-48 in triple overtime last week.

Mississippi planned an announcement on its coaching situation later Tuesday.

Nutt, a proven winner, fits the description of the coach Ole Miss was looking for. He is 111-70 in 15 years as a head coach at Arkansas, Boise State and Murray State.

And he's been a winner in the Southeastern Conference, too. Nutt, a native of Little Rock, Ark., rebuilt the Arkansas program, going 75-48 since he replaced Danny Ford in 1997. He was 42-38 in conference with one of his biggest wins last week against LSU.

While Arkansas is likely headed to the Cotton Bowl, Nutt will be on the recruiting trail trying to hold together the promising class Orgeron was assembling.

The 50-year-old Nutt said Monday he left Arkansas to help mend a split among fans after off-the-field problems were compounded by a difficult season. The Razorbacks started the year in the Top 25 and were expected to contend for the SEC West title.

Arkansas lost its first three SEC games and dropped out of the poll in September, fueling fan discontent over last year's transfer of quarterback Mitch Mustain and the loss of offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who left for Tulsa.

A call to Nutt's agent, Jimmy Sexton, was not immediately returned.

Nutt takes over a program that has foundered since a 10-win season in 2003 under David Cutcliffe. The Rebels won a share of the SEC West that season with Eli Manning at quarterback.

Since then Ole Miss has had four or fewer wins in four seasons. Cutcliffe was fired for a lack of effort in recruiting and hoped Orgeron, who helped build two national title teams at USC as Pete Carroll's recruiting coordinator, would bring the kind of energy needed to build a winner.

Orgeron finished 10-25 and was routinely the target of fan discontent.

Athletic director Pete Boone and Chancellor Robert Khayat endorsed Orgeron midway through the season, but decided to go in a new direction after the Rebels lost five of six to end the season.