Time To Change

A long time ago, one Billy Brewer told me something that still sticks with me daily. Tough times don't last, tough people do. I doubt Dog was the originator of that, but he was the conveyer, so he gets the credit. Right now, Ole Miss doesn't look too tough.

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Ben Garrett, our youngest colleague on the Spirit staff, came up to me at practice the other day and basically called me out. Took some chutzpah to do that, but Ben does not lack in that department as you can probably tell from some of his recent offerings on these pages.

"Chuck, you have to say something," he cajoled. "Everyone is waiting for you to say something."

Ben, I don't know what to say. My head is swimming. I am overloaded.

"Turn your phone off for two hours. Get away from chat and the message boards, don't take calls from anybody and think about this situation," he continued wisely. "You have to say something. You are the leader of the biggest organization that exclusively covers Ole Miss sports. You cannot hide from that. Think about what you really feel and let it out. You owe that to everyone who reads your stuff."

I took that home with me and was brooding over supper. I told my wife, Wanda, about the one-sided conversation with Ben and said I wasn't sure what to say.

"Oh, please," she said with irritation in her voice. "You've been doing this for three decades. There are grenades going off all around you and all you are doing is covering up. You're not throwing any back. I know that's safer, but it's not what Ole Miss needs. You have to say what you feel."

While I am not buying into the importance of my words, I do agree it's time. Time to stand up, not as some beacon of reason or final word or light of sanity, but as an Ole Miss Rebel who does not like what is happening to our university, a place we all love, right now.

So, here goes. How I feel. Take it or leave it. And please understand, I am not angry, on the contrary I am as calm and collected as I have ever been, my mind is clear. Right or wrong, let the chips fall where they may.

Right now, we look, for lack of a better phrase, bush league, from head to toe, from top to bottom, and it pains me to say that.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, is immune, yours truly included.

To Chancellor Dan Jones: I implore you to do what Ben begged me to do. Say something. Lead. Our university is in crisis mode in regards to our athletics programs, which is a huge part of who we are, like it or not. You cannot sit back any longer and pawn off the responsibility of the athletics program on Athletic Director Pete Boone with some kind of proper-chain-of-command mumbo jumbo. We need to hear from you. Currently, I keep getting these visions of Rome, Nero and fiddling from the Lyceum. Show me I'm wrong.

To Pete Boone: It is not my place to call for your resignation. Hell, that would be too easy. I would be in the majority right now and a majority stance is easy-peasy, and popular to take, but you have to be aware there is a ground swell of opposition to your tenure as the AD. Why? Figure it out, go about fixing it or consider the alternative. You once told me, and I believe what you said, if the day came you no longer felt you were the answer to leading Ole Miss athletics, you would step down. You are nearing that crossroad, if you aren't already there. It's simple, put out the fire, by any means necessary, or get engulfed in the flames. Frankly, and with due respect, you being at the regular Monday press conference this week baffled me, because it seemed every time you were asked a question you gave a yes-no-maybe answer all rolled into one. Candidly, if you were going to make that appearance, more decisiveness was needed.

To Houston Nutt: What we have seen the first three games is not Ole Miss football. It is not Houston Nutt football. You know it, you've said it. Thanks for standing up this week and taking responsibility for what has transpired so far this season. Get it going. I'd like to be able to help you, but you – and your staff - are the only ones who can make it happen. I've seen you do it, from afar at Arkansas and here at Ole Miss. Get back the magic that I have witnessed for many years. Trust your instincts and turn this boat around. I don't have to tell you, it's taking on water.

To the Ole Miss Players: Guys, I respect you, I do, but what you are giving out there on the playing field right now is not good enough. I know you think you are playing hard, and you probably are, but when did this team, your team, become so fragile? Just to get to this level of football, you have to be tough. You have to be courageous. I know you have those qualities, but the missing ingredient here, as I see it, is a willingness to give in a bit when things go poorly. When one player gives in, it's easier for the next one to give in. That leads to a loss of concentration and intensity and ultimately mistakes. Step up, team leaders. Show more resolve in the face of adversity. Everyone will stay with you for the long haul if they see you are not flinching. Coach Nutt and the staff can only take you to the water, they can't make you drink. That's on you.

To the Fans: First, I want to make it clear you have little to do with the lack of results we've seen in the athletic department and on the playing fields. You have done your part with support, both in being there and financially, but if your current participation were a football game, you'd be getting flagged for piling on and late hits right now.

Just stop and take a deep breath. It's not right to do what we are doing now. Taking out public ads to have people fired to suit different agendas, pointing fingers at everything that moves when things don't go well, calling each other idiots and morons during lively debate or discussion, exhibiting a mob mentality, demanding excellence while acting boorish. It's all self-destructive.

As a fan base, we are imploding – publicly, forgetting the common ground we all have. Ole Miss is a wonderful place, the best place I know, but the reason it is that way is because of the people. Not the Grove, not the buildings, not the landscaping, not the party, not the mascot, not the songs, not the coach, not the AD, not the team, not the chancellor – the people. Respect each other, like your Momma taught you to, and get back that common ground. Leave the power plays and politics and insults at the door. Can the vitriol – it helps nobody. Get back some substance instead of just slinging insults and sarcastic salvos at each other. Your fellow Rebels, whether you agree with them or not, are not the problem or your enemies.

Remember why you became an Ole Miss Rebel – it's the people. Start acting like real Rebels and get back the class we have for so long claimed we have, but have shown little of lately.

It's time for all of us to fish or cut bait. As Rebel great Deuce McAllister so succinctly put it to me this week, now is not the time for all of this dissension. You're either in or you're out, no middle ground. Fuss about things later, after the season. Support the team and support each other.

If you don't like what I have to say, feel free to rebut, but don't come at me with foolishness. I'm not in the mood. These are serious times and we need serious people taking charge, not people throwing little cute one-liners and then running to hide behind an internet handle. It's cowardly and unproductive. This isn't about personalities or feelings. It's about Ole Miss. It's about character. Do we have it?

To draw from one of my all-time heroes, Chucky Mullins, it's time. Indeed, past time.

Reveille is sounding. Will we – all of us from top to bottom - respond to the bugle call? For my money, it is critical to do so before we dig an even bigger hole than we are already in.

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