Nutt Thankful For Opportunity

Houston Nutt was gracious when addressing the media discussing his dismissal as the Ole Miss head football coach.

The following is a transcript of Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt's press conference following the announcement by Chancellor Dan Jones and Athletics Director Pete Boone that he would not be the Rebel coach in 2012.

Opening Statement: "I want to thank Ole Miss for this opportunity. I want to thank the Rebel nation for embracing my family - what a great place to live. Last night we learned the adminstration has decided to go in a different direction with this football program. I understand the decision. I want everyone to know I share in the frustrations of the whole Ole Miss community for not having the kind of on-the-field success we wanted in the past two seasons. When I was informed of this decision, I expressed my desire to finish out the season as the head coach. At heart, I am a football coach and my passion in life is teaching young men to be successful - on and off the field, inside and outside the classroom. I am thankful the university has granted my request and want you to know you will get our very best the next three weeks because this program deserves it. I am proud of this program and the accomplishments we have had. At the very top of the list is the turnaround we experienced in 2008, leading to consecutive Top 20 finishes and back-to-back Cotton Bowl wins. I never will forget the faces of Michael Oher, Michael Wallace, Peria Jerry, Jamarca Sanford, Dexter McCluster - I wish I could name them all - when we won. We had a feeling as one. There's nothing like it.

"I am also proud of my staff and the support personnel. They are some of the best. They are all very good in what they do. I am certain they will all have successes in the future. I am also proud of the young men who make up our football team. We have some fine young men that do things you don't always hear about - the right things. I cherish the relationships we have had with each other and will take many great memories with me. I have a lot of feel-good stories from my time here that I cherish. I would like to list every player, but time does not allow that.

"Fans of this program can be excited about the future. You are not far off. Our young players, who battle in the best conference in America, are committed to Ole Miss. Next year, this will be a special group. We will set out to finish strong at the end.

"When I took this job, all I ever talked about was being the first coach to take an Ole Miss team to Atlanta. We fell short of that goal, but I believe we made significant progress. I believe the program is in much better shape today than it was when we came here even though lately the wins do not reflect that. I want nothing but the best for Ole Miss and this program moving forward.

"I thank the university for this opportunity to be a part of the successes we have achieved. There will always be a special place in my heart for Ole Miss, no doubt about it. But it always comes back to the players with me. It's the players, it's the players, it's the players. I am excited with what we have right here. You are not far off. You are not far off."

Q: After such a good start, why do you think we are here today?

Nutt: When I walked into this room for the first time, we had some pretty good looking guys here. They had heart and were hungry to win after four straight losing seasons. It did not take long to find that one heartbeat. I will never forget coming back from the Swamp that day when we beat Florida. We landed in Tupelo and over 1,000 people were there. Jason Cook said "I have never been happy on a plane ride home before in all of my career. This is my first time and why are these people here?" I said they are here to see you and thank you for your work. We went to two bowls and had an experienced QB who had guided us for two years. The teams who win have good quarterbacks. I really believe Jevan Snead come back for his senior year, things might have been different. Then, when you go forward and look at recruiting, there were some young men that we basically were counting on that did not pan out and we had to let go. Then there were guys like Tim Simon, Michael Brown and Kermit Tyler who missed their careers due to injuries. Those things add up and snowball on you. It adds up. As you fast forward and look at who's playing - the youngest team in the SEC, according to the SEC stats they just sent out - there are some bright, bright moments about to happen. I really believe that. I really thing it all started at QB, some major injuries and some recruiting mistakes. It added up.

Q: Were you surprised you didn't get another year?

Nutt: We are paid to win. I'm proud of way things were done off the field, but you have to win. I undderstand. I wanted to have more time, I wanted to go to Atlanta with this group, but I understand the decisions that have to be made.

Q: Is it harder to recruit to Ole Miss than it is to recruit to Arkansas?

Nutt: At Arkansas, every home state kid wanted to be a Razorback. Here, there are several schools to compete against in our own state. Then you have to fight off LSU, Alabama, Auburn and others who try to raid the state. There are a lot of great athletes in Mississippi, but I wish there was just one major university here. It's harder here, but doable.

Q: What is realistic for Ole Miss football?

Nutt: That's a good question, but the bottom line is I believe it can be done here. It's a wonderful place. It's a safe place. I am proud my children graduated from this school, but you have to realize we are the most competitive conference in America. You think UT likes having five losses now? Florida likes having four? They will put every dime they have in changing that. We are fighting among the giants every day. Our goal was to go to a bowl every year and every four years go to Atlanta, but everything has to fall just right. But things have to fall just right. You can't have what happened to us in recruiting and injuries and get to that level.

Q: What are your immediate plans?

Nutt: First thing is that I want to win the last three games. After that, I am going to sit down and have a glass of tea with (wife) Diana. After that, who knows? I just know I still have a lot of passion and energy for coaching the greatest game there is. I think I have up to 10 years left and would like to be coaching somewhere.

Q: When did you suspect this was going to happen?

Nutt: I knew. We planned to win and knew we had to win. We didn't plan to be 2-7. There were no things set in stone, but I knew. I have been at the head table too many years. We had to win and we didn't. There have been 38 changes in the SEC since I first came into the league. Everyone wants to win yesterday. I understand the deal.

Q: How do you feel about the current recruits who are committed?

Nutt: We have two more home games and I want everyone to show up. We have a lot of recruits coming here those games. You can book it that our staff will do a tremendous job with all the guys committed and all the guys still interested in Ole Miss. We will keep that going. Now, it will come back to 'who will be my coach?' We can only hold it so long, then we have to hand the baton over. My guys will do a professional job and will stay on them, I promise you that.

Q: Is there anything you would have done differently?

Nutt: I thought about that long and hard last night. It would be easy to say now I wouldn't have recruited this guy or that guy, but overall, there's not much I would have done differently. You never know, though. We tried to do as thorough a job as we could in evaluating kids. We had a good plan in place. I loved recruiting this area. We have a lot of answer, but some things didn't work out. Looking back, the only thing I would change is that I wanted more wins.

Q: Were you surprised by this decision?

Nutt: No coach expects it to happen to them. I didn't. All I know is that we gave everything we had to Ole Miss without a violation. We did it the right way. I treated the young men here like they were my own. I go to bed feeling good about those things. It comes down to one thing - it's not graduating or community service. It's about winning. It's a big, big, big business.

Q: How hard has this been on you?

Nutt: Well, bad, but I would have felt worse if I could not have coached the last three games. We always tell our guys to finish. I don't see how you can just walk away and not finish what you start. As bad as everything is, I want to finish this season with my head held high. I will tell the team today that this is the greatest game there is. You will get knocked down. That's alright. You will get knocked down again. That's alright. Get back up. I have to get back up too. Let's go play a great homecoming game and don't worry about anything. Let's just play and win.

Q: How do you expect them to respond?

Nutt: At a very high level. Nothing less will do. I'm telling you - this team is not far off. I promise you - you are not far off.

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