Stan's objective look at Ole Miss

I've never denied being opinionated and I'm not going to start now. This has been a very difficult two weeks at Ole Miss. Let's look at the situation objectively.

I'm not going to get involved in commenting on the David Cutcliffe-Pete Boone controversy. I wasn't in the room when they met, have no way of knowing who said what to whom, what kind of deals were or were not offered.

But I would like to hold up a mirror reflecting the situation as I see it. Ole Miss people love their school almost too much. They believe that now the coaching job is vacant there will be a line of big name applicants reaching from Oxford to Batesville.

Not true.

The fact is that in the world of college football Ole Miss is considered a second tier school in a first tier conference. The Rebels haven't won a conference championship since the 1960s. They are the only Western member since the league went to 12 teams not to earn its way to Atlanta for the league title. Yes, they tied LSU last year for the Western Division but they lost to the Tigers in the game that counted the most and LSU made the trip while the Rebels had to wait for the Cotten Bowl game.

The truth is, with the exception of last year's 10 win season, the Rebels have endured a long string of four, five, six and seven win seasons. I'm always somewhat amused when Tennessee fans express their unhappiness at going 8-3 or Florida indicates eight wins is not enough for their coach to keep his job. Ole Miss people would kill for an 8-3 year on a regular basis.

We have written many times the hard cruel fact of life among football's elite is that big fancy stadiums do not win games nor do fancy weight rooms or practice facilities. Coaches don't either, although they help. What wins games is talent, recruting players who are as big and as strong and as fast as the players on the other guy's team. That's where Ole Miss runs into trouble. That is what relegates the Rebs into a second tier position.

Mississippi is a small state of under 3 million people. It is also a state with three Division I-A schools, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Mississippi. In addition there are three Division I-AA schools, Jackson State, Alcorn and Mississippi Valley State. The pie just isn't large enough to give everyone a big piece.

Lousiana, a much more populated state, is literally owned by LSU. Everyone else, with the possible exception of Tulane, is considered minor league. Florida has three I-A schools, Miami, Florida State and the University of Florida but the population is two to three times more than Mississippi

It is also more than just plain numbers. I'd like to have a $10 bill for every high school coach who has told me one of his players had the physical ability to play big time college football but would not qualify academically.

Meridian High School, the largest in the state, revealed this week that only 71% of their incoming students ever graduate. The state average is about 74%. That means one of every four 10th graders never get a diploma and a number of them are talented athletes.

Somehow we've convinced this generation that if you're good enough on the football field or the basketball court the schools will lie and cheat to find a way to go around NCAA standards. That is simply not true. The penalties are too stiff and the college presidents now run the programs, not the coaches and athletic directors.

There are just a lot of kids who will never realize their dream of playing before 60,000 people and going on to the NFL because the books got in their way.

Those things make the Ole Miss coaching job less desirable. In the past the school attracted assistant coaches at successful schools, Cutcliffe from Tennessee is an example, or head coaches at small schools trying to step up. Cutcliffe was being paid 1.2 million and, while that's not chump change, it would not put him in the Top 10 or Top 20 as the situation exists today.

Steve Spurrier will start at South Carolina for more money than Cutcliffe was making at the end of his term. But somewhere out there is a young coach or an experienced assistant who wants to bring his X's and O's to the SEC.

The fans aren't the only ones with stars in their eyes. Boone said this about coaching possibilities at the news conference following Cutcliffe's firing.

"We would prefer to have someone with head coaching ability. We want an agressive defense, a creative offense, a disciplined team. We want an energetic person that is a proven recruiter, a coaches' coach and a players' coach and I don't believe that's asking for too much."

Yes and I would like, just one time, to win the Power Ball lottery when I'm in Lousiana visiting my daughter--and I don't think that's asking too much either.

If we agree that recruiting is the life's blood of winning, Ole Miss fans must be concerned that the state's largest newspaper ran a story this week pointing out three allegedly blue chip athletes who were considering the Rebels now say they have changed their minds and will play elsewhere. That will be a major problem.

Chancellor Robert Khayat didn't help make the job look attractive when he said at the same news conference, "It is essential that this football program be competitive and it's not now and then competitive, it's every year competitive."

That's what every Rebel fan wants, of course. It will be very hard to do. Ole Miss fans have enthusiasm. Do they have patience as well?Ask me again after the 2005 season.

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