Nutty day for SEC

Few head football coaches switch schools within a conference. Even fewer switch schools within a DIVISION. That's why Oct. 25 figures to be a thoroughly weird day for Houston Nutt.

After 10 years running the show at Arkansas, Nutt will be returning to Fayetteville in October as head man at Ole Miss. Given his abrupt switch from Boss Hog to Rebel Rouser one day last December, he has mixed feelings about the prospect of entering Razorback Stadium as the opponent.

"You can't help but think about it," he said at the recent SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala. "You grew up in Arkansas. You thought at one time you'd be there for life. I had 10 great years of experience there working with some great people. We won three (SEC West) titles. Two of them went to Atlanta (for the SEC Championship Game).

"We had some great days, great times there. You can't help but think what it's going to be like coming in from the visitor's side.

"But quickly my mind goes back to Memphis."

Memphis, of course, is Game 1 on Ole Miss' schedule, whereas Arkansas is the Game 8 opponent. And we all know how intent SEC coaches are on taking them "one game at a time."

After a decade in Fayetteville, Nutt must be feeling a little misplaced after just a few months in Oxford. He insists that isn't the case, however.

"You know, it feels like I've been here a long time," he said. "It's the way I feel right now because the transition has been so smooth."

Although the Ole Miss program he inherited was 0-8 in SEC play last season, Nutt has one distinct advantage in Oxford compared to Fayetteville. Whereas his popularity had waned in Arkansas, he is seen as the Gridiron Messiah in Mississippi. That has invigorated him.

"It has ... from the moment Diana and I and Haven walked in the Ford Theater in Oxford," he said. "I really thought the press conference was going to be basically a room full of just press, print media. But to walk in the Ford Theater and have 1500 people – then later find out that 500, 600 people were turned away – I can't tell you how we felt that day. That was a day full of goosebumps, just re-energized us from that moment forward."

In addition to Ole Miss' fans, the new Rebel boss got a warm reception from Ole Miss' players. They are understandably excited about the upgrade from Ed Orgeron to Nutt.

"You go into the meeting with the players, you see that hunger again," Nutt recalled. "To see how they embraced our coaching staff, it excites you, motivates you. It makes you want to please. It makes you want to work a little bit harder.

"There's something about being re-energized with new names, new problems, new street numbers, the whole bit."

Nutt's departure from Arkansas leaves only one SEC coach with double-digit tenure at his school – Phillip Fulmer, with 15 years at Tennessee. The second-longest reign belongs to Tommy Tuberville, who has spent nine years at Auburn. Clearly, the coach-for-life is a vanishing breed.

"The reason why," Nutt said, "is because (there's) a lot more pressure. Salaries are higher ... more talk show radios ... more Internet blogs ... more people can say anything without any accountability. Sometimes things are written that really put a lot of pressure on the athletic director. It makes it very, very tough for a coach."

Sometimes, though, all that coach needs is a change of scenery ... even if he finds it within the same division of the same conference.


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