Press Conference Transcript: 11.07

Nov. 7, 2011

VIDEO: Jones-Boone | Nutt

The following is a transcript of Monday’ press conference featuring Ole Miss chancellor Dr. Dan Jones, athletics director Pete Boone and football head coach Houston Nutt.

Opening Comments:

Pete Boone

“After much thought and review of the Ole Miss football program over the past two years, I decided to recommend to Chancellor Jones a change in the head coaching position.  No one had higher hopes than I when Coach Nutt was hired four years ago, but lack of success on the field over the last two years necessitates a change. My job is to plan for the both unknown and known situations. The known part is that my contract has a finite ending date.  I did not intend to work past that date. One of the unknowns would be a situation in which a head coaching change had to be made in that period of time.  Chancellor Jones asked me to develop a succession plan last summer. I proposed in that plan that the next head coach would be selected by a small committee including representatives from faculty, alumni, M Club alumni and the athletics committee that Chancellor Jones would select.  Additionally, a the Chancellor would select a co-chairman that would have a paramount role in the decision of the new head football coach. They would recommend their candidate to the Chancellor.  Along with me and the athletics staff, we will provide all the support needed to help expedite a successful search. Furthermore I stated that when I selected Houston Nutt to lead the Ole Miss Rebels that he would be the last head football coach I would hire.  I meant that.  I felt that if another coaching change occurred it would probably be time for a fresh approach. Therefore in addition to the selection process, I am announcing that will be stepping aside as Athletic Director no later than December 2012. The Ole Miss family has has accomplished so much in the past decade, but we are poised to go even further and even higher. Our Forward Together campaign is off to a great start.  With it's anticipated success, Ole Miss will have some of the premier facilities in the Southeastern Conference.  This is extremely important to our student athletes and fans. It is time for everyone to get on board and join this great experience called Ole Miss.”

Dr. Dan Jones:

“Thank you, Pete. The difficult decision to make a change in football leadership is one I support. I am grateful to Coach Nutt for his commitment to our university and for his leadership of the football program. I know we are all disappointed in the results over the last two years. I am grateful to Pete for his leadership of athletics, including his selfless decision to announce his plans for the future and facilitate the search process for a new head football coach that considers his limited tenor. I am grateful that we will enjoy his leadership a bit longer.  There will be other opportunities to recognize his contributions to the University, but I know we all recognize the significant progress in facilities under his leadership, and the vision that he has provided for the next phase of facility improvement. His largest contribution here has been the absolute integrity in which he has led our athletic program. His tenure has been remarkable, with an exceptionally long period without a major compliance infraction; far better than the norm for peer institutions.  We all thank him for that remarkable leadership. We will make further decisions for the search process for a new AD, but now I am pleased to announce to Archie Manning and Mike Glenn have made themselves available to chair this selection committee as well. We are most fortunate to have these men co-chair both of these committees.  No one in America is more connected in the world of college athletics than Archie Manning, and no one is more trusted in the Ole Miss family.  Mike Glenn is a highly respected figure in the world of sports.  He has overseen FedEx’s sports marketing activities which include sponsorship of the NFL, NASCAR and PGA tour's FedEx Cup. We are very fortunate to have them lead both searches, and I am personally grateful for their willingness to take on both of these opportunities.”

On concern of hiring new coach to work under Boone


“Any time you begin a search for new leadership there are a list of positives and concerns that you have.  Certainly, there is some disadvantage to having uncertainty as to who will be the long term leader or athletics.  On the positive side we have two nationally recognized figures in the sports world who will lead the search who will add credibility to the program. We have a stable, strong athletic program going in a positive direction. Everything is very positive about this University.  I do not have any concerns that we are going to have good people who want to become a part of the Ole Miss family and lead our football program.”

On the search committee


 “The first thing is that there is concern about longevity of an athletic director and hiring new coaches. [The plan] is first of all about any of our major sports, not just football. We would do this for any of our major sports.   I do think part of my job is planning. When I was in the banking business the first thing I learned was that you have to plan for your successor or you may not get the next job.  That is kind of my background and I think Chancellor Jones knowing that at that particular time there were about three years left [on my contract] and he asked me to be thinking about that and develop a plan.”

On Boone's role moving forward


 “Pete is the AD and will be until the day he retires. He will have full authority and responsibility of the athletic director.  There is no question about that.  He has been gracious in his own planning as I asked him to give me a succession plan for everything in athletics, including the major head coaches. He was gracious to plan in that that if we needed to make a change in this period of time, we would use a non-traditional approach to selecting the head coach. This is graciousness on his part that is allowing the University to move forward with this plan for a selection. He is still and will be the Athletics Director.”

On public pressure


“I have said publicly that we don't want to let any inappropriate forces be involved in the decisions we make. I have looked to guidance from people who are appropriate stakeholders. I have spent a lot of time in consolation with our governing board and the Commissioner of High Education, Hank Bounds, talking about these problems. Our athletics committee and particularly its leadership, our UMAA board and its leadership, our University of Mississippi Foundation board and importantly, the leadership of our Alumni Association. I have depended on all of those stakeholder groups to give me guidance through this process about what decision should be made, timing for the decisions and what was in the best interest of Ole Miss.  Whether is a single, anonymous letter that comes across my desk, a mean spirited email or an ad in the paper, I have not let those issues influence me one iota in any of the decisions. The decisions you see being made today are the decisions that should be made in the best interest in the University of Mississippi with all of the appropriate stakeholders operating in the appropriate ways and being involved in the decision.”

On the coaching change decision:


 “I think I've said before that the job and the role of an athletics director is not to get caught up in emotion.  You cannot let an event or a couple of events or a season dictate how you think things will go. I think it is an accumulation of things that started last year on the field and continued this year. I think the final decision was made when the Chancellor and I talked Sunday that once we decided the direction that it was only appropriate at that time to go ahead and talk to Houston and his agent and let them know what the decision was. We felt like that was the fair thing to do. That is the way that came about.”

On the mascot


 “My answer to the mascot question has always been pretty low. I think the Rebel Bear is fine for Ole Miss. Our students and our elected student leadership led us through a process that was a healthy process for the selection of a new on the field mascot. That was a good healthy process that serves the University well. For those who are concerned about the mascot, I say that there are other more important issues for our University other than the mascot. If we look at our peer universities in the Southeastern conference, there are fine universities that have done well for a number of years with a pig and with a chicken as their mascot. It would seem that if they can deal with a chicken or a pig as their mascot that the bear won't pull us down too far.”

On decision to announce the coaching change now


 “While that is a fact, it had nothing to do with the decision. The decision had to do with on the field performance and once that decision was made it was only fair to make Houston aware of it. This process will be lead by Mike Glenn and Archie Manning.  To my knowledge they haven't met yet. At least it starts the clear thinking of how things might go.”

On public pressure to resign


 “For the whole length of time that I have worked here, and what is what some might think is too long of a time, everything has been about Ole Miss and what is in the best interest of Ole Miss. I tried not to focus on any outside influences. Certainly some days are better than others.   Just as I think I have to go about my decision in regard to coaches and take the whole into consideration, I think that is the point here. I think if I take everything into effect my decision several years ago when we hired Coach Nutt was that he would be my last hire. The direction of opportunities, which are abundant for Ole Miss right now. I think at this time this is the right thing to do.”

On coaching turnover in the last eight years


 “No organization wants to go through this kind of change but I believe the decisions that were made in the past by Pete and others were done in the best interest of the University.  At the time they seemed like the best decisions, but it is time to move on now. This time we all need to approach this with a full dose of optimism. This is the decision set that is going to move Ole Miss in the right direction. I am confident that it can. I am particularly grateful Archie Manning and Mike Glenn have lended themselves to this process. Their connections and contacts and reputations will be large assets in this search for a new head coach.”

On ultimate coaching selection authority


 “The governing board gives me authority for certain decisions for the University. In a typical situation the chancellor would delegate that final decision of finding a head coach to the athletics director.  That is what has been done over the years by our University. In a typical situation that is what would happen.  In this case, I will take that responsibility on instead of the athletic director because of the circumstances. Rest assured that there will be no dissension or disagreement between the committee and the Universtiy. We will be on the same page. I promise.


 “Myself and our staff are there to support.  We will provide background and all the information needed.  Whatever leg work needs to be done, we will be doing it.  It will be a seamless process”

On Athletic Director selection


 “Traditionally, the head of the university, either chancellor or president makes a final decision on a recommendation from the committee for an athletic director position.  That is what we will be doing in this case. They will make a recommendation to me. Archie and Mike have agreed to cochair that committee just as they will cochair the football search committee. I have not had the conversation with all the stakeholders to be able to say today with clarity what the process will be. We will have those conversations and we will let you know what that process will be. It may or may not be the same committee but it will be the same co-chairs.  We will share more information as that develops.  I just want the opportunity to have the right conversation with the appropriate stakeholders.”

On Nutt coaching final three games


 “I think the decision was made for a number of reasons. He has led this program and he recruieted most of these athletes. He is the stabilizing influence. With three weeks left in the season it makes a lot of sense for Coach Nutt to finish out and lead this. That is how that decision was made.  Regarding the buyouts, we will absolutely honor every contract we have as we have always done. We have done some cash-flow analysis and we are in good shape to handle this. Houston's contract is $6 million over 5 years.   The other numbers are harder to come by because they are due in obligation of them to find other jobs, which will mitigate the amount that we have to pay them. These are all really good coaches.  They will find good jobs. I would like to add that there are a lot of families involved in what is going on today. This is a tough situation for a lot of people.  Not one of these decision are made lightly and we made them with a heavy heart with everyone in mind.”

On coaching buyouts


 “The Ole Miss faithful continue to be supportive of us. People buy tickets and support the athletic programs in other ways with private giving and so forth. I am confidence that we will continue to have strong and competitive resources. We have fewer resources than other schools in the Southeastern Conference.  I am confident that we will continue to make progress with the resources available and have a successful athletic program with the money available to hire coaches.”

On financial commitment for coaching hire


 “In my experience, giving comes better when things are positive. Houston Nutt has done a great job of developing relationships with people who love our football program. During his early tenure when we were experiencing a lot of success we had a lot of success in fundraising as well. Over the last two yeas though we have not had as much success on the football field, people have continued to be faithful to give. They are giving because they have confidence in the program they have confidence in the people who have been leading athletics and because they believe in Ole Miss. I believe that will continue.”

On characteristics for new coach and AD:


 “We will be delvoping specifics with the committee. Whether you are hiring someone to lead your economics section or a head coach or lead athletics, it begins with integrity and character. We want people who are going to lead us with integrity and character. In athletics we want people who are committed to wining and winning at the highest level. Those are a couple of givens that we will look for.”

On the Forward Together campaign:


 “A lot is made of people who would only give if their demands were met. I have been a member of a church for a long time and I can't tell you how many conversations I have been in with people who say they would give a lot of money to the church if the pastor would only. It is easy to calculate large numbers and people who make promises if only people would do what they asked them to do. I can sat that over the last few months as we have began the Forward Together campaign that I have been gratified to see people who are signing their names on pledges to support Ole Miss Athletics. More than $43 million was given on the last report I got towards the goal of $150 million. Those are people who are showing their commitment to the University of Mississippi.   Pete and his team have provided an outstanding vision for the future for us to improve our facilities and our competitiveness in the SEC and at the national level. The mass majorities of people in the Ole Miss family want to support that vision and will support that vision.  I have every confidence that will take place. I believe Pete's presence in the next few months will be an addition to that and not a subtraction.”


“I think that way too much credit in this case has been given to me about everything going on here.  The fact is that we have a great team. Danny White and his group are fantastic. Michael Thompson and his group, as well as John Hartwell, Lynette Johnson are a great team.  We have been successful raising money.  We have been succedsful in changing some atmospheres.  It is not about me. I had very little to do with it maybe other than hiring some great folks.”

On experience level for new head coach


 “Let me wait until we have conversations with the committee on that. I have some personal opinions, but when it comes to which of those are more important, my opinion or Archie Manning's opinion, I am going to lean towards Archie on that one. I am anxious to sit down with the committee and see what they have to say. These folks are very informed about the available talent pool and will give us clear guidance on the direction we need to take.”

On challenges of hiring a new head coach: 


“Do we have a tougher set of circumstances than some of our competitors? Sure. Can we win championships here? Absolutely.  We all need to believe in that. We are a part of the most competitive conference in the country and that is where we want to be and where we need to be. Competing there is tough.  We have increased the resources available for athletics over the last number of years, but in an environment where everyone is increasing their resources. We are all going to have to make a larger commitment than we have made.  I have had lot of conversations over the last few months about the Forward Together campaign. Some folks who have been loyal to Ole Miss for a long time who have limited resources are hurting right now because the choices the access to premium seats.  It is going to be more expensive in the future. Our fan base is calling on us to be competitive and to have a vision to win championships. That vision has an expensive price tag.  It is a transition the University is having ot go through.  Is it futile?  Absolutely not. Is it a tougher challenge here than some other places? Yes.  Are we looking for someone who is willing to take on that challenge? Yes.  Is that somebody available? I believe that person is going to be our there.”

On the importance of athletics:


 “I believe in the academic programs in this institution.  The academic programs are important to me personally. I also believe in the athletic programs of this university.  They are important to me personally as well. I have been a big sports fan all my life. Before I took on this responsibility I certainly thought long and hard about my willingness and ability to take on this part of the leadership responsibility.  I understand the role of athletics at the University of Mississippi and I fully embrace my role and responsibility in that. I will continue to give the full weight of my support to Pete, his team, all of coaches and to and whoever follows Pete in his leadership and to whoever follows Houston in his leadership in football. The things that I have said publicly about us getting to a place where winning championships that happen on a regular basis are something we expect.  That is absolutely a personal commitment. This decision has nothing to do with me or proving anything about my leadership. People are free to form their own opinions about my leadership.  I am not going to be making decisions to prove a point one way or another to other people. I simply ask people to look at my record as a leader and ask the question, “Does he like to lose or be second about anything?”.  The record is there for people to see. Just as I like to be the best at other things in my life, I want us to be the best in athletics.  Thank you for asking that question.”­


 “Dan Jones' evaluation is through. His evaluation not only of athletic programs, but also the athletics director is through.  There is not a lot of fluff in that conversation.  It is expectations and goals and that has been since the same since he has been here. He spends a lot of time and energy helping support athletics an helping athletics be successful.”

Coach Houston Nutt

Opening Comments

“I want to thank Ole Miss for this opportunity and I want to thank the Rebel Nation for embracing my family. What a great place to live. Last night we learned that the administration had decided to go in a different direction with its football program.  I understand their decision and want you to know that I share with them and the entire Ole Miss community its frustrations and not seeing the kind of on the field success we wanted the past two seasons. When I was informed of this decision I expressed my desire to finish out the season as the team's head coach.  At heart I am a football coach.  My passion lies in teaching young men to be successful in life, on and off the field, inside and outside the classroom. I am thankful that the university has granted my request. I want you to know that you are going to get our very best these next few weeks.  This program deserves the very best we can give. I am very proud of the Ole Miss football program and the many accomplishments we have enjoyed. At the very top of the list was the turn around we were able to experience in 2008 leading to consecutive Top 20 finishes and back-to-back Cotton Bowls. That was the first time that had happened in 50 years.  I am never going to forget the face of Michael Oher, who had never been to a bowl game, or Michael Wallace, Peria Jerry, Jamarca Sanford, John Jerry, Dexter McCluster and so forth. I wish I could name all of them.  There is nothing like that celebrated locker room and the feeling we had as one.  I am also very proud of our staff, and a lot of them are here today. I have been fortunate to work with some of the best during my time here at Ole Miss.  The assistant coaches, support personnel, all of them were a great team.  They are all very good at what they do. They are the best this university has to offer. You are going to be hearing about their successes in the future, there is no doubt in my mind.  You should also be very proud of the young men that make up our football team. We have fine young men that does it right and you don't always get to hear about them. I am going to cherish the relationships that we have had with one another. I am going to take many, many great memories, the personalities and the feel good stories that are a part of this football program. I would love to list every player right now by name, but we don't have enough time. Fans of the program can be especially excited about the future of the program; there is no doubt in my mind. You are not far off. We had a lot of our young players play this year in one of the best conferences in America. They are committed to Ole Miss.  Next year they have a special group.  Unfortunately our team was scheduled to be off today so I am not able to meet with them in person. Right after this meeting I am going to be able to spend significant time with the team and set out to finish very strong here at the end. When I took this job I was hoping for one thing. I wanted to be the first coach to ever take them to Atlanta. That is all we talked about.  I was going to be the first coach and coaching staff to play in the the championship game, one of the greatest venues there is in college football.  We fell short of that goal. I think we made significant progress.  I believe our program is in a much better position today than it was when we first arrived. I truly want the Ole Miss football program to experience the best going forward.  I want nothing but the best for them. I thank the University for this opportunity to be a part of the successes we have achieved over the past four seasons. There is always going to be a special place in my heart for Ole Miss. There is no doubt about it.  It always comes back to me with the players.  It is the players. I am excited about what we have right here. You are not far off.”

On how we arrived at this point

“It seems like yesterday when I walked in this room with a bunch of guys that looked pretty good and I already mentioned some of those names. They had a real heart and were hungry to win after four previous losing seasons. It did not take long to find that one heartbeat. I never will forget coming back from The Swamp that day and Jason Cook and Dexter McCluster on the plane  as we landed in Tupelo and there was over 1,000 people there. Jason Cook said he had never been happy on a plane ride back home in my entire career.  This is the first time, and what are these people doing here? I told him they were there to see him and they appreciate your work and what you have accomplished. When we had back-to-back Cotton Bowls we had an experienced quarterback who had learned. To play in this league, it is the toughest in America. I have been very fortunate to be able to coach in this league for 14 years.  I have seen many changes around the head table.  The ones who won had the quarterbacks. I really feel like in my heart that if Jevan Sneed had come back his senior year we would have had a tremendous start.  As you go forward and you look at the recruits and dissect everything, there were some young men that we counted on from the state of Mississippi that did not pan out that we had to let go. Who would have ever thought that Tim Simon would never get to play football again. What a tremendous athlete and a winner.  Michael Brown and Kermit Tyler are others. You had injuries and things that happened that did not pan out. Those things add up. It doesn't take but one bad recruiting year or a couple of misses or injuries for it to add up in this league. You have to be so consistent.  As you fast forward and if you look at the last two recruiting classes and look at who is playing you realize how young we are. The SEC just came out and said that we are the youngest football team combined on both sides. There are some bright moments that are getting ready to happen.  I think that it started at quarterback and then we had a few major injuries and it coupled with some decisions that weren't very good. When you are from the state of Mississippi is is important to start at home.”

On the decision to change coaches

“The thing about the SEC is that they pay you to win. We do a great job with academics. We take it personally and we want our guys to graduate. I am really proud of how there are a lot of young men that graduated and walked across the stage.  They changed their lives. We have some real difference makers in these coaches.  They have changes some people's lives. The bottom line is you have to win. There wasn't a good feeling. I understand.  I would have liked to been here and see it through, because I wanted to go to Atlanta with this group. I understand the decisions that have to be made. That is not up to me.”

On recruiting

“The one advantage that that we had in Arkansas is that from each corner of the state Coach Broyles did a magnificent job.  He made it the university where everyone wanted to grow up to be a Razorback.   Here the one thing that is a little bit more difficult is that you aren't far from Memphis; there are Southern Miss and Mississippi State, as well as Ole Miss.  Then you have to fight off Alabama from coming into your state, as well as Auburn and LSU. There are a lot of great athletes.  I wish there was only one university in Mississippi.  That would make things really nice. It is harder [here].”

On realistic expectations

“We got off on a great start those first two years. We had back-to-back January 1st bowls for the first time in 50 years. To me that was a real signal. It is difficult, but I believe it can be done here. It is a wonderful place. It’s a safe place. Even my children graduated from this school, so there are some good things here. You are in the most competitive, talented league in America. You think Florida likes having four losses; you think Tennessee likes having five losses? They don’t. You don't think they want back up to the top? They are going to put every dime and everything they have back into the program. You are fighting amongst the giants every single day. Your goal is to go to a bowl every year and then every four years try to get to Atlanta. When you win in Atlanta you have a chance to go play for the crystal ball. Everything has to fall just right. You cannot have D.T. Shackelford sitting on the sidelines; you can’t have Wayne Dorsey, one of your captains, and Marcus Temple, one of the most improved players, sitting on the sidelines.”

On coaching future

“The first thing on my mind as soon as I leave here and talk to my players is we are going to give everyting we have for the next three games. That’s first and foremost. After that, I will probably sit down and drink some ice tea with Diana and see what happens. I still feel like I have five, seven or 10 years left in me. I have a lot of energy and passion for greatest game in the world and I don't want to stop like this.”

On coaching pressure

“I always know. Nobody puts more pressure on myself than me. I know we want to win. We don't plan for 2-7. We plan to win and go to a bowl game and that was our goal. There were not set things in stone, but you know as a coach. I’ve been around the head table too many years; I saw too many changes from 1998 to this point. Everybody wants to win yesterday.”

On if players are aware of the change.

“They haven't been told from me, but they know. I have seen a few. We live in a world where it is media 24/7 and they know by now, but that's what I hate. We met right in here on Sunday like we always do and we didn’t know anything.  They were already asking questions because of rumors and I had to say that I have not heard anything. I am your coach and let's get ready.”

On recruits

“Here's the thing. We have two good home games, and I really want everybody to get there. We got a lot scheduled. Clifton Ealy already has a big list of guys that plan on coming. I still see those guys coming in. Our staff, the one thing that you can bank this on, you can book it. Our staff will do a tremendous job with all the guys that are committed, all the guys that are still interested in Ole Miss and we'll keep that going all the way to the end. Now it's going to come down to, of course, the No. 1 question: who is going to be your coach. So we can hold them for so long and then we'll take the baton and hand it to the next guy. But these guys will do a very professional job, we'll stay on them. Stay in contact. Get them in here for the games. Make them feel real good. Then we'll turn it over.”

On anything he would have done differently

“I wouldn't. I thought about that last night, after I got the call, long and hard. I wouldn't. It's easy to say now that maybe I wouldn't have recruited him or gone with this guy and not that guy, but you don't know. You try to do as thorough a job as you can investigating the young man. You're talking to coaches and teachers and principals and counselors. You watch them on film. You evaluate. Felt like we had a really good plan in place. I love recruiting this area. I thought it was a good area to recruit to. We have one of the most beautiful campuses in the world. We have a lot of positives. An indoor facility that's awesome. Just looking back, I wouldn't change anything. Except, I want more wins.”

On timing of coaching change

“I never expected it to happen to me. I think probably, if you talk to any coach, they would say the same thing. You try to work as hard as you can. I know this, my family and I — we gave it our all. We gave it all to Ole Miss, everything we had, without a violation. We did it the right way. I go to bed feeling good about that, treating a young man like he's my own. And it comes down to one thing. It's not a graduation rate. It's not community service. It's about winning. It's big, big business.”

On the next three games

“I'd feel real bad if I couldn't coach the next three, because we always tell our guys to finish. So I don't see how anybody could walk away. As bad as everybody may make everything seem. I'm going to tell them this today. These are the greatest days of your life. Football is the greatest game there is. You're going to get knocked down. That's alright. You may get knocked down again. That's alright. You got to get back up. Things may not be the way we want them to be right now, but let's finish and let's go play the best homecoming game we have ever play. And don't worry about anything. Don't worry about who the next coach is going to be. Don't worry about who said this or who said that. Don't worry about anything except this: get your  homework, get this gameplan and be ready to go at 6:30 p.m. right here at Vaught-Hemingway.”

On expectation of players

“I expect them to play at a very, very high level. You know if you go back and dissect it and went back and watched the film, you would say — you know what, that play right there was at an SEC level. You know what, that guy at 18 years of age that played Friday night football last year at this time, that guy he gave everything he had. Now, that block there could be better. That tackle should have been better. We missed an assignment here and we had a penalty when we shouldn't have had one. But overall, you're not far off. I promise you, you're not far off.”




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