Bower, Nutt resign under-appreciated posts

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Not to beat a dead horse about the oddities of this year&8217;s NCAA football season, but teams having better and worse seasons than projected during the preseason has finally resulted in the inevitable shake up in coaching staffs across the United States. Programs big and small are facing vacancies &8212; either forced on coaches or by success leading a team builder to bigger and better programs.

Two of the most recent shake ups have taken place here in our own backyard, the Deep South. Huston Nutt resigned as the head coach of Arkansas only to turn around and take the same position at Ole Miss only two days after the Rebels fired Ed Orgeron. And then in Hattiesburg, Miss., Jeff Bower resigned from his 17-year post as the head coach of Southern Miss.

Both &8220;resignations&8221; are interesting if one looks at the back story leading up to their announcements, and both leave questions for the schools with vacancies to answer &8212; big questions.

Let&8217;s start first with the SEC shuffle, as Southern Miss, while the best team in Mississippi, isn&8217;t quite as pertinent to Alabama and Auburn faithful.

Huston Nutt is 111-70 in his 15 years coaching Arkansas, Boise State and Murray State. At Arkansas he is 75-48 and 42-38 in the SEC.

In his 10 years he has built a middle of the road program with flashes of success &8212; batting a bit over .500 during his tenure in the SEC is a testament to that. To opposing fans, Nutt has a reputation as an upset coach, especially at home where the Razorbacks are just mean. But to Arkansas fans, Nutt is viewed as a coach who is consistently one season from success, and it looks like 10 years of almost there is one too many.

Yes, Nutt resigned, but had he not beaten LSU in triple overtime last week his head would have been on the chopping block rather than in the athletic director&8217;s office, where he is rumored to have been offered a raise prior to his resignation.

Ole Miss, who just dismissed Orgeron &8212; whose biggest contribution to the Rebels was a shirtless challenge to fight to players unsure of his mettle on his arrival &8212; are looking for a coach to win some games in the SEC after this year&8217;s 3-9 season, which included an egg in SEC play. Nutt is looking for a school where fans respect and want him there, rather than trying to run him out of town after every season. Both Nutt and Ole Miss should be happy with the deal, but Arkansas is in a poor position to get a good coach in a year with so many powerhouse programs looking to move up young, talented coaches.

Now to Southern Mississippi. This is another deal where the coach resigned, but again it feels like a situation where the athletic director and fans weren&8217;t fully supporting coach Bower after a poor season (which still made the team bowl eligible at 7-5).

If that is the case, and Bower was nudged into leaving, Southern will pay dearly for their mistake. Southern fans seem to think they are owed a good coach, and the Lord knows where this sense of entitlement comes from, especially at the cost of Bower.

Any and all success Southern Miss, as an institution, and its fans have seen was in some way attributed to the work of Bower. The man has built up 14 consecutive winning seasons, as well as taken the Golden Eagles to 14 bowls in the past 15 years &8212; all of that in his 17 season as a head coach. In those 17 years, Bowers has put up a 119-82-1 record at Southern, been named the Conference USA Coach of the Year three times and the Conference USA Coach of the Decade for the 1990&8217;s.

The man that built the Southern Miss program to what it is, the Division I team in Mississippi, will continue on as coach through his team&8217;s Dec. 22 appearance in the Papajohns.com Bowl at Legion Field in Birmingham, the same field where he started his career as the Eagles&8217; head coach in the 1990 All-American Bowl. Southern Miss will have to search far and wide to find any coach of Bower&8217;s caliber, if it is at all possible.

Brett Favr-e put it best when he found out about the resignation:

Brandon Glover is the sports editor of The Times. He can be reached at brandon.glover@demopolistimes.com.