Houston Nutt agrees to extension with Mississippi

Published 10:46 pm Friday, December 5, 2008

JACKSON, Miss. – Mississippi football coach Houston Nutt works fast, even when it comes to contract extensions.

Nutt turned around a moribund Ole Miss program in just a year, then came to terms on a new contract extension Friday that will keep him in Oxford until 2012 amid speculation he was a candidate for the Auburn vacancy.

Nutt and athletic director Pete Boone agreed to terms in the afternoon and the coach signed the deal right after practice.

Nutt’s new salary was not released, but several reports peg it at around $2.5 million. That puts him in the middle of the Southeastern Conference’s pay scale. His assistants also will get raises.

“I’m very excited about the terms we discussed,” Nutt said. “I’m excited about the assistant coaches’ salaries and I’m excited about the vision Pete Boone has. This helps recruiting and shows the direction our program is headed.”

Nutt signed a four-year, $7.4 million contract when he took over at Ole Miss last season after resigning at Arkansas. He made $1.7 million this season while leading the Rebels to four straight wins and an 8-4 record.

The extension is for one year, pushing the deal to the maximum four years allowed under state law. The deal still must be approved by the state College Board, usually a formality.

While the total value of the deal remains unknown, it is by far the richest for an Ole Miss coach. Alabama’s Nick Saban is college football’s highest-paid coach at $4 million a year.

The Birmingham News reported Friday that Auburn was looking at Nutt to replace Tommy Tuberville, who resigned Wednesday.

It’s unclear whether the extension was in the works before the Auburn job came open, but Nutt likely earned it after a stellar first season in Oxford.

The Rebels finished second in the SEC Western Division after winning just 13 games in their previous four seasons. The team likely will accept a Cotton Bowl berth in the next few days.

Each of Ole Miss’ losses came by a touchdown or less and a total of 19 points. The Rebels knocked off then-No. 4 Florida and then-No. 18 LSU this season and thumped their archrival Mississippi State 45-0 for their most lopsided win in the long-running series since 1971. Bulldogs coach Sylvester Croom resigned a day later.

Nutt took over for fired coach Ed Orgeron last November and has re-energized a program that had fallen on hard times after the departure of Eli Manning in 2003.

He has received rave reviews from players and Boone has seen dividends, both financially and in the stands.

“Under Houston Nutt’s leadership, the Ole Miss football program is returning to a position of national prominence,” Boone said. “The quality of his assistant coaches and his ability to motivate are essential tools to having a successful program. Over the next few years, we expect to see significant results from the foundation which has been built this year.”

The contract extension may have kept history from repeating itself for the Rebels. Tuberville coached Ole Miss for four seasons before moving to Auburn in 1998. He famously told reporters he had no intention of leaving Oxford and they’d have to carry him out of town in a pine box.

He left the next day and built one of the nation’s most successful programs at Auburn, where the Tigers went 13-0 four seasons ago. But Tuberville, who made about $3 million a year, resigned after finishing 5-7 during a tumultuous year that included the midseason firing of his offensive coordinator and a lopsided loss to state rival Alabama. The school still paid him a $5.1 million buyout.