Some former Rebels not surprised by Cutcliffe’s firing

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 3, 2004

[12/3/04]Former Ole Miss players from around Warren County said they were not surprised that the school fired football coach David Cutcliffe.

The Rebels’ coach for the past six seasons was fired on Wednesday after a 4-7 season that school officials said had nothing to do with the dismissal.

“I kind of knew it was coming,” said Vicksburg resident George Nasif, a three-year cornerback for the Rebels from 1974-76. “He’s a good man and has done some good things for Ole Miss, but I didn’t like his coaching style. I think he should have been more enthusiastic.”

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Nasif, who played under Ken Cooper, compared his coach back then to the way Cutcliffe coached during his tenure.

“You really couldn’t tell whether they were winning by 100 or losing by 100,” Nasif said.

Bobby Bailess, a Vicksburg attorney who played linebacker for Ole Miss in the early 1970s, became close friends with Cutcliffe over the years. He listened to Cutcliffe’s news conference on Wednesday.

“I wouldn’t say I was shocked,” Bailess said. “I’m sad for coach because he’s a friend of mine and he’s a class guy.”

Ole Miss president Dr. Robert Khayat attended the annual Conerly Trophy presentation on Wednesday night in Jackson and said the dismissal had more to do with the vision for the future.

“It’s abeen a very difficult day,” Khayat said. “Coach Cutcliffe brought a great deal to Ole Miss, but his vision for the future of the program and our vision were not the same.”

A search for a new coach will begin immediately. Many names, including LSU assistant Jimbo Fisher, former Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham and Southern Cal assistant coach Ed Orgeron have all been mentioned for the post.

Khayat said there are candidates, but he was mum.

“We have a list, but we are not ready to say anything else about it,” Khayat said.

Vicksburg city attorney Bobby Robinson, who played with the Rebels from 1962-64 and helped the team to two Southeastern Conference championships, said the expectations to return the Rebels back to glory was a factor.

“They have such a nice venue up there and have higher expectations,” Robinson said. “They’ll have to find a coach who can compete for an SEC championship every year. I don’t think Cutcliffe could do that.”

In six seasons, Cutcliffe led the Rebels to a 44-29 record with four bowl victories. Each season, though, the defense struggled.

Ole Miss athletic director Pete Boone said Cutcliffe refused to submit a written plan to fix problems within the program, including improving a defense that consistently ranked among the Southeastern Conference’s worst.

“He preferred the status quo, keeping things how they are,” Boone said. “I didn’t hear a plan to make that better.”