By now you’ve probably all heard the news that sent shockwaves through Mississippi this morning. As first reported by about 200 other media outlets… and then confirmed by Crystal Ball Run, Houston Nutt resigned today as the head football coach of the Ole Miss Rebels. The announcement came at a 3:00 p.m. press conference in Oxford, reportedly causing countless bottles of champagne to be popped across the North Mississippi delta.
And while the immediate fate of the program remains in Nutt’s hands (he’ll be allowed to coach through the end of the 2011 season), speculation has already turned to who might be the next coach in Oxford, now that Nutt has abdicated his Ole Miss throne. In particular, names like Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart were immediately thrown around as potential candidates.
However, a source from deep within the Ole Miss athletic department has leaked the true list of candidates that Ole Miss is expected to pursue, to us here at Crystal Ball. We've yet to confirm every name on the list, but here are some that we’re hearing most closely associated with the hottest coaching opening in the SEC:
Urban Meyer: Ole Miss officials are said to be in strong pursuit of Meyer, the former Florida coach who retired at the end of the 2010 season because of health problems. Now removed from the game for almost a full year, many believe Meyer is ready to get back into coaching, and his name has already been associated with both the Ohio State and Penn State jobs. You know, despite the fact that neither is currently open or available.
Well the Ole Miss job is open, and officials are said to be impressed with many aspects of Meyer’s resume, including his championship background, strong recruiting ties in the South, and ability to uphold Ole Miss’s long-standing tradition of lenient player conduct polices, policies which have been a staple at Ole Miss for decades. Said an unnamed source, “The fact that a guy can get arrested on a Wednesday, and play for Urban on a Saturday really speaks volumes to the kind of man he is. He’ll fit in very well with the culture that our previous coaches have created.”
There were even reports which surfaced late this afternoon that Meyer was seen looking at real estate in the Oxford area.
Crystal Ball Run will keep you updated as more details emerge.
Jon Gruden: If Meyer were to fall through, Crystal Ball Run has learned that Ole Miss would next pursue former NFL head coach Jon Gruden. Gruden has been out of coaching since the 2008 season, but has been linked to many openings both at the collegiate and professional level since.
According to an unnamed source, Ole Miss officials are equally impressed with Gruden, both for what he did in the NFL (winning a Super Bowl in Tampa Bay), but also what he’s done since retirement.
“Have you seen that Camp Gruden show?!?!” the source excitedly told Crystal Ball Run. “It’s awesome. Plus, his ability to take down-on-their-luck quarterbacks and turn them around is incredible. Considering those are the only kind of quarterbacks we get here at Ole Miss, that might make him the favorite to get this position.”
The source later added, “Besides, if he can deal with that prick Jaws every Monday, he should have no problem with the knuckleheads we’ve got on this team right now.”
Jim Tressel: If Ole Miss decides to shy away from coaches with southern ties, former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel could be the favorite to get the job. Tressel won 229 games coaching as a head coach at both Youngstown State and in Columbus, taking home four I-AA titles with the Penguins, in addition to capturing the 2002 BCS National Championship.
There is of course concern about the looming NCAA investigation into what happened at Ohio State with some of his players accepting illegal benefits, and Tressel’s knowledge in potentially covering it up.
That didn’t seem to bother our source however, who mentioned that there isn’t a single tattoo parlor within a 30 minute drive of the Ole Miss campus.
Watch out for Tressel as a dark-horse for this job.
Lane Kiffin: Further on down Ole Miss’s list is current USC, and former Oakland Raiders and Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin.
Rebels brass are said to be intrigued by Kiffin, and his experience, both on the professional level, as well as in the cutthroat world of the SEC in Knoxville. Crystal Ball Run has also learned that Kiffin may have tired of “dream job,” at USC, after nearly two full, consecutive years on the job. After coaching his 21st game in Los Angeles last week, USC is currently Kiffin’s longest tenure of any of his three head coaching stops. Many believe that the coach believes things are getting a bit stale, after such an extended stay in one job.
“It might just be time for Lane to move on,” a source close to Kiffin exclusively told Crystal Ball Run. “He’s in a rut. He feels like he’s done all there is to do. And I mean, can you blame him? He has been there 18 whole months after all!”
Ed Orgeron: Should Kiffin decide to stay at USC, one of his top assistants at the school, Ed Orgeron is said to be high on the Rebels list. Those close to the program are said to be impressed with Orgeron’s strong Southern recruiting ties, dating back to when he was head coach at---
We have just learned that Ole Miss is no longer considering Ed Orgeron for their vacant head coaching position.
A few more names that Crystal Ball Run has heard linked to the Ole Miss job include:
Jim Harbaugh: Said a source, “Look, it’s clear that this NFL thing just isn’t working out. Harbaugh clearly isn’t cut for the league. He’s going to get the itch to come back to college any day now.”
Bill Belichick: A different source, “Patience is running thin with the guy up in New England. Two straight losses? Seriously, what have Boston fans done to deserve this? It's been so long since they've had a winner up there.”
Ron Meyer: After a recent viewing of “The Pony Excess,” a high-ranking Ole Miss official is said to be fascinated with Meyer, the former SMU coach.
“That guy can coach, he can recruit, and boy can he dress. Did you see that yellow and orange polyester suit he was wearing? Classic!,” the source said.
When pressed on the trouble with the NCAA that Meyer’s tenure led to, an official told Crystal Ball Run, “There’s statutes on that stuff. Besides, he can’t be worse than Nutt!”
Tony La Russa: Said a source close to La Russa, "What, did you think the guy was going to stay retired forever?"
Rick Moranis: The final name that is said to be associated with the vacant Rebels job is Rick Moranis. Many insiders believe that Ole Miss was highly impressed with the offensive innovation Moranis showed in leading the Little Giants to an upset victory over the Cowboys, and their famed head coach Kevin O’Shea.
Ole Miss officials are also believed to be intrigued by the package deal that Moranis may be able to deliver to Oxford, should he get his daughter Becky “The Ice Box,” O’Shea to enroll in time for spring ball. The younger O’Shea could fill a big void for Ole Miss at the linebacker position.
Stay with Crystal Ball Run all winter long, as we continue to share developments on the next head coach at Ole Miss.
For all his columns, articles and opinions on college football, follow Aaron Torres on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.
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