College football fans love to toss around the word "dirty."
The definition of "dirty" seems to vary based on one's affiliation, but surely we can all agree on at least one designation: A dirty coach is willing to eschew his integrity if doing so might pay off in a couple more W's. He's not so much a winner as a survivalist. He's not even necessarily a rule-breaker because he creates his own loopholes.
Which is why Ole Miss'
Nutt's controversial decision to
This is, after all, the same man who hired a high school coach he didn't want just to keep a quarterback recruit he wound up losing anyway; turned the practice of oversigning into such a farce that the SEC had to make up a rule just to curb him; and, just last year, welcomed another high-profile castoff with a checkered past only to watch him run afoul of the law again before playing a down with the Rebels.
The so-called "Right Reverend" has voluntarily gone down the wrong path again.
Masoli, the star quarterback for Oregon's 2009 Rose Bowl team, was desperate to find a new football team following his June dismissal, and Ole Miss just happens to be in desperate need of another quarterback following the transfer of second-stringer
Only in America. Or at least in one dirty coach's pocket of it.
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But that doesn't make Masoli an angel. He still lied to police during the fraternity investigation, then pleaded guilty to a crime he now says he did not commit. He also lied to his coach,
Only a dirty coach would take a chance on a kid who so blatantly duped his previous coach.
Nutt says he did his homework. He spoke with Oregon coaches. He spoke with Masoli's mother. He invited the player for a campus visit last weekend to "look in his eyes."
"I spent a great deal of time with him," Nutt told SI.com's
Indeed, what better place to send a wayward quarterback than to the coach who helped turn
Nutt, an Arkansas native, was once a widely respected coach known for his close family, his strong Christian values (hence the "Right Reverend" tag) and his loyalty to his home state. In 2003, after taking the Razorbacks to bowl games each of his first six seasons, he turned down serious overtures from Nebraska to remain at Arkansas. (Only later would he become famous for tossing his name into every coaching opening in the country.)
Something changed, however, after enduring consecutive losing seasons in 2004 and '05. It's not hard to pinpoint the moment when Nutt went to the dark side. In the winter following the '05 season, amid whispers about Nutt's job security, his prized recruit, quarterback
Nutt's coup paid off in the short term, with Arkansas notching its best season of his tenure (10 wins and an SEC West title), but ultimately led to his unraveling. Having ditched Malzahn's flashy offense after just one game, believing it could never work in the "big boy" SEC, Malzahn bolted town after the '06 season. (His offense, meanwhile, is working just fine at Auburn.) Mustain and receiver
As soon as he got through the next regular season, Nutt packed his bags for Oxford before someone else did it for him. He's won nine games each of his first two seasons, including a pair of Cotton Bowl victories, yet the 52-year-old continues to make decisions like a desperate man with no job security.
In his first full recruiting calendar at Ole Miss, Nutt brazenly signed 37 players -- 37! -- fully intending to stash the non-qualifers (of which there wound up eight) at junior colleges in the state. SEC schools are now limited to 28 signees per class because of it. Four of the nine highest-rated players from that '09 Ole Miss class are no longer with the program and another is suspended indefinitely.
One of the four-star signees in that class was safety
Yet here we are again, a year later, with Nutt taking another chance on another risky player -- purportedly for altruistic reasons. "You want to try to make a difference," said Nutt. "After visiting with him, the bottom lime is I think he wants to do the right thing. He wants his name back."
Nutt's humanitarian interests in Masoli's redemption might seem more credible if they didn't magically materialize the day after his quarterback transferred.
The truth is, Nutt could have found any number of walk-on candidates to fill the emergency third-stringer role. Nutt's taking Masoli because the former Holiday Bowl MVP and lethal dual-threat athlete has the ability to lift Ole Miss from its predicted finish in the SEC West basement (according to the SEC media's preseason poll) back to another respectable bowl. Apparently the terminally insecure coach doesn't feel he can afford a rebuilding year despite averaging nine wins over his past four seasons.
What message does this send to
And what does it say about the SEC and NCAA that they would allow this to happen? Masoli is not the first player to take advantage of the graduate-transfer waiver allowing for immediate eligibility. He follows in the footsteps of former Cincinnati quarterback
Unlike them, however, Masoli is changing locales solely because his previous team
Masoli's former coach, Kelly, spent much of last winter fighting a stigma that his program was "dirty" following a rash of off-the-field incidents. But the second-year Oregon coach wound up dismissing or suspending every player who ran into trouble.
The only "dirty" coach in this scenario is the one openly welcoming other coaches' castoffs.