Open Mic, Insert Foot: How About An Espy Award Named For Jesse Jackson?

Roger GowensCorrespondent IJuly 24, 2008


I’m sure by now those of you who haven’t been hiding in a cave are aware of the latest development in the 2008 Presidential election. You know, the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s comment to another guest on Fox News (when Jackson thought the mike was turned off) about certain parts of Barack Obama’s anatomy the right Reverend would like to sever.

If you can’t guess, just think of former Arkansas football coach, now of Ole Miss, Houston Nutt and his brother Danny.

Now, what you ask, does this have to do with sports? With ESPN’s Espy Awards just concluded, how about an Espy Award for the college coach with the greatest proclivity for sticking his foot in his mouth?

The winner wouldn’t be required to speak in rhymes, just to be able to perform verbal gymnastics well enough to keep his position in spite of verbal gaffes.

It’s simple, really. As college coaches make more and more money, seemingly enough cash to buy their own oil companys, the spotlight on major college coaches becomes ever brighter. Just text the aforementioned Houston Nutt or call his cell ( if you can get through) if you don’t believe me.

Which brings us to the subject of the article. How the lines between big-time football coaches and politicians have blurred almost to the point of disappearing . Speaking of lines, not a word about a former Arkansas player now playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Matt Jones, a Jacksonville Jaguar for the time being, who was in the news recently. I digress.

Last season at Arkansas, banners flew over the stadium insulting Houston Nutt’s coaching abilities. The last time I remember banners with negative messages at a Razorback game was in 1992 when the then Governor of the state, one William Jefferson Clinton, was running for President.

There were numerous jokes comparing the two men when it was revealed that Nutt’s cell phone had exchanged thousands of calls and text messages with a local female news anchor. “I never had text with that woman” one joke went.

So, why not have an award in college football for the coach who best manages to make mega-bucks in spite of mediocre job performance and numerous verbal gaffes? Kind of a Matt Millen of college sports. You know, the Detroit Lions GM who keeps his job in spite of enough buffoonery to send him to Washington D.C.?

Not to mention drafting a bust at wide receiver in the draft every year, though last years’ Calvin Johnson may break the trend yet. Millen has fired three or four coaches for not winning with the roster of misfits that he, Millen, has given the coaches to work with. What a sweetheart.

Jesse Jackson did play college football after all, at North Carolina A&T after transferring from the University of Illinois, so it’s not like the man is totally without street cred in the world of what Howard Cosell referred to as “jock-ocracy”.

So, without further adieu, here are the 2008 nominees for the inaugural Jesse Jackson Sower Of Discord Award for the college coach who is despised by the most fans, including those of his own team, yet always seems to come out smelling like a rose come contract time.

1. Nick Saban, Alabama

The guy is not just hated in South Florida and Louisiana anymore. Because of Saban’s recruiting tactics, the SEC passed a new rule restricting head coaches from evaluating new recruits in person in the month of May.

2. Rich Rodriguez, Michigan

It takes some serious talent in the jerk department to be as despised in your home state as Richer Fraud-riguez is in the state of West Virginia.

3. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

Stoops is highly regarded in the Sooner State, or as much so as anyone not named Switzer, except by the press who have to cover his team. Stoops is pretty much hated elsewhere for that smirk. This guy laughs about as often as he wins a BCS Bowl game, which is not much lately. Stoops has all the personality of a lampshade.

4. Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee

Fulmer makes a large target when it comes to opposing fans’ barbs and many Tennessee fans, as well. In spite of mediocre records in recent years, Fat Phil just got a contract extension. With David Cutcliffe gone along with Erik Ainge, Vol fans could dread seeing Fulmer on the sidelines as much as other patrons hate to be behind him in the buffet line.

5. Houston Nutt, Mississippi

Right now Ole Miss fans seem to think they’ve bought a new Lexus when it’s actually a “pre-owned” Pacer with the odometer rolled back. Nutt has often been compared to a used car salesman. There’s no word on whether Mississippi has a lemon law, but if they do this guy could be in trouble in a couple or three years.

It’s not that Nutt is a bad coach, but look up ‘mediocrity’ in Webster’s and you just might find a picture of Nutt in a dog-eared panama hat.

And the winner of the inaugural 2008 Jesse Jackson award is….

Houston “We have a problem” Nutt for managing to almost single-handedly lose four games in 2007, three after blowing fourth quarter leads.

The man derisively dubbed “Hootie” by his many detractors in the Natural State, further infuriated many Razorback fans with his ham-handed attempts to salvage his job by blaming his quarterback after one loss, a third string tailback for another, and anyone but himself for the others.

While the Tim Tebow phenomenon may have taken away whatever chances Darren McFadden had of winning the Heisman, the games Nutt gave away with bone-headed strategy or lack of preparation made DMac Marooned five.

The man who made No. 5 famous in Arkansas was repeatedly mis- or under-used in mid-season and McFadden got voted off the Heisman island. Finally at season’s end, the UA administration got their Wake Up Call. Houston, you’re a winner! Of the inaugural Jesse Jackson Award for college football, that is.