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February 6, 2014

Nix fueling budding rivalry

Tyrone Nix and the University of Southern Mississippi have history.

When I say history, it is the type that runs fairly deep. Nix played his college ball at USM from 1990 through 1993, graduating as a decorated player with a sharp mind for the game.

When his playing days were over, Nix turned to coaching. In 2001, and at the age of just 29, Nix became the defensive coordinator at, where else, USM. He was the youngest coordinator of all FBS programs (D-1 at the time), and quickly made a name for himself by turning out stellar unit after stellar unit.

With success came bigger opportunities. Nix moved on from USM in 2005 in favor of a defensive coordinator position at South Carolina under Steve Spurrier. After a couple of impressive seasons, Nix found himself back in Mississippi, but this time, he would accept a defensive coordinator position at Ole Miss. After another round of success, Nix was promoted to associate head coach, but from there, the waters got muddy.

Following a dismal 2011 campaign, Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt was fired, and Nix was dismissed as well when the new head coach, Hugh Freeze, came aboard.

That leads us more into present day. Nix was hired by Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill as his co-defensive coordinator in 2012, and at that time, you just knew that Nix would inevitably be forced to recruit against his alma mater.

That situation became even more prevalent after MT announced their invitation, and subsequent acceptance, into Conference USA, which USM has called home since 1996.

MT and USM already went toe-to-toe on the recruiting trail in years past, but now, it was more of a question of how many recruits will they vie for each year as opposed to wondering if they would cross paths in a certain year.

Well, here we are one year in, and things have already come to a head.

As it would happen, Nix was the main recruiting contact of a handful of prospects that had both MT and USM in their final groupings.

It certainly cannot be easy for a man to recruit against his alma mater, but at the end of the day, that is his job at this point. And now, accusations of dirty recruiting and down-talking the school where he started have surfaced in regards to Nix and these recruits.

Fans of the Golden Eagles have begun slinging mud over social media and message board communities, going as far to suggest that the former player and coach never be allowed to step foot on their campus again.

Harsh, right?

Let us get one thing straight off the bat here - these are purely allegations at this point, and I have not heard or seen any hard facts linking Nix to these types of practices. In fact, from conversations that I have had with recruits who dealt directly with Nix, they have nothing but good things to say and gave me no inclination of any sort of shady practices.

Recruiting is a dirty world, we all know that. At the end of the day, though, it is a business, and feelings are going to get hurt at some point.

Nix was not available for interviews following the Signing Day festivities, so he has yet to speak on the record about this subject, although I seriously doubt he would even entertain such questions.

Taking everything into account, we are left with a few things that we do know at this point in time:

MT and USM went head to head on a handful of recruits this year, including a pair that came down to the wire both on Signing Day for junior college prospects in December, as well as high school prospects Tuesday. In both scenarios, MT came out the victor, and Nix was the primary recruiter in most, if not all, of those situations.

More important that any of that, we now know is that there is a budding rivalry growing between these two programs, whether USM fans want to accept it or not. There is a lot of hatred and spite out there right now, and to be honest, it kind of makes things more exciting. It is going to make for better competition, both on and off the field (or court), and it will undoubtedly raise the bar out on the recruiting trail. If Nix has it out for USM, well it will not be long until USM has it out for Nix. At the end of the day, is will certainly be an exciting, fun rivalry to be a part of if you are a fan of either program. And whether Nix knows it or not, he is fueling this rivalry.



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