OXFORD, Miss. (AP) -The future of Mississippi coach Ed Orgeron has been called into question by fans and the media as he struggles to put a winner on the field.
Only one opinion really matters, however, and Ole Miss chancellor Robert Khayat leaves no room for interpretation about his friend's future with the Rebels.
``I'm very high on Ed Orgeron,'' Khayat said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. ``(I'm) very loyal and supportive to him and committed to him.''
With his barrel chest, booming Cajun accent and fiery demeanor, Orgeron can be a polarizing figure.
He's already been a subject in two books and is considered among the nation's best recruiters. But he's also been the target of biting attacks from disgruntled fans who expected immediate results after he took over in 2005.
Love him or hate him, it's unlikely Orgeron will be given the quick hook by Ole Miss.
The Rebels are 2-7 going into Saturday's homecoming game against Northwestern State, Orgeron's alma mater. The Rebels are in danger of going winless in the Southeastern Conference for the first time since 1982 with league games left against No. 3 LSU and at Mississippi State.
Khayat hears the murmuring from fans. The doubters stand outside the fence as far as he's concerned.
``I really believe we can only succeed if we unite and play together,'' Khayat said. ``So the people who make negative comments about Coach Orgeron and our football team really serve no purpose. Constructive criticism is fine. But negative comments of fire the coach is not the way to do this.''
The 46-year-old Orgeron wears his drive and enthusiasm on his pumped-up chest. He views recruiting as the same kind of helmet-to-helmet fight he specialized in as a defensive end growing up in Galliano, La. While his over-the-top personality - punctuated with the occasional 'Wooooo!' - repels some, it draws the men who work at football like a flame in the night.
``He's a tough guy, he's a very tough guy,'' said Ole Miss defensive coordinator John Thompson, who first got to know Orgeron when he was an assistant at Northwestern State in the 1980s. ``He's a fighter just like he was 25 years ago when I first got to know him, and he's going to win.''
The Rebels have not fractured under the strain of all the losses, brought on in part because Orgeron decided to kick much of his defensive depth off the team last year after several players were caught smoking marijuana.
Guard John Jerry said Orgeron is a father figure to him - after Orgeron suspended him for violating team rules. Seth Adams, the former walk-on turned starting quarterback, has volunteered to help Orgeron with recruiting.
``He's just straight up and forward with the guys,'' Adams said of Orgeron's recruiting pitch. ``If he tells you he's going to give you an opportunity, he's going to give you an opportunity. As he did with me.''
It puzzles Orgeron that he's struggled at Ole Miss, but nothing about his first head coaching job has gone as he expected.
After Southern California won a national title in the 2005 Orange Bowl, Orgeron rented a van, piled his family in and drove to Orlando for a direct flight so he could get to his new job as quickly as possible.
Instead of fanfare, when he arrived there was friction.
He was greeted with media reports of his past drinking problems that cost him his job at Miami and criticism of his hiring to replace David Cutcliffe, who was 44-29 in seven years with the Rebels.
``I get here and it's just negative, negative, negative, negative,'' Orgeron said.
The scrutiny continued as Orgeron tried to infuse the team with energy. At USC, there was a tradition where Orgeron would rip off his shirt and lead the team in its ``SC-Wild Bunch'' cheer, which always left the Trojans in a frenzy.
When he tried to transfer the tradition to Ole Miss, it fizzled.
``We got ridiculed for it here,'' Orgeron said. ``I didn't understand. I really didn't. That really freaked me out. I mean, what's wrong? And it really irked me that a lot of the things I said (that appeared in the media) came from someone in that room.''
Khayat, a two-sport star at Ole Miss from 1956-60 who played with the Washington Redskins, wishes fans and the media had the chance to know Orgeron as well as he does.
Ole Miss' top man was immediately drawn to Orgeron, who made a full disclosure of his past during an interview with Khayat.
``First of all I thought he was a real football man - good looking, I thought, strong, aggressive, competitive, excited,'' Khayat said. ``And he had the record of being the best recruiter in the country.''
Among the players Orgeron helped bring to USC were Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart and star defensive linemen Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson.
USC coach Pete Carroll still feels Orgeron's presence on the recruiting trail.
``They're the most active recruiting group we see. We see them out in California everywhere working it,'' Carroll said. ``I would think it's just a matter of time.''
Khayat said he'll stand by Orgeron, even if it takes six years to turn the program around.
``The truth is when we win it won't matter if he takes his shirt off,'' Khayat said. ``If you win, they support you. If you lose, they don't. I hate to say it, but that's just the way it is.''

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