Fans, players, community hope new Southeast coach means new beginning

Dickey Nutt (Courtesy Southeast Missouri State University)
Dickey Nutt (Courtesy Southeast Missouri State University)
By Crystal Britt
CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - There's no question SEMO basketball has recently fallen under some hard times.  With recent NCAA violations and a rough basketball season for the men, fans are really hoping to get back to the good old days.
It's hard to believe it's been nine years since the Southeast men's basketball team wowed fans and grabbed the nation's attention with a season to remember.  The stands at the Show-Me Center were packed during the 1999-2000 season.  The team grabbed the OVC tournament championship title, and went on to Southeast's first trip to the big dance.
Fast forward to the 2008-2009 season.  The roar of the crowd has dwindled.  The Redhawks end their season with a 3-27 record.
"We've had some challenges to say the least," said Southeast Missouri State President Ken Dobbins. 
Troubles began in 2006 with the 1999 OVC men's basketball coach of the year Gary Garner. An NCAA investigation revealed Coach Garner reportedly allowed ineligible players to travel. In March of 2006, the university decided not to renew Garner's contract.
Around the same time the head women's basketball coach, B.J. Smith was placed on administrative leave and then resigned over NCAA infractions.  The women's 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 seasons would later be wiped from the record books, including their appearance in the 2006 NCAA Tournament.
Working to turn around the men's team, the university brought in Scott Edgar as head coach. But, the shocking news last fall came as Edgar too would be placed on administrative leave also for alleged NCAA violations.  During that same announcement, SEMO announced its athletic director Don Kaverman would also be placed on leave and was later relieved of his duties. Interim coach Zac Roman stepped up to lead the team this season.  The team didn't win a single conference game.
"It's a great day to be a Redhawk," said John Shafer.  
SEMO now has a new Athletic Director.  John Shafer is looking to the future. 
"This time, this place is the best here I could make (with the selection of the new coach). I believe that," said Shafer. 
New head coach Dickey Nutt said, "I want this (the Show Me Center) to be the hardest place to play in the OVC."
Nutt no doubt knows what he's walking into and his players are ready for a fresh start.
"We're definitely taking a step forward. I think what happened in the past, is in the past," said Jimmy Drew, Southeast Guard.
Coach Nutt is signing a four year contract worth $120,000 a year, plus incentives.  It's an expense the budget crunching university is willing to make, especially since the athletic department does receive outside help like from Boosters.
"I think John Shafer will lead the athletic department with Coach Nutt and the other staff members. We're in good shape right now," said Ken Dobbins.
Coach Dickey Nutt promises to work from daylight to dark to make the program great.