Nutt Out As Arkansas Coach, Leaves Team To Herring
Monday, November 26th 2007, 1:39 pm
By: News On 6
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Embattled Arkansas coach Houston Nutt resigned on Monday, giving up his job three days after directing the Razorbacks to a victory over top-ranked LSU. Defensive coordinator Reggie Herring will coach the team in its bowl.
Nutt told Chancellor John A. White that he wanted to close a chapter in his life.
``Houston's decision to resign was neither forced, or encouraged, or requested,'' White said.
Nutt said he was hopeful that his departure would unify the state, which had been torn with turmoil surrounding the football program.
``Deep, deep down in my heart as an Arkansan, as person who loves the Razorbacks so much, (I wanted) for the state to come together as one,'' Nutt said. ``At this time, I didn't think we could have one heartbeat.''
Rumors of Nutt's departure surrounded the program after the loss last winter of key recruits and a popular assistant coach. Trouble mounted for the coach after the Razorbacks lost their first three Southeastern Conference games after a turmoil-filled offseason.
Arkansas rebounded to finish the regular season 8-4 and knocked LSU out of the nation's No. 1 spot with a 50-48, triple-overtime victory over the Tigers on Friday.
Two weeks ago, the university strongly denied reports that this would be Nutt's last season as Arkansas' coach. On Sunday, Nutt said White and Athletic Director Frank Broyles wanted him to return, but he said more talks with the university were forthcoming.
Athletic Director-designate Jeff Long, who replaces Broyles January 1st, will direct the search for Nutt's replacement.
``Because of his love for Arkansas, for the University of Arkansas and the Razorback family, Houston has made a decision he believes will be in the long run the best for the university,'' White said.
The chancellor said Nutt's contract gave the coach a set of ``golden handcuffs'' under which Nutt would have to pay the university if he takes another coaching job while also forfeiting a significant amount of money. White said he would ask the Razorback Foundation to free Nutt of the obligations.
``Whether or not he remained coach of the Razorbacks was up to him,'' White said.
Arkansas began this season in the Top 25 but fell out in September. The Razorbacks lost their first three Southeastern Conference games and ended up 4-4 in league play. They did go 8-4 overall in the regular season, finishing it with a 50-48, triple-overtime win over then-No. 1 LSU on Friday.
Nutt went 75-48 at Arkansas since being hired in December 1997 to replace Danny Ford. Only Frank Broyles (144) has won more games with the Razorbacks. Nutt took the Hogs to two Southeastern Conference title games, losing each time.
Arkansas has never won the SEC in football, the Razorbacks first played in the league in 1992.
A year ago at this time, Arkansas was preparing to play for the SEC title game. In fact, the Razorbacks started 10-1 in 2006. Then they lost to LSU, to Florida for the conference championship and to Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl.
Nutt's status was never the same afterward. In January, offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn left to join the staff at Tulsa, lending credence to speculation that not everyone was on the same page. A short while later quarterback Mitch Mustain left the team to transfer.
Malzahn and Mustain were both highly touted additions in 2006 from Springdale High School near Fayetteville. When they left, Nutt had an uphill climb to win back the fan base. Fans used the Freedom of Information Act to investigate his cell phone records. As the team struggled this year, planes were spotted at games towing anti-Nutt banners.
A friend of Nutt's family sparked a controversy when she sent Mustain a nasty e-mail before he transferred. A fan has since sued the school over the e-mail.
Arkansas did make some progress under Nutt. When he was hired, the team was coming off back-to-back 4-7 seasons. In 1998, Nutt's first season, the Razorbacks started 8-0 before losing at top-ranked Tennessee when Clint Stoerner fumbled late.
Arkansas went to bowls during Nutt's first six seasons.
Nutt, 50, went to Central High School in Little Rock. He played quarterback at Arkansas before transferring to Oklahoma State following the 1977 season.