Posted by: Robin Foster | November 28, 2007

A Brief Diversion: Razorback Football and Houston Nutt

If you haven’t noticed, I am a Razorback fan. The news of Houston Nutt leaving Arkansas and going to Ole Miss did not surprise me. Why do you ask? Because Arkansas fans have had a history of treating its head coaches badly since the hiring of Lou Holtz. Let’s look at the record. Lou Holtz was a winning coach for the Razorbacks. He had one year in 1983 where he went 6-5. As recounted in his autobiography, he was called into Frank Broyles office and was surprisingly fired asked to resign. Holtz knew it was a rebuilding season and did not expect to be released from his job. After all, he had the best win-loss record in the history of Arkansas football up to that point. Even Frank Broyles had worse seasons (Broyles was 5-5 his last year before being promoted to athletic director allowing Holtz to take over the head coaching job) when he had to rebuild, yet Holtz is gone to eventually lead Notre Dame to a National Title.

After Holtz, in comes Ken Hatfield. His first year he went 7-4. I remember that he was badly criticized. In fact through out his tenure as coach, he faced criticisms and even ostracizing from fans as he would walk to the locker room from the field. From 1986 to 1989 Hatefield coached the best record, percentage wise, Razorback football ever had. After that first year he never won less than 9 games (only two seasons with nine wins). The rest ranked 10 wins. I believe Hatfield knew that 1990 would be a rebuilding year. I also wonder if he thought in the back of his mind that if he was treated badly during winning seasons, what would happen during a rebuilding season? Hatfield resigns.

I won’t talk about the seasons from 1990 to 1997. Frankly, they are too painful.

Finally, a breath of fresh air arrives in 1998. Houston Nutt turns the program around. Now honestly, Nutt did have some tuff years, but he did have some great years. In 2006 he was voted SEC coach of the year. In 2007 he did take some hits by losing his starting quarterback and other key players. Still, what could have been a dismal year did not totally sour. He went 8-4 even beating No. 1 Ranked LSU in triple overtime. Before the LSU game there was speculation that Nutt would either leave or be fired at the end of the game. Some reports claimed he may have saved his job with that win. Again, the fans were very critical of Coach Nutt and the program at Arkansas. I wonder if he just was tired of fickleness displayed by Razorback fans among other reasons. Nutt resigns and signs four hours later with Ole Miss for a ton more money.

So, who will be our next coach. I don’t know, but I do know this: Arkansas has lost three top coaches partly because of the berating they have taken from the fans of Arkansas. Am I upset that Coach Nutt is leaving? Yes, but not at Nutt himself. The fans have shown little appreciation for the job he has done. This was true of Holtz and Hatfield. Until Razorback fans learn to appreciate the efforts of coaches who actually win, Razorback football will suffer. I just hope we don’t go through another episode like we did in the nineties.


  1. B. T.

    Thanks for the testimony. I might find a place in my heart also for Ole Miss until, of course, they play Arkansas.


  2. I’ve been a Razorback fan for a while. When I was a pastor in western KY, Coach Nutt was at Murray State. He did a football clinic at a high school near us, and I took my fourth-grade son. Coach Nutt actually spent some time with my son one-on-one teaching him how to roll out and throw a pass. I was very impressed with him. I may have developed a place in my heart this week for Ole Miss.

  3. whoever the coach is at arkansas….smokey likes barbequed hawg! i usually eat the ribs and smoke the hams…but, i throw smokey the shoulders.


  4. Brother Robin,

    I hear the football coach at Duke University may be interested in coaching at a place like Arkansas. His agent is selling the idea that he may not post winning seasons, but he is consistent. :>)


  5. Robin,

    I am not and never have been a Razorback fan. So, as one who has observed the behavior of Razorback fans up-close without actually being one, I think that you have laid the blame at precisely the correct set of Air Jordans.


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