Table For One: A Day of Infamy, by Grady Jim Robinson

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Re: Table For One: A Day of Infamy, by Grady Jim Robinson

Postby admin » Sun Jul 09, 2017 8:46 pm

Turmoil Leaves Arkansas Far From Hog Heaven
by Kelly Whiteside
by USA Today
May 28, 2007

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Sitting in a chair with a portrait of his family on the wall to his right and a wild hog head mounted on the wall to his left, Arkansas coach Houston Nutt is trying to make sense of the turmoil that has affected his family and the Razorbacks family during the last six months.

"To me this is way overboard," Nutt says during an interview in his office last week. Arkansas fans are among the nation's most passionate, as Nutt, one of their own, surely knows. But what happens when some fans investigate coaches and school officials, and one files a lawsuit to force action from those officials?

Several fans used the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act to obtain records of Nutt's university-issued cellphone. Ensuing chatter on the Internet and message boards resulted in that information becoming the basis for news reports about Nutt's personal life.

Another fan, John David Terry, filed a lawsuit against Fayetteville campus chancellor John A. White and university system President B. Alan Sugg because he felt the school didn't properly investigate a derogatory e-mail sent in December by Teresa Prewett, a Nutt family friend, to then-Arkansas quarterback Mitch Mustain. Sugg and White have asked that the suit be dismissed with prejudice and they be awarded their legal expenses.

A response to the university's motion to dismiss will be filed today, says Terry's lawyer, Eddie Christian Jr. A state circuit court judge will consider the motion to dismiss at a hearing Monday.

"There are people all over the country scratching their heads wondering, 'What in the world is going on at Arkansas?' " says White, a native Arkansan. "My goodness, it's hard for me to understand."

It would be hard to understand even if the Razorbacks had struggled last season. Instead, the team won 10 games for the first time since 1989. Their four losses, including the final three games of the year, were to teams ranked in the top five in the season's final poll. They won the Southeastern Conference Western Division title. Nutt was named SEC coach of the year. Running back Darren McFadden was the Heisman Trophy runner-up and is a leading Heisman hopeful entering the fall.

The e-mail sent to Mustain by Prewett in early December was part of an environment that Mustain chose to leave. He and wide receiver Damian Williams, also a teammate at nearby Springdale High School, have transferred to Southern California. Their coach at Springdale, Gus Malzahn, who had become Arkansas' offensive coordinator after Mustain's and Williams' senior season, has resigned and taken a similar job at Tulsa.

Athletics director Frank Broyles, 82, the most influential figure in Arkansas sports history, announced in February that he will retire in December at the end of his 50th year at the university. Nutt and White say Broyles' decision was influenced by the stress of the last few months; Broyles downplays its impact on his decision.

Amid the football saga, Broyles fired men's basketball coach Stan Heath in late March, just after the team lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Unable to land his top candidates, Broyles hired Creighton coach Dana Altman, who then changed his mind the next day and returned to Omaha. (Less than a week later, Arkansas hired John Pelphrey away from South Alabama.)

These days, Freedom-of-Infomania is all the rage in Fayetteville. The university has received so many FOI requests in recent months, White says, it has had to hire an additional attorney. Even Altman's cellphone records were requested, athletics department spokesman Kevin Trainor says. But, given Altman's brief stay, Trainor says, that phone was never taken out of the box.

Fans and reporters are not the only ones requesting information. Mustain also submitted an FOI request, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. The quarterback asked for phone records for Houston Nutt; Danny Nutt, the running backs coach and head coach's brother; and Broyles.

"It's a feeding frenzy out there," says White, who is trying to conduct a search for an athletics director amid this environment. White is handling the search himself. He says he is putting nothing in writing and is not using his university cellphone.

"Some individuals who have declined interest (in the AD job), they didn't state that (the turmoil) was the reason, but then they'd say, 'By the way, what in the world is going on?' So I'd have to conclude it was on their mind," he says.

'More on guard now'

The SEC's annual spring meetings begin today in Destin, Fla., and Nutt says he may address the level of unprecedented scrutiny with his fellow coaches. "I think everyone's going to be a little bit more on guard now," he says. "I think that's what you'll see nationwide."

According to the Democrat-Gazette, Nutt exchanged more than 1,000 text messages with the cellphone of Donna Bragg, a television news anchor in Arkansas, from Nov. 30 to Jan. 11, including one of 19 minutes before the start of the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1. Nutt wrote an open letter to fans, saying there was nothing inappropriate about his relationship with Bragg.

Nutt says the two are friends and that wrong conclusions have been drawn from the volume of text messages. He says many of those text messages were simply one- and two-word responses to questions. During the six-week period being analyzed, Nutt says, a close friend of Bragg's had been diagnosed with cancer and Nutt, who has had family members with cancer, was helping Bragg's friend get treatment. He also says some of the messages he exchanged with Bragg concerned the charity work both are involved with.

Terry's lawsuit revolves around the e-mail Prewett sent to Mustain. According to excerpts included in the complaint, Prewett wrote, "Competition scares the s(—-) out of you, doesn't it little boy? Please transfer. All you've been since you walked onto campus is a cancer. … Why is it that you came to Arkansas again? Was it so your mommie could be close by to change your diaper, or was it because you thought having (Malzahn) on the sideline would make playing in the SEC easier?"

Prewett sent the e-mail in December after a book was published about Springdale High's 2005 state title season in which Mustain, USA TODAY's national high school offensive player of the year, said he'd be more likely to attend Arkansas if Nutt was fired. (In fall 2005, Arkansas was enduring a second consecutive losing season.)

Mustain started eight games for Arkansas in 2006, and the Razorbacks won them all, but he finished the season as Casey Dick's backup. In December, the parents of three freshmen from Springdale High, including Mustain and Williams, met with Broyles. They had believed Nutt would run more of Malzahn's spread offense from high school and questioned the direction of the offense, which was run-oriented.

The lawsuit was filed last month after a group of fans who had been "watching and monitoring the situation and were extremely upset," says Christian, Terry's lawyer. Christian and Terry are Arkansas graduates. Christian says he's a season ticketholder and Terry has been one in the past. According to Christian, the group felt the e-mail to Mustain was being "swept under the rug." Nutt formally reprimanded Prewett and barred her from the sideline during games.

Christian asked Mustain's mother, Beck Campbell, to provide the e-mail exchanges she had with White during the incident. Now Campbell and Mustain say their main goal is to move on and focus on USC.

Christian describes the suit as "taxpayer action" and argues taxpayer money was wasted because White failed to do his job. The suit wants White to order a "good faith, full, complete and independent" investigation into the e-mail sent to Mustain. It also seeks an injunction to stop Sugg from paying White, who it alleges is in breach of his contract. It also seeks an injunction to stop White from paying any member of the football coaching staff "who are failing, or have failed, to carry out their mandatory contractual obligations."

"This is not about football," Christian says. "It's about how you treat a student athlete."

In White's and Sugg's motion to dismiss, their lawyers contend "at the end of the day, Plaintiff simply does not like the way White, Nutt or anybody else is doing his job or that they are getting paid to do it. … The place to file a complaint about that is with the op-ed pages and call-in shows, not in a court of law."

Nutt's ordeal

Nutt, 49, is entering his 10th season at Arkansas and is under contract through the 2012 season. Among SEC coaches, only Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer, entering his 16th season, has been in his job longer. Nutt says 26 SEC coaches have come and gone in his time at Arkansas. Nutt won't be added to that list anytime soon, White says. "I'm a solid, solid supporter of Houston Nutt," the chancellor says.

In 2004, Nutt entertained a lucrative job offer from Nebraska. His flirtation with Nebraska, followed by losing seasons in 2004 and 2005, didn't sit well with some fans. Then when Mustain, Williams and Malzahn left Arkansas, the unrest intensified.

Broyles says he can see the physical effect the last few months have had on Nutt. "He's aged. It's aged him because he's been hurt. He's a native Arkansan. He played here, coached here as an assistant coach, came back with the idea of coming home," Broyles says.

Nutt says: "What was hard was the children in school, the gossip (about his marriage). I have three in high school. They can be cruel at that age, so that was the tough thing." Nutt and his wife, Diana, told their children what to expect. "If you don't have a strong family, people can disrupt your family and break it up," he says.

Nutt says the experience has made him more determined to succeed. "The most important thing I can do is get lost in my immediate family and the family that I have here," he says, motioning to the field just outside his office window.

White and Broyles contend those who want Nutt fired are a vocal minority. Christian disagrees. "The discontent is very widespread," he says. "They would have you think there's a little negativity out there. I perceive it as vast."

School officials say renewals for season tickets are about 20% ahead of where they were at this time last year and that every Razorback Club event Nutt attends is filled.

"That group is not going to push us out," Nutt says. "That makes you feel good, but it makes you want to work a little bit harder. It makes you want to get with the players a little bit more and have them prepared during two-a-days. It's hard to explain the fire right now."

Though the controversy has overshadowed their fine 2006 season, Arkansas players say it hasn't been a distraction. "For us, it hasn't been difficult," McFadden says. "For Coach Nutt, I feel like it's outrageous and crazy for anyone to have to put their family through things like that. He knows we support him, the whole team."

Running back Felix Jones says he takes the criticism of Nutt personally. "I just feel like when you're attacking him, you're attacking us as well," the running back says. Still, Jones doesn't expect the controversy to wane anytime soon because Arkansas football is the state's full-time obsession.

"It's been the best of times, and it's been the worst of times," says White, borrowing the line from Charles Dickens. "How in the world would they have ever reacted if we won only seven or eight games?"
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Re: Table For One: A Day of Infamy, by Grady Jim Robinson

Postby admin » Sun Jul 09, 2017 8:51 pm

The Identity Theft of Mitch Mustain
directed by Matthew Wolfe
May 18, 2013
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