During an end of first quarter break on Saturday during the Kent State game, the nine recent inductees to the University of Arkansas’ Hall of Honor were honored on the field.
Felix Jones received the loudest ovation as a record-setting tailback behind Darren McFadden during some of the Razorbacks’ most memorable SEC moments of the last 25 years.
The second loudest ovation went to Houston Nutt. Ten or 15 years ago, it would’ve been a chorus of boos.
Nutt, of course, was the Arkansas coach from 1998-2007, winning 75 games and three SEC Western Division titles, with two trips to the SEC Championship game.
By the end of his tenure, however, his welcome had worn thin. Quite thin with a sizeable portion of the fan base.
It was pretty much split down the middle in 2007. You had ‘Nutt-huggers’ or you were a ‘darksider.’
Once that season went south, with three SEC losses by early October, the noise around the program became toxic.
I was a freshman at UARK that year, and remembered covering practices—full practices, mind you—and reporters would ask Nutt almost every day about his job status or if he thought his job was safe.
That regular season ultimately ended with the upset of No. 1 LSU in Baton Rouge in triple overtime, which was Nutt’s virtuoso coaching performance.
The ‘golden handcuffs’ were then removed a few days later and he high-tailed it to Ole Miss, where he spent four tumultuous seasons before being fired after going 2-10.
Obviously Nutt did and said things here that were controversial. His dalliances with Nebraska and LSU. ‘I called that play, brotha.’ How he handled the Mitch Mustain saga.
No coach is perfect, though. No coach is going to spend a tenure of more than a few years and not say and do some things that he regrets or that he wishes he could’ve taken back.
I also get why Nutt was so polarizing. He had a massive ego, and he didn’t have a problem letting people know how he felt or tooting his own horn.
That being said, his coaching and recruiting allowed Arkansas to gain relevance in the SEC, allowed the stadium in Fayetteville to be expanded and is still the only coach to take the Razorbacks to Atlanta.
Those accomplishments, and the players that he helped mold, have benefited Arkansas tremendously. And are worthy of honor.