FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The following is a partial transcript of the press conference held Monday as Houston Nutt announced his resignation as the head football coach at the University of Arkansas.
“Thank you, Chancellor White. After a lot of serious consideration, a lot of discussion with Diana and my family, we’ve come to the conclusion that…this morning, I called Chancellor White to turn in my resignation. I just can’t think Coach Broyles enough. Dec. 10, 1997, he called me the night before and said ‘here’s the key to the University of Arkansas to be the Razorback football coach.’ I promised one thing: that I was going to go from daylight to exhaustion and I feel like we’ve done that for ten years. Not one hour, not one day off. It’s for the love of Arkansas, it’s the love of the Razorbacks.
“I grew up an Arkansan, I’m one of you. I was a ball boy on the sideline. I was the one that kept up with everyone’s number, whether it be Jim Lindsey, No. 21, or Cliff Powell, No. 64, Jon Brittenum, Harry Jones—I knew them all by name and number. They were my heroes and I loved them and kept up with them. So it was a very, very special time for me to come to the University of Arkansas. For ten years, I can’t tell you the memories, the happiness, the times, the ups and downs and most of all, the players and the relationship with the players. I love the players so much and I just appreciate every one of them. We’ve had so many great, great times.
“I also want to thank Chancellor (White) for giving me the opportunity to stay at the University of Arkansas. We talked long and hard and I had the opportunity to stay. I appreciate that so much, but deep, deep down in my heart, as an Arkansan and as a person that loves the Razorbacks so much, I really felt at this time it was so important that the whole state come together as one. One heartbeat, as we tell our players. That’s the only way things can go forward and at this time, I didn’t think we could have one heartbeat.
“I wanted to make sure our student-athletes had every opportunity, with the facilities they have, with the academic support they have, to have every advantage to have everyone in the stands, around the state of Arkansas, whether it be at coffee shop or a Wendy’s or wherever, they can all talk about the Razorbacks as one. I can not thank the faculty, I can’t thank them enough for coming here on Saturday after Saturday to recruit these young men from their moms and sell the University of Arkansas. They did a great job. I can’t thank the staff I had the privilege to work with for ten years, and as you know ten years is a long time in the SEC. It’s a very, very long time if you check the numbers, so I’m proud of that.
“What I’m proud of most of all is the relationship with guys like Darren McFadden, Weston Dacus, Jonathan Luigs and on and on and on. I can name every one of them because I know every one of them by their name, their first name and not just a number because I love them. And what I’m proud of most of all, as well, not only did they go to school, do the right thing when nobody was looking, we graduated so many years ahead of the student body and I am very, very proud of that. Some of them even got degrees as a junior and I always thought the five-year plan was a pretty good plan, so I was very proud of that.
“Last Friday night in front of the nation, I can’t tell you how many calls I’ve received from guys like former Razorback Jimmy Johnson, on and on and on, that called. They saw the Razorback—that fighting spirit, that one heartbeat, the togetherness—beat a very, very good football team and they did it the right way. They did it toughness. They did it with attitude, but most of all they did it together. I can’t explain to you about the locker room. The celebrated locker room is what you live for. I can’t explain to you what that meant to me.
“So I want to thank everybody. I want to thank everybody that’s involved. I just can’t say enough about our program from where it started in 1998 when, I see Michael Snowden and Michael Williams out there, when we went out to the Razorback Club, and all they wanted to know was ‘could we beat SMU?’ and now they’re wanting to know when we’re going to get to the BCS. This place, right now, is in very, very good shape and they’re going to get there, but I just encourage everybody, everybody (to say) ‘hey, let’s come together, let’s be a Razorback.’ Once you’re a Razorback, you’re always a Razorback for life. So I want to thank everyone and I appreciate it so much. Thank you.”
Chancellor John A. White:
“Thank you, Houston. I know this was not an easy decision for you to make. Let me begin by making one thing perfectly clear, Houston’s decision to resign was neither forced nor encouraged, nor requested. On multiple occasions, I have made it clear to him that I wanted him to remain as our football coach. Many people took the time to contact me to express their views, pro and con, about the situation, but most of those who contacted me focused on what they wanted. Strangely absent from their inputs was a focus on what’s best for Houston Nutt and his family.
“My management style is to assign a high priority to what’s in the best interest of those who report to me. In so doing, I found that the organization we serve is strengthened. And after assembling a highly qualified team, I make every effort to support them fully. It has been a difficult year for Houston and his family. Despite the criticism and complaints he has received, Houston has remained strong – committed to his team and to the entire Razorback family. Houston loves his families, the Nutt family and the Razorback family.
“He has a deep affection for the members of the football team and the members of his staff. He also loves his home state, Arkansas. He has said repeatedly, even as recently as (Sunday), this is a dream job for him. Because of his love for Arkansas, for the University of Arkansas, and for the Razorback family, Houston has made a decision that he believes, in the long run, will be best for Arkansas, for the university and for the Razorbacks. He believes his resignation provides the best hope for the Razorback family to reunite, for the fan base to unify.
“Soon after the South Carolina game, I met with Houston to discuss the situation. I told him then and I’ve told him repeatedly since, that his job was not in jeopardy. I also told him that I had reviewed his contract and understood how difficult it would be for him to resign if he concluded it was in the best interest of his family and the Razorback family to do so. His contracts includes “golden handcuffs” that make it very, very difficult for him to resign. Not only must he pay $500,000 if he takes a coaching job elsewhere, but also he forfeits a significant amount of money. Money he has earned over the past several years. I told Houston I would request approval of the Razorback Foundation to undo the handcuffs, to provide him with the same level of compensation he would receive if we terminated his employment.
“I emphasized it was his decision to make. Whether or not he remained as head coach of the Razorbacks was entirely up to him. I also told him we would support him 100 percent if he decided to stay the course and I would join him in the trenches and we would fight through any obstacles that might be there for him. However, if he decided it was in the best interest of his family, the Razorback program, the University of Arkansas and the state of Arkansas for him to resign, then we would support that decision, too, albeit reluctantly.
“(Monday), Houston informed me that he had wrestled with this issue and had concluded that it was time for him to close this chapter in his life. I count it a privilege to have worked with Houston the past ten years. He accomplished what most leaders want to have accomplished when they resign or retire. That is ensuring that the organization they led is stronger than it was when they arrived. Houston Nutt leaves the Razorback football program much, much stronger than it was when he arrived in 1997.”
Athletic Director Frank Broyles:
“Well, we go from a day of celebration to a day of mourning. Obviously, most of you know, Houston and I have been friends for over 30 years when I recruited and beat Bear Bryant who was there in the house, but I ate three of his mother’s desserts and I think that’s what got her on my side, but I gained 15 pounds.
“This is a time of celebration, also, like when you lose a loved one. You don’t go into denial, you don’t go into all the things that you think of past and the good things and that what we’re doing today and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to get the Razorback fans to celebrate the good times that we’re going to have in the future because of what Houston has contributed to this program.
“Let me refresh your memory. I believe we had one winning season in the time before Houston came since we joined the SEC. When he came, people were saying ‘yes, Arkansas has a 100,000-seat stadium. 50,000 in Little Rock and 50,000 in Fayetteville.’ When he came and won the first eight games and came within two minutes of having an undefeated season and playing for the national championship, it invigorated and excited me to the point that I immediately asked John White if I could go to the Board (of Trustees) and see if we could expand our stadium. And the reason that we have 76,000 people here is because of the year of 1998 when Houston came in, turned the program around and excited everybody, including me.
“So we added. We went from 49,000 seats to a potential of 76,000 (seats). We went from a season of ticket sales from $5.1 million to $21 million and all of this because Houston came in and excited us. That’s the thing I’m going to remember. That’s the thing I want you to remember. Every Razorback fan should remember the ten years. I could start with all the things I listed here of all the things I could say, but it would take an hour of the great things he has done since he’s been here.
“Just last Friday, I looked and said how did we make 513 yards against the No. 1 defense in the country, but we did. Interestingly, LSU was second against the run with 78 yards (allowed), how did we make 385 yards? Because we were prepared. Houston is a great teacher and he’s a great motivator. That’s all coaching is—teaching and motivating—and he was the best at it of anybody I’ve known. The most consistent of anybody I’ve known in the coaching profession. I would trust him to get a team ready to play.
“Just like (Nick) Saban told me when he was still at LSU that the Arkansas football team played harder than any team they faced. That’s motivation and that’s teaching and that’s what a coach is supposed to do, get his team ready to play. Those are the things I want you to remember. Those are the things I’m going to remember.
“Let me say this in closing, the thing Houston did is what all coaches do and the winning coaches know that X’s and O’s aren’t the difference, it’s building relationships. I want to tell you how Houston built relationships for this program. Last year, he made 33 speaking engagements in the state of Arkansas, plus 12 Razorback Clubs. When you build relationships, you build fans that are with you year in and year out. And when you build relationships you do it with fairness, an attitude of trust and an attitude of gratitude. That’s what Houston has done.”