Warm Receptions

Houston Nutt

FAYETTEVILLE -- As President of the Texarkana Area Razorback Club, Allen Brown expected some trouble when Arkansas football coach Houston Nutt came to speak in late February.

An additional 10 tables and 100 chairs had to be brought in to seat the 575 fans, who had each paid $15 to eat fish and listen to Nutt speak at a local Elks Lodge.

Naturally, with that many fans in one room, Brown anticipated at least one "knucklehead" to ask Nutt about the controversy that has followed him this offseason.

Brown was prepared to move on if the topic was brought up. But when it was time for the question-and-answer segment of the evening, no one asked.

"I think there were a lot of people interested maybe in the controversy or whatever, but none of that ever transpired," Brown said. "He had Q&A at the end, and everybody was very professional. No problems at all."

Like most big-time college football coaches this time of year, Nutt has traveled throughout his home state to speak to local booster clubs and answer questions from football-starved fans.

So far, the reception has been overwhelmingly positive, even as the controversy involving Nutt and a disparaging e-mail sent to former Arkansas quarterback Mitch Mustain continues to take weird twists and turns.

"I haven't had any negative (encounters)," Nutt said Tuesday from Mobile, Ala., where he was recruiting.

Starting with his visit to Texarkana on Feb. 25, Nutt will speak to around 12-15 Razorback Clubs over the next few months. Most of them are located in Arkansas, though he has already spoken to a group in Tulsa, Okla.

And even though there is a vocal portion of Arkansas' fan base that is unhappy with Nutt, the coach said he hasn't encountered any problems during his tour stops.

Has that surprised him?

"You don't ever know sometimes. This is my first experience of anything that was negative, so you don't know," Nutt said. "But when you get out there and get to see (fans) face-to-face and (they) feel good, boy, it makes you feel good."

Harold Horton, a vice president for the Razorback Foundation who helps coordinate Nutt's visits to local booster clubs, said he hasn't noticed any problems on the road.

"This year, the reception that he has had has been as strong or stronger than what it was his first year here (at Arkansas)," Horton said.

The crowds to hear Nutt speak have been good, and there are plans for him to visit Razorback Clubs in several more cities - including Fort Smith (May 21) and Bella Vista (July 30).

But considering some fans' current displeasure for Nutt, there is still a chance he could encounter them during his upcoming tour stops.

Nutt has been criticized and had his cell phone records scrutinized by some fans, who question how much the coach knew about a nasty e-mail sent to Mustain by a booster and Nutt family friend.

But Horton said attempts are made to make sure that Nutt's visits to local Razorback Clubs don't get out-of-hand.

"We don't let it be anything except positive. They're always," Horton said. "That's our purpose in going out there is being positive and upbeat, and that's the way we carry on the meeting."

Nutt hasn't visited any more or any fewer booster clubs this offseason because of the controversy. He usually speaks to one or two groups a week and answers questions from fans.

The most popular question that Nutt said he's heard from fans during his speaking tour: Are there more plans for Arkansas running back Darren McFadden to take snaps in the Wildcat formation?

Yes, Nutt said.

"There has just been a lot of positive (feedback)," Nutt said. "I'm not just trying to be corny, it's just the way it's been.

"People have gone out of their way to let everybody know, and wanted me to tell the staff they're behind us, behind our team and excited."



Nutt's Statewide Tour

Arkansas football coach Houston Nutt has already spoken to several Razorback Clubs this offseason, and he'll visit several more over the next few weeks.

Nutt will speak to around 12-15 Razorback Clubs throughout the state and in Tulsa this offseason.

Here is a list of some cities Nutt has either visited or has plans to visit over the next few months:

Texarkana

Tulsa

Pine Bluff

El Dorado

West Memphis

Fort Smith (May 21)

Little Rock

Paragould

Bella Vista (July 30)

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