University of Arkansas officials wanted to end the long-running Houston Nutt soap opera. They did, but not before ham-handed officials produced a few more episodes to further disgust fans.
The incompetent-in-chief was Chancellor John White, whose reputation for honesty was damaged by his remarks during the cashiering of basketball coach Nolan Richardson. He did little in the course of Nutt's departure to improve his standing.
White announced to a TV audience that Houston Nutt didn't want to go and that White had done everything in his power to get him to stay. Nonsense.
The decision to change coaches was made weeks before the Hogs' famous victory over LSU. Nutt was never going to quell noise from a significant number of detractors. White hadn't helped by refusing to insist on accountability for verbal abuse of young players and an assistant coach by Nutt's friends and family.
The Board of Trustees made it clear that it was time for a change. The process began and would have ended with an early termination had Nutt lost the Mississippi State game. Nutt, under his contract, stood to make more money by being fired than by resigning voluntarily. So, naturally, Nutt didn't want to resign, particularly given more bargaining power by season-ending victories. University officials thought a public firing too indelicate.
White, plus his betters at the Razorback Foundation, split the difference. They paid Nutt $3.2 million to leave, knowing that he'd be taking a new job soon — before midnight the same day.
As Harry King of Stephens Media has explained, the payoff isn't so outrageous. About half of the payoff was in bonus and deferred compensation money Nutt was due to receive at some point regardless. The UA also saved some money against what a pure firing would have cost. The difference was spent to get Nutt gone quickly.
This is what White should have said at the strange resignation news conference. Instead, he depicted Nutt's departure as a decision that was in doubt up until the 11th hour. This was an affront to anybody with an IQ in double figures, which covers many Hog fans.
Various members of the Board of Trustees have given similarly poor reviews of the White news conference.
Several trustees were already angry at White (Nutt had, at most, a lone holdout supporter on the Board at the end). White's management earned few points when the Democrat-Gazette reported that lame-duck Athletic Director Frank Broyles had approved Nutt's plan to let Arkansas assistant coaches — still on an Arkansas public payroll — do recruiting work for their new jobs at Ole Miss. That stupid idea died rapidly after exposure to sunlight.
The soap opera is not over. Some people want answers about the source of a widely repeated statement that NCAA rules prohibit Board of Trustee involvement in athletic affairs. As the story went, that power was said to be reserved for the chancellor. Oops. The Democrat-Gazette's Seth Blomeley reported last week that there is no such NCAA rule.
Did John White tell the Board of Trustees about this non-existent rule to preserve his dominion over athletics? If he did, he has some explaining to do. If he made such a representation and can't demonstrate justification for it now, perhaps it's time for him to permanently relocate to that new villa he just purchased on Hilton Head.