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The Insider, Nov. 29

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Nutt's departure

Houston Nutt announced his departure as University of Arkansas football coach at a news conference at 6:30 p.m. Monday. Before midnight, he had a new coaching job, worth almost $10 million over five years, at Ole Miss.

So was the decision really up to Nutt? Did he really agonize over it until the early morning hours Monday, as he said?

This much The Insider does know. Solid sources said more than two weeks ago that Nutt would not be coaching at the University of Arkansas next year. They also said Chancellor John White supported Nutt, as he indicated at the farewell news conference.

But who does White answer to? Ultimately, the 10-member University of Arkansas Board of Trustees. And there lay the problem. Nine of them firmly favored an end to Nutt's employment because of the ongoing division he had caused. In the end, Nutt was going to go. Or White was going to go in favor of someone who'd get the job done.

Nutt's busy text-messaging of a female TV announcer, including texting minutes before a football game, hadn't helped the coach's cause. But our sources say his situation was cemented by his wife Diana's involvement in e-mail exchanges disparaging former Hog quarterback Mitch Mustain and one particularly incendiary note in which someone in the Nutt household wrote approvingly of a physical assault of Mustain's mother.

On the other hand …

Houston Nutt had his supporters. We presume one of them is behind the brand-new firewallyhall.com website. It asserts that Wally Hall, the Democrat-Gazette sports editor, has a “vendetta” against the Razorbacks and it's time for a change in sports editor. To that end, the website is urging a pressure campaign against newspaper advertisers and provides phone numbers.

In vino, dollars

Reuters reports that the Sotheby's auction of premium wines from the collection of Little Rock financier Warren Stephens produced almost $4 million, which will benefit the Episcopal Collegiate School. One case of Chateau Petrus, a top Bordeaux, went for almost $48,000. Call it four-thousand-buck Pete.

Stephens, who began collecting wine in the 1980s, told Reuters, “I did know I was buying more wine than I could drink, but I didn't realize how much more and there was a plan.” He said he kept at least one bottle of each type of wine he released for the auction.

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