SPRINGDALE, AR – New polls are showing an abysmal 13 percent approval rating for University of Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt’s latest plan to “surge” 20,000 Razorback supporters into the home of former quarterback Mitch Mustain in an effort to keep the embattled Springdale household from succumbing to sectarian pressures.
Nutt, center, explains the principles behind his “surge” plan.
After former Springdale High head coach Gus Malzahn was fired from his position as Arkansas offensive coordinator, Mustain asked to be released from his scholarship with the Razorbacks. The entire state was thrown into turmoil and, though school officials strongly oppose the use of the term, civil war now seems inevitable.
Since Mustain’s departure roving emotion squads have wreaked havoc from Little Rock to Fort Smith, confronting innocent men, women and children and turning the streets of Arkansas into a daily bedlam. These squads are responsible for at least 1,200 mixed-emotional attacks a day, leaving many residents paralyzed by anger, frustration, despair, confusion and even hope as they try to piece together what’s left of their lives amid the rubble of what seemed – after Nutt’s triumphant appearance with a banner reading “Mission Accomplished” atop an aircraft carrier prior to the SEC title game – like a year leading to a better future.
“Just getting around from street to street can be dangerous. You could safely make it to wherever you’re going, or you could end up in the middle of an angry mob. Right now it’s a coin flip, but it could get worse. The entire area is lawless. There are checkpoints everywhere but no one seems to know anything, and if you try to ask for information the situation will get ugly. Not even the men with paid subscriptions to Arkansas football sites can tell you what’s going on. It’s everyone for themselves, and the old divisions are manifesting themselves in horrific, brutal ways,” CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour said via satellite phone.
Amanpour added: “I’ve been to Beirut, Bosnia, Somalia, everywhere, and none of them looked like this. I’m not sure even 200,000 Razorback fans would help restore order to this place. Springdale is lost. Everything has the feel of Saigon days before it fell.”
Despite almost universal opposition to his handling of the Springdale invasion he launched a year ago, Nutt refused to back down from his policies and inferred that the opposition was “treasonous” for its criticism of him and his decisions in a time of conflict. That hasn’t stopped that same opposition from demanding a change in course, and some have loudly questioned the veracity of his claim that choosing Malzahn – Mustain’s high school coach – had nothing to do with the recruitment of the highly touted Springdale quarterback.
“He lied to us, plain and simple. Houston Nutt lied to the Arkansas public in an effort to invade Springdale for its recruiting wealth, and he should be held accountable for the quagmire we’re in now,” said one Fayetteville resident who did not wish to be identified.
Many analysts are skeptical that a “surge” in Razorback partisanship in the Mustain household would have any effect on the already splintered area. The parents of Springdale High hold the power in this sector of Arkansas, and while university forces and funding outnumber them by a margin of at least two- to three-to-one the highly visible Bulldog mothers and fathers continue to issue edicts and impose city curfews. Though Arkansas has traditionally been a predominantly pro-Arkansas state, adherents of the Springdale sect have made unifying efforts difficult. After Malzahn was hired as the offensive coordinator for the University of Tulsa, many Middle-America experts are openly questioning Nutt’s confrontational stance and its ramifications for the area’s already explosive politics.
“This is an important year for Nutt. His poll numbers are low and he’s facing tremendous opposition. What he does now cements his legacy, and he knows it. That’s why it makes no sense for him to start talking about Tulsa, other SEC schools and Iran and Syria. He’s got enough on his plate already without those guys trying to make trouble for him,” ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit said.
Nutt may already face SEC opposition in the form of a non-binding Senate resolution sponsored by freshman Tennessee senator Bob Corker (R) and backed by a coalition of like minded southern politicians. Though Corker and his allies emphasized the non-partisan nature of the resolution, the text seems to indicate many are looking to profit off of Nutt’s unpopularity:
Whereas the University of Arkansas Razorbacks compiled an unexpected 10-4 record in 2006.
Whereas the Razorbacks won the SEC West and played in the conference championship game in Atlanta.
Whereas Houston Nutt and the Razorbacks and the state of Arkansas smell like nacho cheese.
Whereas Darren McFadden should be playing for a school that could reciprocate his tremendous gifts.
Whereas the Razorbacks deflated SEC pride by losing to Southern California by a combined score of 120-31.
(1) it is in the best interest of the American public that Arkansas football be taught its place once more.
(2) the Senate designate the 2007 season as “The Year of ‘Ha-ha, back to 4-7’!”
Despite the opposition Nutt is nonetheless ready to move forward with his plans. In a speech detailing his proposal he stressed the temporary nature of the increase of Arkansas fans in Mustain’s home from zero to eight per square foot, or roughly the size and demographic of nearby Fayetteville’s WalMart population.
“Thanks to the selfless dedication of so many Arkansas supporters willing to extend their tours of duty, we will be able to secure the Mustains’ house, lawn, backyard and surrounding pavement and driveways with the strength in numbers necessary for success. I am asking for 20,000 Razorback fans to be deployed for an enlistment period of six months. By the beginning of August I am confident that we will have control of the Mustain household and its surrounding locations, making the liberation of spring football our next step. We will only fail if we don’t succeed. We must stay the course in this critical moment,” Nutt said.
Arkansas resident Zack Billingsley, 20, listened to Nutt’s speech on the radio – and he isn’t buying.
“[Nutt] talks about supporting the people who are making sacrifices, the fans who are on the ground and having to face emotional danger everyday. If he’s so concerned with their well being and success then he should resign,” Billingsley said.
“Bill Cowher in ’08!” he added.