Protesters Make Feelings Known

FAYETTEVILLE -- A peaceable protest of recent goings-on in the University of Arkansas football program drew about 50 participants near the Tyson Poultry Center on Wednesday afternoon.

Protest organizer Randy Staton, 24, of Fayetteville issued a news release on behalf of, which he described as a grass roots organization made up of people that demand a change.

"The protest is an opportunity for Hog fans to voice their displeasure with the current situation on the Hill," the news release stated. "The protest, not the protesters, is the real issue of today's rally. The average Hog fan feels as though they have no voice, and that needs to change.

"It is time for coach (Frank) Broyles and coach (Houston) Nutt to accept responsibility for the soap opera-type atmosphere that is prevalent in the local and national press."

Staton, a small-business owner who did not attend the UA, said, "We're just tired of Houston Nutt lying to the fans and players. He has no integrity. He tells the players one thing and does something else. He ran off the best offensive coordinator in the nation."

Protesters Ann Justus and Sharon Cox of Springdale held up signs that said, "Integrity matters."

Justus said, "We're from Springdale, so that plays a small part. I feel like a lot of people were lied to. You don't treat (former UA offensive coordinator Gus) Malzahn that way. I feel like they went behind his back. They weren't up front with him."

Justus added, "I'm not all about winning. If there's no integrity, no accountability, what's the point? It's about principle to me. I've been on a soapbox about this."

Cox said she didn't believe former Hogs quarterback Mitch Mustain had been treated fairly, but she added, "I admire him a lot for continuing his education here this semester. That says a lot about him as a person."

Justus said, "I guess we're a different breed in Springdale. It's like these kids are ours."

Protesters also traveled from Gravette, Rudy, Alma, Fort Smith, Little Rock and Memphis, Tenn. Some UA students took part, too.

Ed Lovelace and his wife, Barbara, from Fort Smith said they would not renew their 10 season tickets to UA football games under current circumstances.

"I think they did Gus wrong," Ed Lovelace said. "They just used him. I don't think Houston (Nutt) would have won the games he won without Gus. I was raised that your word should be good, and I don't think Houston's word is worth anything."

Barbara Lovelace said she and her husband had traveled to the UA road games for 22 years, including those in Hawaii and Miami, Fla., and had joined the Back of the Bus Gang of Little Rock on road trips.

"There was not a Nutt supporter on the bus last season," Barbara said. "I'll always be a Hog fan -- half my clothes and half my jewelry have Razorbacks on them. But I do hope something is done. We couldn't give away some of our tickets last year."

The protesters called the Hogs at one point, while some carried signs saying, "Houston, we have a problem" or "Don't blame me -- I voted for Gus" or "I caused that rally, brotha."

Staton's statement also said, "Coach Broyles needs to explain his comments in Dallas regarding the hiring of a high-profile coach. How is it that the Razorback Foundation has hundreds of millions of dollars, as disclosed in the Nolan Richardson trial, but cannot fund the hiring of a quality coach with integrity. Coach Broyles' admission is a sad testimony of the acceptance of mediocrity and should not be tolerated."

The Razorbacks went 10-4 last season and won the Southeastern Conference West division, but lost their last three games, including a Capital One Bowl loss to Wisconsin. After the season, Malzahn accepted a position as assistant head coach at Tulsa, and Mustain left the football team.

Staton said a big reason for the protest was to influence the UA Board of Trustees, which meets today in Little Rock.

Asked if he was concerned about the protest affecting Arkansas' recruiting, Staton said, "At this point, I'm ready to sacrifice a few bad years. They have the money to go after a big-name coach, but they won't do it. I know Broyles isn't going anywhere until next year, because that's his 50th (UA football) year."

Staton also said Broyles and Nutt should "not necessarily resign -- just change their ways."

Drivers of several passing cars honked their horns, but one man leaned out his window and yelled at the protesters, "Get a job! I can protest, too."

Staton said UA officials and campus police were "very cooperative" with his group.

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