Impropriety involving a cell phone and the return of a Heisman frontrunner highlighted Nutt's time in front of the record-breaking media contingent Wednesday at the opening segment of the 2007 SEC Media Days. The 10-year Arkansas coach spoke eloquently about each while focusing on keeping the momentum after winning the West last season.
The Razorbacks picked up 10 victories in 2006 but faltered with a lethargic second half against eventual national champion Florida in the SEC Championship Game and lost to Wisconsin in their bowl game. After the season, a fan used a freedom of information act to obtain Nutt's cell phone records and went public with the numbers.
Nutt addressed the situation with candor and seemed heartfelt in discussing what the ordeal did to his family and his players.
"It is different than anything that I have ever been through coaching," Nutt said. "It was different in that someone got so personal with the records made public. And especially considering it was rumors and lies.
"I could look my family and my kids in the eyes because they know the truth. And also, the players. I am pretty sure that McFadden would say that if you attack my character, you are attacking his as well. That situation isn't what the freedom of information is for."
The blistering buzz that was continuous and ongoing following the accusations subsided quickly amongst the Arkansas fan base according to Nutt. Razorback ticket sales are at their highest level ever and all spirit events this summer have been sold out.
Nutt said ignoring the spectacle was the first line of defense, but that the continued publicity set off a firestorm that had to be addressed. The overwhelming support from the Hog faithful has refreshed Nutt and kept the upcoming season in focus.
The coach released a letter to fans through sports information and attacked the situation after avoidance was no longer an option. The negative circumstance bonded the team and could have positive effects come the fall.
"It has brought our team closer together," Nutt said. "Mamas are still dropping their sons off with me as the head coach. Fans are passionate and that is what I hear. Players don't pay attention to that stuff. Too much other things to accomplish."
The main ingredient to accomplishing a duplicate performance from last season will be McFadden, who teams with Felix Jones to form the most potent backfield in the SEC and likely the country.
Nutt compared the heralded back to Barry Sanders on everything from athletic ability to work ethic and said that while the lack of a passing game was a concern, getting the ball in McFadden's hand was much more important.
"He has been on the front of every magazine so I think he is the leader for the Heisman after finishing second last year," Nutt said. "That type of talent can't be ignored and has to be the way to generate offense and points. Everyone will key on stopping him."
Stopping McFadden will undoubtedly be Ole Miss and 11 other teams' goal this season, and it may or may not be more difficult that what Nutt has already achieved this summer.
Half of it is overcoming misfortune and the other portion is facing the hungry throng of SEC writers openly and with no censorship or criticism of questions. Each part is a victory in itself.
Nutt candid in Media Day appearance
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