Arkansas football coach Houston Nutt has been fending off repeated criticism of his program for months, but when the scrutiny became personal, he struck back.
In an open letter on school stationery, released Tuesday, Nutt denied various rumors on the Internet that questioned his handling of prized recruit Mitch Mustain, allege that he chased higher-profile jobs and claim that he was having an extramarital affair.
The letter came after Nutt's critics obtained copies of his cell phone records in an effort to gather information that could cost Nutt his job.
In the letter, Nutt denied having an affair with local television anchor Donna Bragg. Fans had used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain Nutt's phone records showing he exchanged 1,063 text messages with Bragg between Nov. 30 and Jan. 11, including once just 19 minutes
before the start of the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1.
"My communications with Ms. Bragg have concerned her work as a professional fundraiser for a non-profit organization dedicated to providing services to the developmentally disabled, her insights regarding the media, words of condolence and support regarding the loss of my mother-in-law after her battle with cancer, and information relating to her close friend who was diagnosed with cancer," Nutt wrote.
The material obtained has not indicated what any of the text
messages said. The coach said he would have released the texts but that the phone company
had informed his lawyer they were not available.
Other rumors said that Nutt had chased the open coaching positions at Miami and North Carolina State.
"It also is important that all Razorback fans know that I did not seek the coaching positions indicated in recent media reports and remain deeply committed to the University of Arkansas," Nutt wrote.
Other information obtained under the FOI law reportedly noted
contact among Houston Nutt, his brother and running backs coach
Danny Nutt and family friend Teresa Prewett on the day Mustain
received a harsh e-mail from Prewett. The head coach gave Prewett
an official reprimand and barred her from the sidelines during
games after the letter was traced to her.
Prewett is a Little Rock physical therapist who helped Danny Nutt rehabilitate after brain surgery in 1998.
The e-mails disparaged Mustain and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who came with the quarterback from Arkansas' Springdale High School to Arkansas.
"Once again, for the record, I had no prior knowledge of that e-mail and promptly reprimanded Ms. Prewett when I learned of the correspondence," Nutt wrote.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Tuesday that last month
Mustain himself requested Nutt's telephone records, along with
those of Danny Nutt and athletic director Frank Broyles.
Mustain was granted his release from the program, and Malzahn took an assistant coaching position at Tulsa.
Despite 10 wins and SEC West championship last season, Nutt has come under increasing pressure from Arkansas boosters.
Nutt's letter was e-mailed to the media by Arkansas sports
information director Kevin Trainor.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.