This Arkansas native returned home to coach the Razorbacks after the football program had fallen into some disrepair under his predecessor. On the strength of one of the country's most powerful running attacks, he led the Hogs to a string of successful seasons, including a few New Year's Day bowls. And then, of course, he was run out of town. Too damn conservative, his critics said.
I'm speaking of Ken Hatfield, but the similarities to the current situation are obvious. Let's hope that today's path diverges from history, though: post-Hatfield, the football program tailed off severely. After several years of the lackluster (at best) Crowe/Kines/Ford eras, Razorback fans probably would have accepted a few 3rd & 8 draw plays if it meant regularly going to the Cotton Bowl.
So what happens next? Best case scenario is that we get a youngish up & comer who recruits well, has an innovative strategy and brings some fresh energy into the program (realistically, the main appeal of the job to established vets like Butch Davis or Tommy Tuberville is that it can help them wrangle fat contract extensions at their current schools). With that, I could see us winning 7-8 games on average with a breakout 9-10 win season and possible SEC championship run every several years. No shame there.
For the worst case scenario, see the 1990-1997 Razorbacks. Or, if you're feeling particularly pessimistic, the Ole Miss Rebels during the Coach O years. Either way, it's certainly not out of the question that fans could be looking back nostalgically at the "dark days" of the Houston Nutt era.
Just to be clear, I'm not saying this out of any particular sadness about what's happened. I've felt for awhile that it would be in the best interest of all involved for Nutt to gracefully move on (although I was pleasantly surprised that, when the end came, it came so smoothly). Houston had his good points and bad ones like most people, but after 10 years, sometimes everyone just needs a fresh start. I just hope that we've all learned our lesson from Ken Hatfield...sometimes you should be careful what you wish for.