Beck Campbell has kept her opinions of the 2006 Arkansas football season and the treatment of her son, Mitch Mustain, to herself until yesterday. However, after former Arkansas coach Houston Nutt addressed the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club and proclaimed that he and former Hogs offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn got along, Campbell had heard enough.
Campbell fumed on social media Wednesday night.
“For the record … in spite of what Nutt said at the [NWA Touchdown Club] and what Gus said in his radio interview … they DID NOT get along. EVERYTHING bad that happened the year they worked together was a direct result of the pissing match between the two … to say otherwise is an out-right lie. Just had to get it out there …”
Campbell’s blood began boiling last month after Nutt interviewed Malzahn for SiriusXM. Malzahn was cordial despite numerous accounts the two didn’t get along during the 2006 season and that Malzahn’s hiring from Springdale High School was not Nutt’s idea.
“I really appreciate coach Nutt giving me an opportunity to get into college football,” Malzahn said. “I wouldn’t be here where I’m at right now if it hadn’t been for coach taking a chance on a high school guy.”
The interview coupled with the comments made by Nutt at the NWA Touchdown Club on Wednesday led to Campbell’s first interview in the seven years that have passed since Mustain transferred to Southern California after being benched and enduring alleged harassment from players and Nutt family friend Teresa Prewett, who sent Mustain an angry email.
“Some people have told me to let it go, and I have let it go, but I am tired of history being rewritten,” Campbell said by phone Thursday morning. “We aren’t the ones lying about what happened. One person needs to stand up and tell what really happened. A person at the university should have taken responsibility for what happened.”
Mustain has told his side of the story to different media outlets in Arkansas and also opened up for a documentary, The Identity Theft of Mitch Mustain.
The Parade All-American quarterback was candid about the power struggle between Nutt and Malzahn, how Malzahn promised the five prized Springdale High recruits that followed him to Fayetteville that the Hogs would employ the hurry-up offense they made famous.
That never happened and according to Campbell, Mustain was a pawn. Mustain entered the year expecting to redshirt but instead was inserted into the lineup during a season-opening blowout loss to USC. The Hogs went undefeated with Mustain in the lineup, but Casey Dick relieved Mustain after one series at South Carolina and the former high school All-American didn’t start the rest of the season.
“Mitchell was caught in the middle of Gus and Houston. Even if he had been the biggest snot of a kid, and he wasn’t, he didn’t deserve to be treated like that. It all boiled down to the animosity Nutt harbored toward Gus because he was forced to put Gus on staff,” she says. “Mitchell got the brunt of it because he was in a position to be manipulated. They set him up to fail.”
Campbell said she expects Nutt to paint a rosy picture because, “He is a bad man, a bad person.”
She says the feelings of betrayal run deeper with Malzahn because he was a trusted family friend. Malzahn has had opportunities to divulge his side of the story but has stayed tight-lipped. “He told me he was going to take care of Mitchell and not let him get hurt. I trusted [Malzahn],” she says. “It would be like if I took someone’s kids to the beach, and they got sucked in a riptide, and I just walked away, didn’t call the paramedics or anything. Just left.”
Campbell said Malzahn tried to get Mustain to follow him to Tulsa where he became the offensive coordinator in 2007. Mustain has also mentioned that he and his former coach speak occasionally, and that Malzahn offered him a spot as a graduate assistant on his Auburn staff.
Campbell also revealed the family planned to sue Nutt, former Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles and chancellor John White and Prewett. But Mustain, who was still at USC at the time, stopped the proceedings so he could concentrate on his career, which amounted to limited playing time with the Trojans.
It was shortly after that Campbell tried to forgive the parties involved. She and Mustain vowed not to discuss the matter together. “It makes us both mad and we are so alike we butt heads,” she says.
Still, she hasn’t forgotten “the old wounds” thanks to comments that Nutt has made on the subject over the years.
“My son lives every day with the ramifications of what happened that season because of [Nutt and Malzahn],” Campbell says. “Do you think this is where he would really wants to be. Somewhere in the back of my mind I wonder if he could be doing what he loves, his passion.
“We would love to walk away and let it go, but at some point someone who is in a position of authority needs to tell the truth so we don’t keep running into a Mack truck every couple of years.”