Nutt expected to stay at UA

After a roller coaster ride Friday, it appeared late in the night that it was likely Houston Nutt would stay put at Arkansas.

Arkansas officials postponed a press conference that would have announced Houston Nutt's plans to remain as the Razorbacks' head coach Friday night, but it still appears extremely likely that details will be finalized sometime during the weekend that keep him in the Ozarks.

Arkansas officials met with Nutt several times on Saturday to sway him from a Nebraska offer from Friday night and another counter offer from the Cornhuskers on Saturday. NU officials sent a plane to the Northwest Arkansas area, but it eventually returned to Nebraska without Nutt.

There were plans (although not publicly announced) to introduce Nutt at 6 p.m. Friday media conference in which the coach would announce his intention to remain at Arkansas with what is believed to be a 10-year contract.

That media conference never materialized after Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles said there was "a snag" between the school and Jimmy Sexton, Nutt's newly hired agent. Apparently, Nutt agreed to the terms in principle, but the details that Sexton asked for were slightly different and school attorneys balked.

At around 6:45 p.m. Friday, UA sports information director Kevin Trainor said that there would neither be a media conference or any statements from the school that night.

The Nebraska plane was the subject of much media speculation. Here's some details, thanks to Andrew Jensen from the Morning News of Northwest Arkansas.

The Morning News staked out the airport at Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport where the official NU plane was parked and actually sat with the pilot of the Nebraska plane. The pilot told them, "I've come for Houston Nutt and will wait for orders."

The plane arrived at XNA (NW Arkansas Regional) at 3:15 p.m. and was expecting to have Houston Nutt on board and headed for Lincoln at 4 p.m. At 3:45 p.m., the pilot received a phone call to wait one more hour and that he would have his passenger at 5 p.m. At 5 p.m., another call came and he was told to wait until 6 p.m. At 6 p.m., another call came, and said wait until further orders. At 6:45 p.m., a phone call came and the pilot was told to return home.

The plane actually had come from a town in Nebraska about an hour drive from Lincoln. The flight plan for the return trip was for Lincoln. Before departing, the flight plane was altered to return to the plane's home base.

The two pilots boarded the plane by themselves at 6:45 p.m. and left. They were expected to arrive at 8:15 p.m. I do not have any word if it made it home. The reporters from Nebraska awaited for it at Lincoln, not the home base for the plane. The cabin was empty when it departed at 6:45 p.m.

And, one final detail, the pilot said, "I don't have a passenger for the trip back. Something has changed."

The plane left and did not return as far as my information is concerned. The pilot sat with the Morning News reporter and photographer all afternoon and was very cordial and discussed in detail his phone calls and his purpose for being here. There were no secrets. There was no one with them with the Nebraska athletic department. All conversations between NU and Nutt's agent were done by phone, not by personal envoy.

As far as the Arkansas negotiations, one of the big players has been UA board member Jim Lindsey, the man who sat on the committee six years ago that was instrumental in Nutt's hiring.

Nutt agreed with Frank Broyles (and Jim Lindsey) on the terms. Then, he turned it over to agent Jimmy Sexton to work out the final details of the deal. At that point, there was a snag. Apparently, it is a snag that can be solved, but it was something that needed more time to resolve.

One thing that was interesting is that when Broyles was asked about the lack of a deal (and a media conference that everyone thought would take place at 6 p.m.), he blamed it on Sexton. In fact, he screamed "his agent" several times to different reporters when they asked about specifics on the snag.

It appears that Nutt has his deal in that he will be an associate (or assistant) AD with authority over the football operation. It is also believed he got some more salary money and perks for assistants. He also got a deal that includs a provision that he will be left alone for "at least three years" just in case things slip a little next year.

I don't know the specific wording, and that may be the problem. Coach Broyles is a tough, tough in negotiations. He has a way of making things turn out well for the UA athletic department. So, his dealings with Sexton would be interesting to observe. The money is apparently in the $1.4 million range, give or take $100,000 based on incentives. It is believed Nutt's old six-year deal was in the neighborhood of $1 million, counting deferred income.

There was word this afternoon that the Nebraska counter was as high as $2.5 million. I do not believe that, nor do folks at the Nebraska newspapers that I have conversed with over the last four hours. They suspect that it was more in the $2.2 range. Of course, I believe that the Nebraska folks will deny that any counter was made. They have egg on their face now and a rejected $2.5 million offer would be more than they can stomach.

There may or may not be a press conference on Saturday. The legal dealings between the UA and Sexton will be interesting. I wonder if a letter of intent can be hammered out that will do until the real contract can be formalized and that could take two to three weeks.

Still, I suspect that Nutt will be the Arkansas coach. I don't think he's changed his mind, just trying to follow advice of his agent (recommended by Larry Coker)to handle this in a way that protects his future. v


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