A Family Affair

FAYETTEVILLE -- When Houston Nutt called brother Danny about a coaching job at Murray State, the younger brother had to give up a boy's dream for a man's.

Danny Nutt was an offensive assistant coach at Arkansas Tech in 1994 and had a super clean, late model white Corvette convertible he got a good deal on from a friend who had ordered it direct from the factory.

But if Danny Nutt wanted to take the running backs job at Murray State where older brother Houston was coming off his first year as a head coach and driving a Ford Taurus, the Corvette had to go.

Not because it was a sweeter ride than Houston's, but because it was a sweeter ride than the rest of the staff and most of the population of Murray, Ky.

"(Houston) said, 'If you want to work for me, you've got to get rid of that Corvette,'" Danny Nutt said. "I don't want them saying, 'That's Houston Nutt's brother. He's driving around in a Corvette.'

"I got rid of it the next day."

Not that it was easy, but Danny Nutt wanted to get on the path to being a coach at a big-time program.

Houston had to appeal Kentucky's nepotism law in order to hire Danny and once that was successful, he didn't want any perception of impropriety or favoritism about his younger brother.

"Oh, man. That was my toy," Danny Nutt said. "I'd always wanted a Corvette. My wife Carla was making good money in Russellville as a schoolteacher. We took a paycut to go (to Murray State).

"That's what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a Division I football coach. Sometimes you have to crawl before you can walk."

Danny Nutt didn't have to crawl or walk after trading in the 'Vette for a used Honda, but the sacrifice was well worth it.

Three seasons later, the Nutts were on their way to Division I Boise State a year removed from taking the job at Arkansas in 1997.

Eleven years later, Danny Nutt has proven worthy of his older brother's trust and no one can doubt his importance to the Razorbacks' success since Houston Nutt and his staff came to Fayetteville from Boise State.

Danny Nutt, whose brothers Dennis and Dickey are head coaches at Texas State and Arkansas State, respectively, has coached two running backs to 1,000-yard seasons in the last two years and guided the position to a pattern of consistency not seen in Arkansas history.

"The running backs know I'm going to be their friend off the field, but when we're between the white lines, I'm going to get every last bit of it out of them," Danny Nutt said. "I just felt I had to do a good job for him."

No matter the back, Arkansas has been successful not only running the ball, but protecting it.

In 2002, no Razorback running back lost a fumble in 643 attempts.

"I've never been around that," Houston Nutt said. "Things like that make it easier as the head coach. It makes it a lot easier. It's so easy to say, 'Ah, he's just on coattails. He's just hanging on.'"

In 2001, three different backs (Cobbs, Talley, Brandon Holmes) had 100-yard games and Arkansas' leading rusher has averaged better than 5.6 yards per carry in five of the last six years.

"I don't think about it anymore that much.," Houston Nutt said of having a brother on staff. "I did early on. But he's a good football coach, very committed to his players, very committed to recruiting and has character.

"That wraps it up. That's what you look for in a coach."

That was what South Carolina coach Lou Holtz was looking for in 1990 when highly sought after prep quarterback Rick Mirer wanted a quarterbacks coach at Notre Dame.

Holtz ended up turning to son, Skip, who was a quarterback at Fayetteville High while his father was the coach at Arkansas from 1977-83.

"The only way I could do that within the frame was I couldn't pay anyone else, but I could pay my son," Holtz said. "So I brought him in."

Unlike Danny Nutt, though, Skip had already coached at the Division I level under both Bobby Bowden at Florida State and under Earl Bruce at Colorado State.

Holtz brought Skip in and eventually he became the offensive coordinator in South Bend almost by default in 1992.

"I lost several coaches to head coaching positions off the offensive staff and I only had two left," Holtz recalled. "I offered Joe Moore the offensive coordinator and he didn't want anything to do with it.

"I gave it to Skip and we set all kinds of records."

Skip Holtz eventually went on to Connecticut, where he coached for five years and achieved several I-AA top-25 rankings.

Two years after Lou Holtz took the South Carolina job in 1999 and hired his son again, Skip Holtz was named the Assistant Coach of the Year in 2001 following back-to-back bowl wins against Ohio State in the Outback Bowl.

"He's not here because he's related to me," Lou Holtz said. "He's an excellent football coach and I think anybody who's ever coached on the staff with him or worked with him would verify that."

It will be a family affair when Arkansas and South Carolina play Saturday in Williams-Brice Stadium at 11:30 a.m. with the Nutt brothers against the father-son tandem of Lou and Skip Holtz.

While Houston and Danny Nutt have maintained the same coach-assistant relationship over the years, Lou Holtz had to make a tough decision last spring when he decided to take the offensive coordinator title from Skip.

Houston Nutt imagined it was a tough call for Holtz, who he played for in 1977 and coached under as a graduate assistant in 1983.

"I think it would be awfully hard, especially in a father-son relationships to take away a title," Houston Nutt said. "Whatever made coach Holtz make that decision, that's pain."

It wasn't the first time the elder Holtz has had to do something uncomfortable where his son was concerned.

Skip Holtz played for his father at Notre Dame and was one of four players late for a team meeting.

After practice that day, the elder Holtz brought the four offenders forward and put them through a grueling set of up-downs and conditioning drills.

"Then I stopped and said, 'You three are done. Skip, you aren't,'" Holtz said. "I did it to Skip and we might still been doing it, but the players had some empathy for him because I pointed him out.

"They started encouraging him and closing in and eventually I couldn't move him any more."

The son went to the father the next day and protested the harsher punishment.

The father would have none of it.

"He came in the next day and said, 'Coach, I deserved to be run, but I didn't deserve to be run more than anybody else did,'" Holtz said. "And I said, 'Yes, you did. I raised you. You knew you were supposed to be there.'"

The elder Holtz felt he had no choice.

"You have to understand I love him," he said. "I'd give my right arm for him. He's special, as all my children are. But by the same token, I have an obligation to my coaches and my players that you never want to show favoritism to someone.

"Because if you do it, you're going to have to do it at the expense of someone else. That's totally unfair as much as you want to do this or that. You have to know what's fair for everybody concerning your program because you are responsible for all of them."

Houston Nutt knew he had to be careful in the duties he gave his brother at Murray State, so he erred on the side of extra responsibilities.

He put his younger brother in charge of recruiting, the most time-consuming part of the job, and made it clear he expected good things.

"I always wanted him to show the members of the staff that he was going to work harder than any of us," Houston Nutt said.

Those duties have paid dividends, Houston Nutt said, in developing Danny into the coach he is today and making their family relationship a non-issue.

"You try to fight against that and especially early on that's why I feel those first four years (at Murray State) were so good," Houston Nutt said. "It's never been a problem.

"I think the pressure he put on himself to prove his worth in the coaching profession, work harder than anyone and be a very good contributor to the team."

Bob Stoops, the head coach at No. 2 Oklahoma, coached with his brother Mike at Kansas State and hired him when he became the head man in Norman.

Stoops knew his younger brother, who is in his first year as the head coach at Arizona, had the acumen to be the architect of some of the most dominating defenses of the young century, and he also had the utmost trust in him.

"There's nobody who has your back like your brother does," Bob Stoops said. "And I still have trust in what our guys are doing defensively, but Mike was so experienced and good.

"There's no one you'd rather walk down an alley next to than your brother. You know no one is going to fight harder for you. That's the advantage of it."

Mike Stoops hired his younger brother Mark, who was the coach of several NFL draft picks in the secondary and part of the national champion Miami Hurricane team in 2002.

He also hired Steve Spurrier, Jr., the son of former Florida coach who just took his name out of running for the vacant Gators job.

"It's a great comfort to have somebody you get to work with that you know is going to protect you any way they can to make you successful," Mike Stoops said.

Danny Nutt said his relationship with Houston -- both personal and professional -- is a lucky one.

"I think it's really good anytime you can get along with your family," he said. "I just think that's a good deal."

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