Nutt To Remain With Razorbacks

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas coach Houston Nutt seriously pondered the possibility of leaving his home state when he was asked to replace the fired Frank Solich at Nebraska last January.

But the 47-year-old's negotiations with LSU won't reach a similar point this winter.

Nutt withdrew his name from consideration for the LSU opening Wednesday, saying he was flattered Tigers athletic director Skip Bertman showed enough interest to contact him about the job. The seventh-year coach, who said he never was offered the LSU job, was more interested in remaining at Arkansas than going through an interview process in hopes of replacing Nick Saban on the Tigers' sideline.

"I'm very flattered that LSU contacted (Arkansas athletic director Frank) Broyles to initiate a conversation with me about their coaching position," Nutt said in a statement released by the university. "I spoke briefly with LSU officials about their situation. At this time, I'm very happy at the University of Arkansas.

"I plan on being the coach here for a very long time."

Nutt didn't return messages seeking further comment Wednesday.

Nutt emerged as a candidate at LSU when the New Orleans Times-Picayune briefly mentioned him as a possibility, in the same breath as Oklahoma State coach Les Miles, on Sunday. It didn't take long before Bertman -- who had hired a search firm to gauge the interest of potential candidates -- asked Broyles for permission to speak with Nutt, a request that was granted.

Nutt, who attended his daughter's high school basketball tournament in Texas this week, told Bertman he couldn't be involved in an interview process after last season's flirtation with Nebraska. Nutt indicated that if the Tigers considered him their top choice he was interested in discussing the possibility of replacing Saban.

Nutt is one of three coaches Bertman contacted -- joining Miles and Louisville's Bobby Petrino -- about the opening this week.

Broyles, who is on vacation in Augusta, Ga., admitted he had already taken the initial steps toward finding a new coach at Arkansas.

"I really thought he was going to take the job and really felt like he should take it," said Broyles, who didn't think Nutt had received an offer from LSU. "Under the circumstances and things that he told me, I just read between the lines. He didn't say anything (about an offer), but in the way he expressed himself, I really thought that he wanted the job and he would take it.

"So I started the process of trying to get some committee members and names to get somebody on the job the next four or five days. I thought it was a done deal."

The announcement ended another holiday saga reminiscent, although well short, of the Cornhuskers' highly publicized courtship of Nutt last winter. Nebraska athletic director Steve Pederson met with Nutt and a private plane registered to a prominent booster was waiting in Fayetteville to take him to Lincoln, Neb., the next day.

Nutt never boarded the plane and decided to remain at Arkansas. He was given a raise, boosting his salary to approximately $1.4 million annually.

Arkansas defensive end Jamaal Anderson and safety Vickiel Vaughn said they couldn't blame Nutt for listening to another school about an opening. Vaughn said college football is a big business and everyone has to explore options. But Vaughn and Anderson never believed Nutt would leave the Razorbacks to take a new post.

"I just feel like he likes the past two classes that he has and I don't feel like he would want to leave those classes behind," Anderson said. "He's building the program and I don't think he would want to start at a program that's already built up high.

"He's the kind of guy that would rather build something special, rather than have it handed to him."

Nutt is 53-33 in his tenure with the Razorbacks, leading them to two nine-win seasons (2002 and 2003) and the 2002 Southeastern Conference Western Division Championship. Arkansas struggled through a 5-6 season in 2004 and missed out on postseason play for the first time since Nutt arrived in 1998, but return 16 starters.

Broyles offered a vote of confidence for Nutt after the season, calling him the "best person in America" for the Arkansas job.

The 80-year-old said Nutt's discussions with LSU and Nebraska have likely upset "25 to 30 percent" of the fan base, but echoed his support Wednesday night.

"He's a native Arkansan who went to the university, has family here, friends, has built a great fan base for the program with all the things that he does," Broyles said.

"He's very definitely the best man for the job."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories