Rumors Not As Deadly As Wars

FAYETTEVILLE--As kids, many of us read in Matthew 24:6 about "wars and rumors of wars." Arkansas football coach Houston Nutt modified the phrase last year when he warned about "rumors and rumors of."

If you have no interest in rumors, read no further. But as an example of the daily minefield a reporter tiptoes through, here are some things people have told me in the last several days. • While quarterback Mitch Mustain was weighing Tulsa and other options last week, an Arkansas assistant coach called him to keep tabs on him. That's unsubstantiated. • On Friday, before Mustain re-enrolled at Arkansas, a Hogs booster friendly to Nutt called me to report that the UA players had voted not to let Mustain back on the team. I believe no such vote took place. • On Friday, a friend said he had stayed up until midnight Thursday reading message-board accounts of UA athletic director Frank Broyles' talk that night to a Razorback Club in Dallas. Reports were that during the question-and-answer session after Broyles' talk about the UA athletic program, a questioner called Broyles a liar and Broyles responded in kind. In one version, Broyles softened later when he realized the questioner was a UA supporter he'd known for years. All I know for sure about any of this is that Broyles was excited on Wednesday about the opportunity to speak positively about the Razorbacks on Thursday. • Friday night, I began to hear the rumor that a move was under way to buy out Nutt's contract. Later, I heard that this rumor had even made the rounds at Oaklawn in Hot Springs that day. In one version, someone overheard a cellphone conversation between two prominent UA alumni/businessmen about the proposed buyout, during a bank board meeting. No one else on the Morning News sports staff gives much credence to this rumor, and in fact one staffer offered on Saturday to bet me a steak dinner that Nutt would still be Arkansas' coach next season. I declined the bet. Fifteen minutes later, though, I heard that a former member of the UA Board of Trustees had surmised that "something big" was going on. At the LSU-Arkansas basketball game, a former Southeastern Conference operative told me he'd heard that if something was going to go down, it would happen by Tuesday. If that's the case, it doesn't mean we'll necessarily know it by then. The UA Board of Trustees meets on Thursday in Little Rock, and signing day for recruits is not until February. If longtime moneyed UA supporters are aligned a little differently these days, it doesn't have to mean a big change is inevitable. In fact, Nutt has some strong, renewed support from key elements in central Arkansas. In Northwest Arkansas, at least one longtime UA booster has felt recently that Nutt minimized his advice in matters regarding Gus Malzahn and Mustain, from about the time of the Arkansas-South Carolina game. This booster was not happy about the departure of Malzahn from the UA staff, according to sources. • Saturday I heard the Internet rumor about Butch Davis having an escape clause in his North Carolina contract that would allow him to accept the Arkansas job if it came open. Everything I know about Davis, in our acquaintanceship of 34 years, tells me he would not break a commitment to North Carolina before even coaching one game there. Former Miami coach Larry Coker is a different matter. He's out of a job and would like another head coaching job. Nutt himself told us that, after considering Coker for the new UA offensive coordinator's job which David Lee filled. • Some local media types on Saturday suggested getting up a pool on what date Mustain would return to the Razorbacks. There was speculation that Mustain must "know something" after Mustain re-enrolled at Arkansas. But from what I could learn on Saturday, neither Broyles, Nutt nor Mustain had any expressed knowledge of a proposed buyout of Nutt's contract. Mustain had previously pondered a break from football (and the attendant pressures) this summer. Many would understand now if that break also includes this spring. • Rumors have persisted for months that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones might consider hiring Nutt in some capacity, either as a coach or front office executive. If Nutt is stressed over the current UA maelstrom, a Cowboys position could offer him a respite, with the option to resume college coaching later. GRANT HALL IS A MORNING NEWS SPORTS WRITER. HIS COLUMN APPEARS EACH MONDAY AND THURSDAY. E-MAIL: GHALL@NWAONLINE.NET

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