Arkansas, LSU Players Must Deal With Rumors

FAYETTEVILLE — If this were a normal week, Arkansas coach Houston Nutt would only have to answer questions about facing top-ranked LSU in the regular-season finale.

If this were a normal week, LSU coach Les Miles would only have to worry about beating the Razorbacks to move one step closer to playing for a national championship.

But as everyone knows by now, this is not a normal week.

Arkansas' players have heard reports over the past few days that Nutt will not be back next season to coach the Razorbacks, though it remains uncertain when such a decision might be announced.

LSU's players, meanwhile, have continued to win and remain No. 1 in the polls despite hearing talk for the past few months that Miles is in line to be Michigan's next coach.

And those rumors will likely intensify after Wolverines' coach Lloyd Carr announces his retirement at a news conference today.

The challenge facing both Nutt and Miles this week will be keeping their teams focused on football and not getting distracted by all the rumors their players will likely hear before Friday's 1:30 p.m. showdown between Arkansas and LSU in Baton Rouge, La.

"When I've asked (the players) to tune in to us (coaches), they've done that. When I've asked these guys to stay together no matter what happens, they've done that," Nutt said during his usual Sunday media gathering. "That's what I'm proud of.

"... It doesn't matter what rumor, what's being said. These guys have a lot of pride and a lot of heart, and they want to please and they want to excel at their highest level."

The Razorbacks (7-4, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) showed in last Saturday's 45-31 win over Mississippi State in Little Rock that they can block out distractions and take care of business.

Around 24 hours before kickoff, reports began surfacing on the Internet and on TV claiming that Nutt will not be back next season to coach Arkansas.

"We (saw) them, heard about them, everything — just a lot of stuff going on," Arkansas running back Darren McFadden said. "It's something that we just have to overlook."

Several sources told The Morning News on Friday that no decision has been made about Nutt's future. Jimmy Sexton, Nutt's agent, said the reports about his client leaving Arkansas at the end of the season had "no truth" to them whatsoever.

Arkansas officials have denied the reports, but Baylor University's decision to fire coach Guy Morriss on Sunday could add to the speculation surrounding Nutt.

Former Baylor All-American Mike Singletary is considered the leading candidate, but The Dallas Morning News reported Sunday that Baylor is also interested in pursuing Nutt. The Houston Chronicle also reported that Nutt is a possible candidate to replace Morriss.

Nutt, meanwhile, said he planned to meet with his players Sunday evening and stress to them to remain focused as they prepare during a shortened week for LSU.

"I'm going to tell them today again, ‘I don't care what you hear. Until you hear it from me, we're going to concentrate on one thing we have left to do this season, the regular season, our 12th game — LSU,'" Nutt said.

Miles is dealing with the same issues.

For months, reports have speculated that he could replace Carr at Michigan, and the topic isn't going away anytime soon.

In fact, Carr's decision to retire will likely mean that Miles will face more questions about his future at LSU. He played for legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler and worked as an assistant on his coaching staff.

Of course, Nutt isn't concerning himself with the rumors involving Miles. He's got enough to deal with at Arkansas.

"I got all I can worry about right here and that's our players," Nutt said. "I don't worry about somebody else's rumors."

Alex's AP Ballot

1. LSU

2. Kansas

3. Missouri

4. West Virginia

5. Ohio State

6. Georgia

7. Arizona State

8. Virginia Tech

9. Hawaii

10. Texas

11. Oregon

12. Southern Cal

13. Oklahoma

14. Florida

15. Boston College

16. Virginia

17. Tennessee

18. Illinois

19. Boise State

20. Wisconsin

21. BYU

22. Texas Tech

23. Auburn

24. Cincinnati

25. UConn

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