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Friday, January 2, 2004
Updated: January 3, 3:31 AM ET
Arkansas coach 'still negotiating'

Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK -- Nebraska offered Arkansas coach Houston Nutt $2 million to take over the Cornhuskers, and Arkansas quickly scrambled to make a counteroffer Friday that might keep him with the Razorbacks.

"We're still negotiating. It's up to him," Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Friday night. "We're just waiting for an answer."

If he takes the Nebraska job, Nutt would more than double his salary.

The demands would be more intense, too. Nebraska athletic director Steve Pederson fired Frank Solich after a 9-3 season, saying he feared the Cornhuskers' reputation was slipping. At Arkansas, Nutt has coached two nine-win regular seasons, in 1998 and 2002.

Nebraska played for the national championship in 2001. Arkansas played for the Southeastern Conference title last year.

If Nutt stays with the Razorbacks, he would be remain close to his Arkansas roots and enjoy a pay raise negotiated Friday during a 15-minute telephone call with Broyles.

Broyles wouldn't say how much more money Nutt might get. His current deal is worth $800,000 annually.

"I had a nice visit with him and I was kind of encouraged that he might stay,'' Broyles said before his negotiations with Nutt.

The interview room at the Arkansas athletic complex was filled with reporters and photographers, but no Nutt. Television stations promised to cut into programming with any announcement, but an official decision never came.

However, a Fayetteville television station reported Friday night that Nutt had turned down the job at Nebraska.

As part of his agreement to remain as the Razorbacks' coach, Nutt will add the title of associate athletic director and is expected to see his salary raise from $800,000 to more than $1 million a year, the report said.

Yet, Arkansas officials said they don't expect an announcement Friday night and if one comes Saturday it would be before or after Arkansas' basketball game with North Texas in the afternoon.

Nebraska sports information director Chris Anderson said she couldn't confirm or deny if an offer had been made to Nutt. "I won't have an announcement until there's one to make," Anderson said.

An airplane registered to a Nebraska company sat at a northwest Arkansas airport much of the day Friday but took off after nightfall.

William E. Clark, the chairman of the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees, said Nebraska's offer was "close to $2 million." Clark said that board members Jim Lindsey and Gary George had spoken with Nutt to try to talk him into staying, but Clark said matching the money probably wouldn't be feasible.

"I don't see how the Razorback Foundation could match that," Clark said. "I think it just has to play out."

If Nutt were to accept the offer, his Arkansas contract would have to be bought out for $500,000. The current contract runs through Dec. 31, 2009.

Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Al Saunders turned down the Nebraska job, Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil said Thursday.

Nutt is from Arkansas. He played high school ball in Little Rock and played in college at Arkansas and Oklahoma State. His father was a longtime coach at the Arkansas School for the Deaf and two of his three brothers coach college in Arkansas -- one an assistant with the Razorbacks.

Solich made about $1.1 million a year at Nebraska.

Arkansas finished 9-4 this year after beating Missouri 27-14 in the Independence Bowl on Wednesday. Arkansas also beat Texas this year, giving Nutt victories over two teams that Solich lost to in 2003.

Broyles said he has a short list of candidates in mind to replace Nutt should he accept Nebraska's offer, but he didn't release any names.

Broyles gave Nebraska permission to speak with Nutt after Arkansas' victory over Missouri. Nutt said Thursday morning after the victory that he hadn't talked with anyone from Nebraska, but he met with Pederson in Fayetteville on Thursday evening.

The Cornhuskers, who improved to 10-3 with a 17-3 win over Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl, also lost to Kansas State this year. Interim coach Bo Pelini guided Nebraska to the bowl victory.

Nutt is 84-49 in his 11-year career, which includes four years at Murray State, where he made two trips to the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs, and one year at Boise State.

Nutt's six-year record at Arkansas is 48-27. Solich won 10 more games in the same-length tenure at Nebraska.

Nebraska's athletic budget is $53.6 million, compared to the $40 million Arkansas spends on athletics.