Saturday, January 3, 2004 Updated: January 5, 12:51 PM ET
Nutt: 'Our work isn't finished'
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Houston Nutt rejected Nebraska's $2
million coaching offer, saying strong family ties and a job left
undone kept him at Arkansas.
"I could not take my family, myself, and get on that plane,"
Nutt said at a news conference Saturday. "My heart was here."
Nutt said he never accepted the job and he was flattered at
Nebraska's offer, but that it was best for him to remain at
Arkansas. He informed Nebraska officials Friday night that he
wasn't taking the job.
"For six long years we've poured our heart into this program
and we feel that our work isn't finished," Nutt said. "I know we
can do better. So many times I think we're not far off."
Nebraska offered Nutt the job Friday, but Arkansas made a
counteroffer. Details were not announced, but Nutt said the
contract was close to $1.5 million per year, which would almost
double his salary, with a few more details to be worked out.
"They're going to take care of me. There are some things still
being worked out," Nutt said.
Nebraska athletic director Steve Pederson said Saturday the head
coaching job hasn't been offered to anyone yet and that he simply
wanted Nutt to come to campus for a formal interview.
Pederson also said that reports Nutt was offered a package worth
up to $2.5 million were false.
"I about fell out of my chair when I read that," Pederson
Nutt confirmed that there had been no offer on the table.
"He didn't actually ever offer me the job, but I'm protecting
him a little bit, too," Nutt said. "Things would have gotten very
difficult if I had gotten on that plane."
Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles extended Nutt's
contract by a year to 2010 two weeks ago to show potential recruits
that he had faith in Nutt, who is 48-27 in six seasons at Arkansas.
"It's a good thing we did that because Nebraska came calling
not long after," said Broyles, who added that he thought the new
contract would be finished by Monday.
Broyles called Nutt "the best man for the job anywhere in
America" and that the Razorbacks' keeping him was reason for
"He's not only a great football coach, he's a great ambassador
for the university and the state of Arkansas," Broyles said.
Money wasn't the only factor, even though he would have more
than doubled his salary, Nutt said.
"They don't know my heart. They don't know what I see. They
don't know my vision. They weren't born and raised in Little Rock,
Arkansas," said Nutt, who got teary-eyed during a portion of the
"I never try to use money as a leverage. I told Coach (Broyles)
when I came here in 1997 that I would work for free the first
year," Nutt said.
Nutt and university lawyer Scott Varady said that board of
trustees member Jim Lindsey played a large role in talking Nutt
into staying at Arkansas.
Nutt worked for Lindsey's construction company when he played
for the Razorbacks in the late 1970s and he said they have been
friends since. Nutt said he visited with Lindsey on several
occasions in the past two days.
Frank Solich, whom Pederson fired Nov. 29, made $1.1 million
annually; Nutt has made $800,000 with Arkansas.
With the Nebraska job would have come extra pressure from an
administration that wants to see Nebraska regularly compete for
national titles. The chairman of the Arkansas board of trustees had
said Friday that the extra money might not be worth the hassle.
"I believe I'd be considering my options a long time before I
took that Nebraska job," trustee William E. Clark said. "Their
expectations are to be in the top 10 and contend every year for the
national championship. If you don't do it you're going to be out of
Pederson fired Solich at the end of a 9-3 season, which gave
Solich 58 victories in six years. Arkansas was 8-4 in the 2003
regular season before beating Missouri in the Independence Bowl;
Nutt has 48 wins over the same period.
Arkansas has never won the Southeastern Conference since joining
the league in 1992.
Clark had said Friday that Nebraska's offer was "close to $2
million" and that board members Jim Lindsey and Gary George talked
with Nutt in an effort to persuade him to stay.
An airplane registered to a Nebraska company sat at a northwest
Arkansas airport much of the day Friday but took off after
For Nebraska, it's the second rejection of the week. Kansas City
Chiefs offensive coordinator Al Saunders turned down the Nebraska
job, Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil said Thursday.
Nebraska is now 35 days into Pederson's one-man search for
Solich's successor. At least one Nebraska supporter wasn't
impressed with Pederson's choice to offer Nutt the position.
"When I heard Houston Nutt's name, that name didn't mean
anything to me," said Dan Cook, a major donor to the program from
Dallas. "If someone has to explain to me who Houston Nutt is, it's
not that wowwy-zow name everybody expected."
Nutt played high school ball at 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 with Nutt with the
Razorbacks, another is the Arkansas State basketball coach.
In 2003, Arkansas beat two teams that Nebraska couldn't --
Missouri and Texas. 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
Nebraska's athletic budget is $53.6 million, compared to the $40
million Arkansas spends on athletics.