Arkansas coach turns down Nebraska's riches

Posted: Sunday, January 04, 2004

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, teary at times, said he was flattered by Nebraska's offer, but it was best for him to remain in his home state.

''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 fired coach Frank Solich in November after a 9-3 regular season. The Cornhuskers finished 10-3, beating Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl under interim coach Bo Pelini.

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 said.

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.''

Details of the new contract were not announced, but Nutt said the deal was worth close to $1.5 million annually, almost doubling his salary.

''They're going to take care of me. There are some things still being worked out,'' Nutt said.

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.

At Arkansas, Nutt has won nine games in the regular season twice, in 1998 and 2002. The Razorbacks went 9-4 this season, including a victory over Missouri in the Independence Bowl.

''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.''

Broyles called Nutt ''the best man for the job anywhere in America,'' and his decision to stay was reason for celebration.

''He's not only a great football coach, he's a great ambassador,'' Broyles said.

Money wasn't the only factor, Nutt said, even though he would have more than doubled his salary.

''They don't know my heart,'' Nutt said. ''They don't know what I see. They don't know my vision. They weren't born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas.''

Nutt played high school football in Little Rock and college ball at Arkansas and Oklahoma State.

''You only get so many opportunities and Nebraska will never call again,'' Nutt said. ''Am I making the right decision? The outside world will tell you I'm probably not.''

Nebraska was rejected for the second time this week. Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Al Saunders turned down the job, Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil said Thursday.

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