n He says Arkansas chancellor wants him to stay.
BY NOAH TRISTER
The Associated Press
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The plot has thickened for Houston Nutt and Arkansas.
First the Razorbacks stunned LSU in a triple-overtime thriller Friday, then college football’s coaching carousel began spinning in earnest over the weekend.
Now Nutt says Chancellor John White wants him to remain at Arkansas.
“Chancellor White and (athletic director Frank) Broyles, they want me here. They want me to stay,” Nutt told reporters Sunday at his weekly news conference. “That’s a good feeling, and I’m excited about that.”
It might not be that simple for the embattled coach. Nutt said he’s had preliminary discussions with White, but he didn’t give any details on what was talked about. Broyles is retiring at the end of the year, and incoming athletic director Jeff Long has been mum on Nutt’s future.
Nutt said he expected to speak with Long later this week.
Nutt went 10-4 in 2006, but he’s been under fire since the January departures of offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and quarterback Mitch Mustain. The Razorbacks lost their first three Southeastern Conference games this year, fueling more speculation about Nutt’s job security.
Earlier this month, reports surfaced that Nutt wouldn’t be back, but the school strongly denied that any decision had been made. Arkansas salvaged an 8-4 regular season with a 50-48 win over then-No. 1 LSU.
“That locker room was the best that we’ve ever experienced, and there was so much happiness, so much joy,” Nutt said. “Let’s be honest. This was a difficult season. Under the circumstances, for guys to start out 0-3, it could have easily gone south. But the one trademark that we have is we keep fighting.”
The victory over LSU put the Razorbacks in decent shape for a berth in the Cotton Bowl – which has a long history with Arkansas from the school’s Southwest Conference days.
Before Arkansas plays in the postseason, there will likely be more news about where Nutt will be next season. If he’s not back with the Razorbacks, there are other job openings that might appeal. Ole Miss fired Ed Orgeron on Saturday.
Nebraska fired Bill Callahan the same day.
Nutt was asked about his interest in other openings. He switched the subject to recruiting.
“There’s seven, eight jobs right now. There’s going to be more,” Nutt said. “There’s not just one thing on my mind – Oh, that’s the one.’ I hadn’t thought about things like that. Right now, again, we’ve got 19 solid commitments after all this that are still hanging there very, very strong and I’m proud of that. All I’m doing right now is just touching base with those guys. We start recruiting.”
Nutt was asked if the fan base could be united if he were to return as coach.
“I hope so. I hope so. … I hope that if I walked by one fan or I didn’t speak to somebody, if I made somebody mad in that way, boy I apologize,” Nutt said. “All I’ve ever wanted to do was do the right thing, do it the proper way and be the head coach and the ambassador for Arkansas.”
… I hope the fan base, I hope we all can come together. I don’t know.
“It’s not going to be determined by somebody that gets on a blog, or somebody that has an ink pen,” Nutt added. “It’s not going to be determined by those guys. It’s not. It’s going to be determined by Chancellor White, the board, coach Broyles and Jeff Long. It’s those people that are in charge.”
A phone message left for White was not immediately returned.
Nutt said it has been a dream to coach at Arkansas. He took over the program before the 1998 season. Nutt defended his record with the Razorbacks, saying expectations have increased because of the strides the team has made under his watch.
Nutt said he talked to Jimmy Johnson, a former Arkansas player, after the LSU game.
“Boy once a Razorback, always a Razorback. He was so proud,” Nutt said. “And by the way, Jimmy Johnson says he’s not coming to take this job – it’s too tough! That was his words.”
Looking toward the future, Nutt struck an upbeat tone.
“You want to be supported,” Nutt said. “You just want them to know, hey, you’re a team player, you’re willing to do whatever it takes. You want things to just go very smooth. … There’s a lot of good, good things when you look close, but we’re going to have to see what’s best, what is best. This week, we’ll see.”