Pederson met with Nutt Thursday night

Updated: January 2, 2004, 1:25 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

After being turned down this week by Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Al Saunders, Nebraska officials have turned their search for a new coach to Houston Nutt.

Arkansas sports information director Kevin Trainor said Thursday he understood Nebraska athletic director Steve Pederson flew to Fayetteville to meet with Nutt. Trainor said he had no other details.

KARK-TV in Little Rock reported that Arkansas and Nebraska sources said Pederson flew to Fayetteville and talked to Nutt on Thursday night, possibly at his home.

Kansas City coach Dick Vermeil said Thursday that Saunders told him he had been offered the Nebraska job but that Saunders "decided to stay in pro football," adding Saunders informed him Tuesday night.

Nebraska is looking to replace Frank Solich, who was fired Nov. 29 with a 9-3 record. He was 58-19 in six years at the school after replacing Tom Osborne.

Pederson has said he thought the program was slipping in stature compared to its Big 12 rivals.

Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles said Thursday that Pederson contacted him Wednesday seeking permission to talk to Nutt. "He asked me yesterday, but I asked him not to talk to (Nutt) until today," Broyles said.

Nutt coached the Razorbacks to a 27-14 victory over Missouri in the Independence Bowl on Wednesday night. He is 48-27 after leading the program six years and has three nine-win seasons. The Razorbacks finished this season 9-4.

Broyles said he sensed that Nutt had a good shot at the job. Asked if he thought Nutt was at the top of the list, Broyles said: "I don't think there's any list. I think that [Nutt] is the top."

"I'm sure ... they'll be working out an agreement to meet very quickly," Broyles said.

Broyles noted that Nebraska has a strong program with "a lot of money." Asked whether Arkansas would match any financial package Nebraska might offer, Broyles said Arkansas would "certainly consider it."

Broyles told AP on Thursday afternoon that his sense was that he could know within 24 hours whether he'd be mounting a search for a new coach.

Saunders, 56, said in Thursday's Kansas City Star his "career path is directed toward the National Football League rather than the college environment." He stressed that his focus is preparing the Chiefs (13-3) for their second-round playoff game.

Nebraska interim head coach Bo Pelini and his assistants have been awaiting a decision by Pederson for weeks. Pelini was named interim coach at the time of Solich's firing and led the team (No. 21 ESPN/USA Today, No. 22 AP) to a 17-3 victory over Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl on Monday.

On Tuesday, Pelini said the program essentially was in a shutdown mode until Pederson made a decision.

Pederson has been mum on his search. Pelini said he had not talked to Pederson since immediately after the Alamo Bowl, and that was only a brief encounter. Arkansas coach Houston Nutt is thought to be a candidate for the job.

"He shook my hand and said nice job," Pelini told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

When Pederson named Pelini interim head coach, he said Pelini would serve through the bowl game.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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