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Offer amount disputed

LITTLE ROCK -- Arkansas coach Houston Nutt testified under oath in February that he had a non-written offer of $2 million from Nebraska, but in similar testimony the Cornhuskers athletic director said salary discussions never grew larger than $1.5 million.

The Arkansas coach and Nebraska athletic director Steve Pederson
both gave depositions about the Cornhuskers' courtship of Nutt from
Dec. 31 to Jan. 3. The depositions were taken in a lawsuit filed by
former Razorbacks basketball coach Nolan Richardson against the
university over his dismissal.

The depositions were made public Monday when Arkansas filed
motions seeking to bar Richardson attorney John Walker from asking
questions about Nutt's discussions with Nebraska once the trial
starts May 5.

Walker asked Nutt if he had been offered $2.8 million or $2.5
million to go to Nebraska and Nutt said "No" to both questions.

Walker then asked if Nutt had been offered $2 million by anyone
representing Nebraska.

"Counting incentives and everything, yes," Nutt testified Feb.
6 at the University of Arkansas administration building in
Fayetteville.

"By whom was that offer made?" Walker asked.

"Steve Pederson. He talked to (my agent) Jimmy Sexton," Nutt
said.

Nutt said the offer was never put into writing and when asked
about the base contract, he said it was "right around $1.8
million."

Pederson gave his deposition on Feb. 17 in Lincoln, Neb., in
front of a lawyer for his school, University of Arkansas lawyers,
Nutt and Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles. Walker joined
the deposition by phone

Pederson, who flew to Fayetteville for a 2{-hour meeting with
Nutt at his home on Jan. 1, said he never offered that much money
to Nutt.

He said he didn't even discuss money with Nutt and said he told
Sexton on Jan. 2 that salary would be in the range of $1.3 to $1.5
million for six or seven years.

Pederson released a statement Tuesday repeating his claim that
$2 million was never offered.

"I find the statements attributed to Houston Nutt
interesting," Pederson said. "(On Feb. 17), Nutt commented to me
on the ridiculous nature of the $2 million figure and indicated he
was not aware of the origin of that number. He also joked that if
he had been offered a job like that, he would have been in big
trouble at home if he had not taken it."

"In my deposition, I testified that I only discussed salary
ranges of between $1.3 to 1.5 million a year with each potential
candidate. I have no idea what might be going on in Arkansas, but
the University of Nebraska should be left out of the issue."

Pederson also said in his testimony that the job had never been
offered to Nutt and he asked that Nutt not term it that way to the
media. Pederson said a contract couldn't be offered until Nebraska
Chancellor Harvey Perlman had interviewed a candidate.

"I told the chancellor we were being manipulated somewhere with
regard to salary, but I don't recall making a specific statement
about who I thought it was," Pederson said.

Pederson said Sexton, Nutt's agent, first contacted him about
Nutt on Dec. 1, after Frank Solich was fired on Nov. 29 following a
9-3 season. Pederson said Sexton called to say he had two coaches
interested in the job. The second Sexton client was not named in
Pederson's testimony.

Pederson said he spoke with Sexton on "numerous occasions" in
December, but could not recall a specific number. The first time
Pederson talked to Nutt was by phone after Arkansas' 27-14 victory
over Missouri in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 31. That win gave
the Razorbacks a 9-4 season.

Pederson said the last time he spoke with Nutt about the job was
on the afternoon of Jan. 2. Later that night, Nutt decided not to
get on a plane Nebraska had sent to fly him to Lincoln and on Jan.
3 he left a phone message with Pederson taking himself out of
consideration.

Pederson hired former Oakland Raiders coach Bill Callahan on
Jan. 9 and gave him a contract worth $1.5 million.

Chris Mortensen, a pro football television analyst for ESPN and
father of Arkansas quarterback signee Alex Mortensen, also gave a
deposition, in Georgia. Chris Mortensen said he called Nutt in early
December after hearing from Buffalo Bills team president Tom
Donahoe that Pederson was "intrigued" by Nutt.

"I told Houston that something like that might happen,"
Mortensen said. "He basically said that would bother him because
Frank Solich had been fired after 9-3 and he had just gone 8-4."