When former Arkansas coach Houston Nutt was asked at the Little Rock Touchdown Club on Monday when fans would see him back on the sidelines, he seemed hesitant to answer.
But before he could, a fan in the crowd did so for him.
"Texas is looking!" the fan yelled, referring to the program embroiled in rumors that its coach, Mack Brown, may be on his way out.
The remark led to a chorus of laughter from Nutt and nearly 400 people packed into the Little Rock Embassy Suites ballroom, which required extra seating for the event. It was one of several moments that defined Nutt's first public speaking appearance in his hometown since he left the Razorbacks six years ago after coaching the team for 10 seasons.
Nutt said that he hasn't given much thought to coaching again — he said he needed a break after spending 14 consecutive years in the SEC — but noted if he did return to the profession, the situation would have to be right.
Rising tensions between Nutt, the University of Arkansas administration and the Razorback fan base led him to resign as coach of the Razorbacks in 2007, at which point he accepted a contract buyout and took the head coaching job at Ole Miss. Nutt went 24-26 in four seasons as coach of the Rebels before moving to Santa Fe, N.M. and serving as an analyst for CBS Sports.
Nutt said he doesn't regret his time at Arkansas, but he does wish his tenure in Fayetteville had lasted longer.
"I wanted to be like [former Arkansas coach and athletic director] coach [Frank] Broyles," he said, "I wanted to be there a long, long time."
In his 30-minute address, Nutt talked at length about his recruitment as a player to Arkansas, his relationship with Broyles and how his parents coaching and teaching at Arkansas School for the Deaf affected the way he dealt with people on a daily basis.
Nutt's mother, Emogene, and brothers Danny and Dennis attended the event.
Prior to his speech, it was announced that Nutt had his speaking fee donated to recovery efforts for Bennie Fuller, the deaf Arkansas prep basketball great who lost nearly all his possessions May 20 in the Moore, Okla. tornado. Fuller played for Nutt's father, Houston Nutt Sr.
A majority of the event focused on Nutt Jr.'s tenure at Arkansas, when he went 75-48 and appeared in seven bowl games. Nutt said he felt he was a long-shot among the 14 candidates to get the job in 1998, when he was in his first and only season as head coach at Boise State.
"I wasn't sure if I was going to get the job because my resume wasn't as thick [as other candidates]," Nutt said. "But I knew I wanted this job. I knew it."
In all, Nutt said he was nervous prior to speaking to the crowd, but described them as "good butterflies." While finishing his address, Nutt showed that while the ending to his Arkansas coaching tenure was full of controversy, he enjoyed his decade with the team.
"I had the privilege to be the coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks," Nutt said. "There's nothing like it."
Read more about this story in tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.