LITTLE ROCK - When Arkansas visits South Carolina this weekend, the relationships between many of the coaches involved will be more complex than usual.
Both staffs are headed by a coach who employs a relative. And six members of Arkansas' 10-man staff will be working against a former coach or employer - and in one case, both.
In the transient world of coaching, it's not unusual for former co-workers to find themselves on opposite sides of the field - especially when one has been in the game as long as South Carolina's Lou Holtz, who has been a head coach since 1969. But on this occasion, it's more common than usual.
To begin with, there's the familial relationships on the field. Arkansas coach Houston Nutt hired younger brother Danny as an assistant for his one season as head coach at Boise State in 1997, then brought him to Arkansas. Holtz hired his son, Skip, as an assistant in 1999.
Holtz said it is possible to employ relatives in coaching as long as the roles are well-defined.
"It's a professional relationship and a personal relationship," he said. "You have to divorce the two."
Three Arkansas assistants will be vying against a former mentor. Offensive line coach Mike Markuson was a graduate assistant at Notre Dame under Holtz in 1989 and defensive line coach Bobby Allen was a Holtz GA at Minnesota in 1995. Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack was a Holtz graduate assistant at Arkansas in 1979, then an assistant until 1982.
Two more Arkansas assistants are facing a former coach. Receivers coach James Shibest lettered as an Arkansas freshman in 1983, Holtz's last year at the school. Danny Nutt, the running backs coach, was a redshirt on that squad.
But the most complicated relationship on the field involves the bosses. Houston Nutt played quarterback at Arkansas in 1976, but was sidelined when Holtz took over the Razorback program the next year and instituted an option offense. Nutt transferred to Oklahoma State.
After a year as a grad assistant at OSU, Nutt worked as a Razorback GA under Holtz in 1983.
The men met as head coaches for the first time in 1999, and the apprentice has so far been the master. Arkansas has won four out of five times, with the only loss at South Carolina in 2000.
Nutt said the playing situation in '77 created a strain, but he and Holtz have no bad feelings for each other.
"I came back and was hired as a graduate assistant, and that wouldn't have happened if we didn't have a relationship," he said.