So, the powers that be at Arkansas threw in the towel on the Jeff Long era, moving forward in a different direction. What does that mean for the department and the football program?
Well, allow us to share what we are hearing whispered in the coaching circles.
Arkansas has invested deeply in their facilities & programs over the past five years. The commitment from the donors and the administration is real. The Hogs are proud people. From a football perspective, the Hogs want to win and will give you whatever you feel you need to do so. Also, an overarching feeling we get from speaking with various parties in the profession is that Arkansas wants to hire people who want to win & stay at Arkansas. They are tired of being viewed as a potential stepping stone to greatness. They don’t want to hire people who will flirt with other jobs. We keep hearing of a “strong preference” to hire folks with deep ties to Arkansas.
So, this is an unusual situation in so far as timing of events that have & have to happen. Jeff Long hired & supported Bret. Most people at Arkansas like & respect Bret; but simply feel it is time for a change.
There is real support for attempting to bring Gus Malzahn back “home”. The whisper in the profession is Arkansas is hoping the instability in the athletic department and with the fan support at Auburn will open the door for Gus to say yes. The issue is Gus’ team appears to have a legitimate shot at peaking at the right time. Should Auburn beat Alabama, seemingly all bets are off. Would Gus really walk out the door after making a big run? Auburn fans might cross lines if Gus were to head north after taking their pride & joy into and / or possibly winning the playoff.
The question is will Arkansas settle on an athletic director before needing to hire a football coach or not? And then, how does Gus impact that hire?
On the AD side the chatter we hear is not the “professional AD” type. For this role we also hear how much they value someone with deep connections in Arkansas & with key stakeholders.
We hear Tommy Tuberville has legit interest and a legit backing as well among several key players. Presumably Tuberville could get on board with a Gus hire if Gus were available (and would support Gus fully, I’m sure).
If Gus weren’t available, the thinking in the profession is Tubs (& presumably other candidates) would like to hire a known Arkansas quantity from the upper echelon of the profession. It would be interesting to watch Tubs attempt to successfully make the move from one chair to the other along the lines of Barry Alvarez or Tom Osborne.
Several established, successful college head coaches fit the bill as having “deep ties” to Arkansas. Presumably it would take all the dollars to lure Gary Patterson from TCU; but Gary fits the description of what is wanted perfectly (other than growing up in nearby Kansas instead of Arkansas). Charlie Strong makes a lot of sense to a number of coaches we have spoken with. Mike Norvell, while not one tenth as “established” as some other guys mentioned, certainly has a backing among the fan base. This isn’t the worst problem to potentially have but if Norvell were to leave Memphis after two good years, then have two good years at Arkansas, then have say Texas come calling… Eh, you deal with that when you get there; but I recognize Arkansas’ desire to hire someone who simply wouldn’t be looking to “move up.”
Several folks we checked with on the AD front said to expect more clarity on Arkansas’ plans / the process within a few days (however we don’t get the sense a hire is in any way imminent). Will update The Scoop as more becomes clear.
Unrelated, take a look at why we all need to hire Jeff Long!