The rumor mill was running silly this weekend (we weren't a part of it, we did the French Quarter Fest in New Orleans and had a great time). Last night and this morning we made some calls...
Here's the synopsis of what we heard back. First, yes the current staff is promoting the idea of using an interim for this season. The sources we spoke with said they also aren't real sure that this is the direction that Jeff Long is headed; but we are aware of the fact that the coaching staff is working on recommendations of who to hire to fill the spot in the event any one of their assistants are promoted to interim head coach for the season.
At the press conference in which he announced Bobby Petrino's dismissal, Jeff Long stated that he had asked Taver Johnson to serve as interim head coach for Spring football and that he would immediately begin the search for the next head coach of the Razorbacks. Everyone we have spoken with tells us that is his intent, to bring in the next head coach from the outside (not to use an interim going forward).
Last Thursday it seemed like every media outlet in Arkansas reported that the coaching staff "voted" and then lobbied to Long for him to allow Tim Horton serve as interim head coach for the season. It seemed quite clear to us when that night Jeff Long tweeted "No decision on Interim Coach, Know current assts well, no need for folks to lobby, have watched myself. All scenarios on the table thx" that he was reminding everyone that this was his decision; and given that he had asked Taver to serve as interim for Spring, it just doesn't seem likely to us that Horton winds up in that position. Horton is a very good guy and good coach; but Long knows his staff quite well and appears headed in a different direction.
So, back to that update, in the last 15 hours we have spoken with a number of contacts close the program and to a number of the coaches that others have reported as being involved. Yesterday it was reported that Steve Mariucci was a candidate. A coach we spoke with that is close to Mooch told us this morning that Mooch has not been contacted at all with regards to this job and it's not even on his radar. He said he spoke with Mooch yesterday and that this isn't, and never was happening. Three of four other NFL names have been mentioned as possible candidates. A source close to the program told us, "those names aren't real and certainly aren't coming out of the program. Those are names just being made up and thrown out there in hopes that somebody can make a name for themselves when in actuality they are just making themselves look silly."
As a coach told us this morning, "reporters should actually speak with guys knowledgeable of the situation and report that. If you're just going to wildly speculate, at least note that that's what it is."
As you probably recall, last Wednesday we broke the news that Jeff Long and Garrick McGee had already spoken and that two sources we had spoken with felt that McGee would be named head coach shortly after UAB and Arkansas finish Spring ball on the 21st. For what it's worth, those two sources reconfirmed there belief this morning that this will happen and a source close to the program replied simply, "I believe that's an option Jeff is considering."
As for those speculating that Gary Patterson, who Long nearly offered the job to back when he first hired Petrino, might get the call...we have spoken with sources close to the TCU head coach. They told us that Gary would not be willing to make that move at this time. Not going to happen.
With regards to Gus Malzahn...our sources tell us that for so many reasons, Gus could not accept this job at this time. If the permanent job were to be available come December, our sources tell us that Malzahn would be keenly interested...
To be clear, we have not spoken with Jeff Long for this article and we're not expecting his call (although once you know where you are going, a DM on twitter would suffice Jeff). Yes, Long is one of the few ADs that would get that joke. He gets Twitter.
Arkansas has their spring game on the 21st and then their staff goes on the road a week later. We suspect he'll have his new coach in place before then and we'll keep you posted with what is truly transpiring.