Long likely has his man, but isn’t talking

By: Wally Hall
Published: Thursday, November 1, 2012

— It would seem highly likely that Jeff Long knows who the new head football coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks will be.

He’s had more than five months to deal with lawyers, agents and others to find out who is truly interested in coaching the Razorbacks, who would be a good fit and who is up to the challenge, and it is so challenging that some established coaches might not embrace the job.

When Long, Arkansas’ athletic director, said last week that his candidates were currently working in football, and that included working as an assistant coach or even in the NFL, he wasn’t saying that it would be an NFL assistant but that his pool of possibilities included those coaching in college and the NFL.

But what he could have been saying was: “I have my guy, and no one is going to know his name until the season is finished.”

That is the prudent action on his part, especially if he is about to get a head coach from another school.

There are head coaches who are doing a good job and who would be interested, and while none of these may have been on his list, here are four head coaches, in no specific order, who may not win the news conference but would win games:

Texas Tech Coach Tommy Tuberville, 58, is an Arkansas native and is winning with defense, which is not the usual way of the wild Big 12. He is a proven winner in the SEC at Ole Miss and Auburn and knows that you better be able to play defense if you want to win a championship in the SEC.

Tuberville replaced the very popular Mike Leach at Texas Tech, and while some fans were doubtful, Tuberville has opened up his offense and is doing a nice job of recruiting Texas.

Baylor Coach Art Briles, 56, is a legend in the state of Texas. He coached at high schools for 18 years before joining Leach’s staff at Texas Tech. Four years later, he was named head coach of the Houston Cougars and turned around that program. He was then hired at Baylor to turn around that program, and in his third season led the Bears to their first bowl game in 15 years.

He’s run a multitude of offenses in his career, from the Wishbone to the Spread. He recruited Robert Griffin III, so there is little doubt about his recruiting ability.

Vanderbilt Coach James Franklin, 40, watched the Commodores get off to a slow start this season, but they are 4-4 now and are looking to make their second consecutive bowl game under his direction. He had one of Vanderbilt’s best recruiting classes, and that is not an easy school to recruit to because it has little football tradition.

Franklin is a tireless worker and most likely will end up at a bigger school.

Louisiana Tech Coach Sonny Dykes, 42, has lots of connections in Texas. His dad, Spike Dykes, was a successful high school coach and head coach at Texas Tech. Dykes and Briles worked together at Tech for three years. He also was an assistant at Kentucky, so he knows the SEC. He became head coach at Louisiana Tech in 2010 and went 5-7, but was one of only four of the 22 new head coaches to have an improved first season over the last. Tech went 8-5 last year and is 7-1 this year, with the loss coming against Texas A&M, 59-57.

At Saturday’s Ole Miss-Arkansas game in Little Rock, a man had an apparent heart attack and the War Memorial Stadium elevators were shut down until an ambulance could get there.

Fortunately, they were still running when Dr. Reed Hogan stepped off the elevator and saw the problem and initiated CPR until the ambulance arrived.

Hogan is a gastroenterologist in Jackson, Miss., and a huge Rebels fan. But when real life entered the picture, he was more of an angel than a football fan, and the man who had the apparent heart attack is doing well.

Sports, Pages 17 on 11/01/2012