Cross Gruden, Patterson off Arkansas’ list

By: Wally Hall
Published: Sunday, November 25, 2012
After seven months, Jeff Long's coaching search will soon come to an end.
Photo by Jason Ivester
After seven months, Jeff Long's coaching search will soon come to an end.

— It has never been Jon Gruden.

Not even for one second.

It was not his to turn down because he was never offered any job at the University of Arkansas.

That comes from a source who rarely reveals anything, and when he does, it’s usually only to correct misinformation he thinks could become detrimental to the University of Arkansas.

Which the unfounded Gruden rumor could have done.

If agents believe Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long is willing to spend $5 million, they are going to ask for at least $5 million.

I understand how the rumor started. Former Arkansas Razorbacks golfer John Daly called The Show With No Name and said he believed an offer had been made to Gruden, who happens to be a close friend of Daly’s.

The fact he was bothering to make the call from Hong Kong gave it some credibility, but it was wishful thinking on Daly’s part.

According to my source, Long has never contacted Gruden or his agent and has no plans to contact them because Gruden is 21 years removed from college coaching and has never really recruited.

It appears Long has spent these past few months eliminating people who won’t fit the Razorbacks.

Those who might use the Hogs job to get a raise where they are.

Those who have baggage the public may not know about.

Apparently, Long has spent hundreds of hours on the phone making inquiries among his peers about what they know or don’t know. He would listen to suggestions, but that’s all they are.

Finding the right Razorbacks coach is not as easy as watching Monday Night Football and saying, “Gruden looks good in a red tie, let’s hire him.”

In fact, it is a difficult job.

To begin with, money is not always a factor for coaches. Most of them make more than they can spend, so why upset the wife and kids by moving for a 10-percent or 20-percent raise?

If you make $3 million a year, $3.5 million isn’t going to ring your bell.

Plus, Long has to look at buyouts. All coaches have a buyout, and they can range into the millions of dollars.

All of that is why this newspaper never ran with any of the rumors that it was Gruden or Mike Gundy, or that Gary Patterson had been offered.

Newspapers love to be first, too, but we have to be right. That doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes. Of course we do. But in the case of a coaching search, being right is the first objective.

As a columnist who gets some freedom to voice his opinion, I’ve tossed out a top 10 with odds, but that was for fun, not to be first.

When the call came that it wasn’t Gruden, it also was learned that Long has a short list but that he has not talked to any coach yet. There is an unwritten rule about contacting coaches during the season. That’s what cost Auburn more than $5 million a few years ago and cost the university president his job.

That doesn’t mean Long hasn’t been contacted. He has been by agents, lawyers or interested third parties, but the Arkansas athletic director is too ethical to go behind the back of another university.

Of course, all bets are off as of today, unless Long is after a coach who is taking part in a conference championship game.

What Long needs — and he has expressed this — is someone who understands the passion of the Razorbacks’ fan base, someone who is not afraid of the huge challenge that is Hogs football right now. He also needs someone who has a formula for winning sooner rather than later.

He needs someone who can recruit Texas, and maybe that shortens the list.

North Texas has been a gold mine for Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Missouri for years. It’s time to start getting some of those players to come to Arkansas.

Long has a hard job. It is a pressure-filled search for the right guy, the guy who will make fans happy at the news conference and even happier on the field.

That never was Jon Gruden nor, for that matter, Gary Patterson.

Sports, Pages 25 on 11/25/2012