Candidate pool isn’t as deep as some think

By: Wally Hall
Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012

— Apparently there are no leaks when it comes to Athletic Director Jeff Long’s search for a new head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks football team.

There is tons of speculation and rumors, but all we know for sure is what Long said at the Little Rock Touchdown Club last week.

He isn’t prepared to make the next coach the highestpaid college coach in the country, which was a good thing considering the current economic situation in the state.

When he was talking, he mentioned NFL coordinators and current college head coaches.

That narrowed it down to about 1,000.

Or did it?

Some of you aren’t going to like this, but the truth is Arkansas is not the best coaching job in the world. It is a good one, a very good one, but there are schools with better facilities, easier access and a much broader recruiting base.

Some of the names being mentioned are ridiculous.

John Gruden is not a candidate, and it is highly unlikely TCU’s Gary Patterson or Boise State’s Chris Petersen has any interest. Arkansas is being seen as an almost total rebuilding job.

There is some talent returning, but the roster of difference-makers is far short of what LSU, Alabama, Florida and South Caroline have.

Successful head coaches are aware of that, and that once again the recruiting paths do not run deep enough into Texas. The Razorbacks are usually at their best when they have the best players coming out of Arkansas and some of the best from Texas.

Long said he was not looking to help some coach get a raise at home, that he wanted someone who would embrace the Razorbacks job and the challenge.

So names like Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy are a long shot at best. Who wants to get in a bidding war with T. Boone Pickens? No one.

The talent pool for successful head coaches who would consider Arkansas a promotion is not very deep.

More than likely, Long is going to have to recruit someone, unless he decides to go the coordinator route, and obviously becoming the head coach of a team in the SEC is a huge promotion for a coordinator.

It would be a promotion for a lot of head coaches, too, just not many from a BCS conference.

The program is not broken, but it needs some serious fixing. Getting it to where the fans want and expect it to be is going to take time, and that is a minimum of two years.

Understand, this was never going to be a great year. Too much was lost on the defensive side and too much leadership was lost in the motorcycle wreck and what it revealed.

Arkansas has a great stadium, weight room and indoor workout facility, and the new football facility will help tremendously. There are positives, and those are what Long will sell.

But it is not an easy sell to a big-name coach.

Long will need some luck, too. He had it before, and he needs it again.

Like Ole Miss, where it looks like they took a gamble and it paid off and will continue to pay off as Hugh Freeze squeezes every bit of talent and desire out of his team.

Maybe taking a hard look at Louisiana Tech’s Sonny Dykes is in order. It is better to win games than the news conference. His roots run deep in the state of Texas, too.

That is not a recommendation, only a suggestion.

More than likely, Long is up to his neck in this search, and he’s keeping his cards close to the vest, but he has to right now. No current head coach wants his name connected with another school during the season.

Especially those coaches who are winning, and a winning coach has to be high on Long’s list.

Sports, Pages 23 on 10/24/2012