Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a past president and member of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
LIKE IT IS:
Tim Horton will always be a Hog at heart
Tim Horton spent six seasons as an assistant coach at Arkansas.
LITTLE ROCK Almost from the time Bret Bielema was hired as Arkansas’ football coach, the most asked question heard or sent by text or e-mail was, “What about Tim Horton?”
Horton, a native Arkansan who played for the Razorbacks and coached the Hogs for six years, is an immensely popular guy with the Razorbacks Nation.
In addition to being credited with holding the 2008 recruiting class together until Bobby Petrino was hired as the head coach - and that was the last class deep in Arkansas talent - he was well-liked, trusted and respected.
The Horton name is synonymous with the Razorbacks because in addition to Tim, his dad, Harold, played for the Hogs, coached them and served in numerous administrative positions within and for the University of Arkansas athletic department. Harold recently retired as executive director of the Razorback Foundation.
Tim wasn’t just the last family name linked to the Razorbacks. He is seen by many as the last Razorback link to the Razorbacks program.
Bielema and Tim Horton had numerous conversations about Horton coaching tight ends and continuing to be the recruiting coordinator.
While new highs are being set for assistants coaches’ salaries, Horton was offered a $30,000 raise, which is certainly nice, but it still would have left him as the lowest paid coach on staff, a position where Petrino had stuck him for four years.
More than likely, Bielema tried to get Horton more money. He didn’t want to wait 29 days to make the offer. He would have liked to have kept the one coach with great relations among high school coaches in Arkansas.
Bielema, though, doesn’t approve the budget. That’s Jeff Long.
Long could be running short on cash right now. Bielema has hired what appears to be one of the best staffs since Frank Broyles added Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer to his staff.
Some seem to believe that Long was not happy about the groundswell last spring to make Horton the interim head coach after Petrino was fired.
That would be understandable, but Horton did not orchestrate that.
In fact, when I called Horton, he refused to say anything other than “I’m honored to be on staff and willing to do anything I’m asked for this program.”
There is also an old business philosophy: The only way to get a big raise is take a different job.
There is another faction that believes Bielema needed to clean house. Get a fresh start.
I’m biased. I like Tim Horton. We served together on the board of directors of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and on my key chain is a religious symbol his dad gave me.
I covered him as a player and coach. He was a great receiver and coach, in my opinion.
The bottom line, though, is he landed on his feet at Auburn, and it may have better footing for recruiting in Arkansas than the Hogs right now.
This may be the move he needed to become a head coach, and that’s something he aspires to be. It is very possible that if he stayed at Arkansas he would have become a career assistant. Maybe Long knew that, too.
Bielema has proven to have a good eye for hiring assistant coaches, and maybe he has that eye on someone who can recruit Texas. So far it looks like Florida is the top priority.
Florida is a state rich in talent, though less so than Texas, and beating out Florida, Florida State and Miami is very difficult to do - especially when you play there only once every time there’s a new president.
Anyway, at some point it appears money was going to become an issue, and we’ll know if that was why Horton wasn’t offered as much whenever Bielema makes his final hire.
For now, though, the Razorbacks may have lost a good friend and coach in Tim Horton, but he didn’t burn any bridges. His final post on Twitter ended with “Go Hogs.”
Whatever the reasons Horton is gone, it’s over and he’s moving on, just like his fans should.
Sports, Pages 19 on 01/06/2013