Loss of Horton will be felt in Arkansas

By: Nate Allen
Published: Monday, January 7, 2013
Tim Horton said he is thankful for the relationships he built during six seasons as Arkansas' running backs coach.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Tim Horton said he is thankful for the relationships he built during six seasons as Arkansas' running backs coach.

— Upon his Dec. 5 introduction to Arkansas, Coach Bret Bielema emphasized building a football fence around Arkansas.

“If anybody in this state can play on the championship level, we need them here at the University of Arkansas,” Bielema said “I learned from different state universities I have been at [as head coach at Wisconsin and as an assistant at Iowa and Kansas State] if you can’t solidify things in your state and they are playing for other people, you are not going to be as good as you can be. So it’s going to be important from this day forward that we throw a fence around the state borders and realize everybody needs to stay here at home.”

A month later finds Bielema following the path of the Razorbacks athletic director who hired him in that most anything pertaining to Arkansas apparently should begin contracted out of state.

Since former UA Chancellor John White hired Jeff Long from the University of Pittsburgh to replace Frank Broyles as Arkansas’ athletic director effective in 2008, having a UA diploma or long established UA ties seems to be the surest way for a UA athletic department staffer to be shown the way to the exit at the Broyles Center.

Tim Horton was the last man standing employed inside the Broyles Center who had ran through the A in an Arkansas jersey.

No more.

The lone Arkansan and UA graduate on the nine-man staff hired by former Razorbacks Coach Bobby Petrino who served under 2012 interim Coach John L. Smith, Horton left last Friday to become an assistant at Auburn, an SEC-West rival. The one Arkansas football coach that all football connected Arkansans know and respect didn’t receive an offer from Arkansas until Bielema’s 29th day on the job, shortly after Auburn offered.

Bielema’s eight full-time assistants on board, including the only one returning from the previous staff (defensive assistant Taver Johnson, who was hired in February 2012 from Ohio State), have vast experience recruiting in a lot of places- especially Florida, it seems - but zero to minimal experience recruiting Arkansans.

That doesn’t seem up to code for fence-building in Arkansas.

Especially with Auburn coached by Arkansan.

Gus Malzahn, the former ultra successful Springdale High and former Arkansas State coach, also has Arkansans J.B. Grimes and Rhett Lashlee - and now Horton - on his staff, which seems to make the Tigers better equipped to recruit in Arkansas than Arkansas.

The Razorbacks will have to play catch-up in the good old boy network that will always be a part of recruiting within Arkansas.

At least Bielema did keep Bobby Allen, an Arkansas assistant since 1998, as director of high school relations. Allen’s job establishing relationships with high school coaches could become more vital than when he coached on the field, given there are no more Arkansans on the Razorbacks staff to make Arkansans feel at home.

Harold Horton, Tim’s father who was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame as a Razorbacks player, assistant coach and administrator plus a national champion head coach at the University of Central Arkansas, recently retired as executive director of the Razorback Foundation.

Anyone who knows Arkansas could have told Bielema the value of the Hortons to Arkansas football.

Unfortunately, he has no UA alum nearby his office with the authority to tell him.

Sports, Pages 16 on 01/07/2013