Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Shannon: ‘I like my job’ here
Arkansas linebackers coach Randy Shannon listens during a press conference announcing the Razorbacks' 2014 signees on Feb. 5, 2014.
FAYETTEVILLE - Randy Shannon stiff-armed the subject as much as he could on national signing day.
Was he interested in becoming Arkansas’ defensive coordinator?
“When?” Shannon replied after a few seconds of thought.
In the past few weeks, a reporter replied.
“Here’s the thing you’ve got to realize, OK?” said Shannon, the Razorbacks’ linebackers coach. “Everybody wants, the biggest thing we’ve got to do - and you guys have got to understand - right now it’s all about what we’re doing at Arkansas, trying to get this recruiting class done and things like that.
“Everybody’s going to hit me with the things about being a coordinator and those things. That doesn’t - the only thing that matters to me right now is what we did in recruiting.”
Shannon, a former head coach and defensive coordinator at the University of Miami, knew by then that Coach Bret Bielema had homed in on Robb Smith, whom Bielema named defensive coordinator Saturday. The three men had talked shop during the recruiting period in Miami, Shannon’s home turf and the area from which he helped bring in five signees in Arkansas’ latest class.
Shannon has Bielema’s ear, to hear both men describe their relationship, and Shannon, who currently makes $315,000 a year, will have a newly created position as senior associate head coach that will be accompanied by a salary increase.
So now the question is: Is Shannon happy at Arkansas?
“I don’t have any problems with anything,” said Shannon, who turns 48 on Feb. 24. “Everybody always is wondering. Everybody thought probably I was leaving, or this or that. I’m just, like I said, I tell everybody that I’m happy and I’m happy here for a reason. It’s a challenge.”
Shannon equated Arkansas’ battle back from the bottom of the SEC West, the nation’s toughest division for the past seven or eight years, to Miami’s rise from major NCAA sanctions in the mid-1990s.
“Last time I’ve been in this situation we were at, me and Butch Davis were at Miami together,” Shannon said, relating how successful recruiting helped lead the Hurricanes’ to the 2001 BCS national championship game in his first year as defensive coordinator under Larry Coker after a stint with the Miami Dolphins. “So we’ve got to steadily continue to recruit like we’re doing and get the players we feel like can best help us win.”
Shannon, who is taking a break this week with the rest of Arkansas’ football staff while Bielema spends a few days in Indianapolis at NCAA rules committee meetings, insisted last Wednesday he is content in Fayetteville.
“I’m having fun,” he said. “I like my job. I like working with people around here. Jeff Long is unbelievable. Jon Fagg is unbelievable.
“The other coaches in the community and the other people in the community are unbelievable. The other coaches on this staff, from basketball to track to gymnastics, to all parts of it, are fun to be around. I think that’s the common goal. If you can have a place that you have fun at and can enjoy, you can be OK.
“Now, if I wasn’t very happy, wasn’t happy working with the staff the way I am, or the town or something like that, well, I won’t do a great job or do my job to the best of my ability. Right now I’m happy and I’m having fun.”
Sports, Pages 19 on 02/12/2014