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. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Some having fun with UA's football coach search; handful of candidates interviewing, source says
Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek is shown during a football game against Eastern Illinois on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- University of Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek is still in the early stages of his search to find a head football coach to succeed Chad Morris, but the hijinks surrounding his search is in full swing.
Yurachek, ever the savvy communicator, posted a short video clip on his Twitter account Monday of a futuristic-looking stealth bomber flying fast with a superimposed Razorback logo on its back with the hashtag OneRazorback.
The post could have been interpreted as a reference to the stealth he and deputy athletic director Jon Fagg are employing in their search, and possibly a response to reporters and citizen journalists tracking jets into and out of various local airports.
Yurachek said at the outset of the search he would not comment on details or the names of candidates, and he has not.
Sources with knowledge of the search have told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that Florida Atlantic Coach Lane Kiffin has been interviewed and that other candidates are on the list to be interviewed.
A source with knowledge of the search process said Yurachek had an original list of about 10 candidates, and he's whittled it down to a handful for interviews.
Former and current Arkansas players had fun touching off speculation regarding the search on Twitter. San Francisco 49ers rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw posted simply "Good Pick Razorbacks" in the middle of the afternoon, triggering a flurry of reactions. Former Arkansas defensive back Kevin "K-Rich" Richardson also Tweeted "Great hire!! I'm excited to see where he takes the program!"
Senior linebacker De'Jon Harris followed by writing, "Dre and K-rich didn't have to troll us like that."
Current Arkansas linebacker Hayden Henry, two weeks removed from shoulder surgery, wrote, "Can't wait for this 4PM meeting today," further building anticipation.
The 4 p.m. meeting for the football players was previously scheduled, and it was all about their academic standing heading into the final three weeks of the semester. Yurachek did not attend that meeting.
Players appeared to be in good spirits leaving the meeting as junior center Ty Clary shouted, "We got Urban Meyer!" to reporters standing nearby as several of his offensive line mates laughed.
Ex-Razorbacks have been making public their preferences, such as former quarterback Clint Stoerner and former player and assistant coach Barry Switzer, who are both advocating for Washington State Coach Mike Leach.
Speaking on KABZ-FM, 103.7 The Buzz in Little Rock, Switzer said, "First of all, they've got a guy that can recruit quarterbacks and receivers immediately, offensive players, all 11 on that side of the ball with Mike Leach. That's what he gives them.
"Every quarterback and every receiver in the country knows what he does at every program he's been in. He's taken over programs that were .500 programs, second tier or second division in their leagues, and taken them to championships. He had 10-win seasons at Texas Tech and they haven't done it since. He went to Washington State ... if you recruit to that and win 10 games there and go to bowl games, you're a hell of a football coach and a hell of a recruiter."
Former Arkansas golfer John Daly is friends with Kiffin and has touted the Razorbacks to him.
"He's not telling me much," Daly said on the Paul Finebaum Show. "I've been bugging him for the last few days, please come to Arkansas."
The two other SEC coaching searches had weird twists Monday. A fake Twitter account, created to look almost exactly like one belonging to a media member who covers Ole Miss, posted that Leach had been hired by the Rebels. The post went wild with retweets before it was discovered to be a hoax. Ole Miss fired Matt Luke on Sunday.
Also, a person falsely changed the Wikipedia page of Boise State Coach Bryan Harsin, the former Arkansas State University coach, to read that he was the new coach at Missouri, which fired Barry Odom on Saturday.
Arkansas basketball Coach Eric Musselman, the first major hire for Yurachek in April, reflected on the interview process at his Monday news conference in advance of tonight's game against Austin Peay.
"I loved interviewing with him," said Musselman, pointing out that his meeting with Yurachek and Fagg at his former home in Reno, Nev., in an effort to keep it private might have been a first for all three. "They asked a lot of really good questions. Philosophically, a lot of stuff about student-athletes.
"Obviously, recruiting was a big part of it as well. And understanding Arkansas' culture and understanding what Hunter's vision is for the entire athletic program. Understanding the passion of the Arkansas fan base.
"I mean, my process with him was incredible. It's why the more we talked, the more we got excited as a family. I thought he was really, really up front about everything. I knew he was interviewing other people, and talking to other people. But his communication skills were off the charts."
Sports on 12/03/2019
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