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 member and past president 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. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Missouri, Ole Miss firings complicate Arkansas hiring
University of Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek speaks after introducing new interim head coach Barry Lunney Jr. on Monday, November 11, 2019, during a press conference at the Broyles Athletic Center in Fayetteville.
The search for a new football coach for the University of Arkansas may have become more complicated over the weekend.
Missouri fired Barry Odom on Saturday and Ole Miss fired Matt Luke on Sunday. At this time, those are likely considered better jobs than the UA.
Those schools will set their sights on some of the same coaching prospects as UA Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek.
Exactly who those prospects are is top secret at Arkansas. Only Yurachek and his right-hand man Jon Fagg know who is on the short list.
What you are about to read is a list of guys who may or may not be interested. When the UA does make it official, it will probably be tweeted out by Yurachek or someone on his staff, although the hiring of Eric Musselman was tweeted out earlier than the UA’s statement.
There is no intended order to the list of names, just those who popped in the head first.
• Eliah Drinkwitz, 36, graduate of Arkansas Tech University. A disciple of Gus Malzahn, he is in his first season as a head coach at Appalachian State. He led the Mountaineers to an 11-1 record and the Sun Belt Conference Championship Game. He’s primarily an offensive coordinator/running backs coach.
• Butch Davis, 68, head coach at Florida International. He graduated from the UA, and his background includes stints at Oklahoma State, Miami (head coach), Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns (head coach), North Carolina (head coach) and now Florida International. He owns land in Northwest Arkansas and is close friends with John Tyson. He also owns several red ties. Most likely, he would have the support of Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson.
• Lane Kiffin, who was written about on Tuesday.
• Justin Fuente, 43, head coach at Virginia Tech. He is credited with turning the Memphis program around. The Hokies had a slow start this season but finished strong and has an excellent team returning next season. Word is he was initially interested in Arkansas job and changed his mind.
• Matt Campbell, head coach at Iowa State. He was considered a prospect, but he reupped at Iowa State on Tuesday.
• Willie Fritz, 59, head coach at Tulane. He has won at Central Missouri, Sam Houston State, Georgia Southern and Tulane.
• Bill Napier, 40, head coach at Louisiana-Lafayette. He went 10-2 in his second season as head coach and led the Ragin’ Cajuns to the Sun Belt title game. He has coaching stops at Clemson and Alabama.
• Mike Leach, 58. He has had success at Texas Tech, where he was fired, and at Washington State. Both schools are in Power 5 conferences. In his 10 seasons at Tech, he signed 138 players from Texas.
Napier is probably high on Ole Miss’ list.
Leach, who has a law degree and serves as his own agent, is apparently on the list of the Rebels and Missouri.
To keep it interesting, Memphis may open up if Mike Norvell jumps to Florida State, but it would seem natural if the Tigers’ brass went after Hugh Freeze, who coached high school in Memphis before becoming a successful college head coach. Freeze coached Liberty to a 6-6 record this season.
As said before, all or none of these may be on Yurachek’s wish list, but word is he has been working long days trying to find the right guy sooner than later.
If he finds someone by Thursday, it will be news from coast to coast. On Friday, that changes when all the national stations turn their attention to conference championship games.
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