Arkansas coaching search nears another weekend

By: Bob Holt
Published: Friday, December 6, 2019
Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek is shown during a news conference Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
Photo by David Gottschalk
Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek is shown during a news conference Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Washington State announced an agreement for a contract extension through the 2024 season for Cougars Coach Mike Leach on Thursday after he reportedly met with University of Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek and Deputy Athletic Director Jon Fagg earlier this week to interview for the Razorbacks’ coaching vacancy.

The extension adds a fifth year to Leach’s contract with his annual compensation remaining at $4 million, but with a $750,000 retention bonus if he stays at Washington State through the 2020 football season.

Leach, 58, also showed interest in the Tennessee job after the 2017 season before the Volunteers hired Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. He has led the Cougars to a 55-46 record in eight seasons, including 43-21 since 2015 highlighted by an 11-2 mark in 2018.

Washington State is 6-6 this season and has qualified for a bowl game for a school record fifth consecutive season.

Leach’s overall record in 18 seasons as a coach is 139-89, including 10 seasons at Texas Tech. The former Kentucky offensive coordinator also was considered a candidate for SEC openings at Ole Miss and Missouri.

With Leach staying at Washington State, speculation about the Razorbacks’ next coach continues to center on Florida Atlantic Coach Lane Kiffin.

Kiffin, whose Owls play Alabama-Birmingham in Boca Raton, Fla., on Saturday in the Conference USA Championship Game, met with Yurachek and Fagg before they traveled West to talk to Leach.

Kiffin, 44, has been asked repeatedly this week about his interest in the Arkansas job, but has said he doesn’t comment on coaching searches.

During Kiffin’s appearance on The Andy Slater Show on Miami radio station Fox Sports 640 on Thursday, he was asked by the host if he’s going to be FAU’s coach next season.

“I hope they still want me here,” said Kiffin, who has a 25-13 record at FAU, including 9-3 this season.

Slater then asked Kiffin if that answer meant he’ll be back to coach the Owls.

“Well, like I said, I never comment on searches,” Kiffin said. “But that’s what I plan on.”

Appalachian State Coach Elijah Drinkwitz, an Alma native and Arkansas Tech University graduate who has led the Mountaineers to a 11-1 record and Sun Belt Conference Championship Game appearance against Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday in his first season as a head coach, also has expressed interest in the Arkansas job, according to sources.

It has not been reported whether Drinkwitz interviewed with Yurachek and Fagg, but a plane carrying the Arkansas administrators landed in North Wilkesboro, N.C., which is 40 miles from Boone, N.C., where Appalachian State is located.

Tulane Coach Willie Fritz interviewed with Yurachek and Fagg, and according to reports is expected to talk with Missouri officials about the Tigers’ vacancy.

Fritz has a 22-27 record in four seasons at Tulane but is 13-12 in the last two seasons, including 6-6 this year.

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