Like It Is:

Time to place bets on Arkansas’ next coach

By: Wally Hall
Published: Wednesday, November 13, 2019
An Arkansas football helmet sits on the ground prior to a game between the Razorbacks and Kentucky on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, in Lexington, Ky.
Photo by Charlie Kaijo
An Arkansas football helmet sits on the ground prior to a game between the Razorbacks and Kentucky on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, in Lexington, Ky.

As expected, University of Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek already was composing a list of candidates to be the next football coach of the Razorbacks.

Also as expected, Yurachek wasn’t hinting at who is on that list.

And as expected, Vegas has put out odds on who the next coach will be, using all the obvious names.

Here’s a look at that list:

Mike Norvell, Memphis, 2-1: Norvell, 38, played college football for the University of Central Arkansas. In 2016, he was named head coach of the Tigers. He is 34-15 overall and 21-8 in the American Athletic Conference.

His “baggage” are allegations that when he first moved to Memphis, he enjoyed visiting Tunica and playing the games of chance. That apparently is no longer the case. His wife, Maria Norvell, is from Fort Smith.

Eliah Drinkwitz, Appalachian State, 3-1: He comes from the Gus Malzahn coaching tree. Drinkwitz is 36, a graduate of Arkansas Tech University and is in his first season as the head coach of the Mountaineers. He is 8-1 and has victories over South Carolina and North Carolina.

This is his first year as a head coach. He also was an assistant coach at Arkansas State University from 2012-13.

Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic, 4-1: The 44-year-old is no stranger to the SEC. He left Tennessee in a lurch after one season for Southern California, where he was fired. Previously, he had been fired by the Oakland Raiders. He landed at Alabama to be Sabanized, but they parted on bad terms after three successful seasons as offensive coordinator.

At Florida Atlantic, he is 23-13. Those are the three best consecutive seasons in Florida Atlantic’s 18-year history of Division I football.

Bill Clark, Alabama-Birmingham, 5-1: Clark, 51, is in his fifth year as a head coach, and fourth at UAB. Prior to that, he was mostly a high school coach in Alabama. He’s 42-21 as a college head coach and never had a losing season.

He’s a graduate of Jacksonville State, where he spent one year as the head coach before going to UAB. His Power Five experience is limited to meeting Nick Saban.

Mike Leach, Washington State, 6-1: Leach, 59, is 137-88 at Texas Tech and with the Cougars. He’s coached some major upsets during his career.

His “baggage” is that at both college stops, former players have accused him of abuse. Lately, he has been accused of blaming his players for losses.

Sonny Dykes, SMU, 6-1: Dykes, 50, has had success at midmajor schools Louisiana Tech and SMU, where he has used the transfer portal to help the Mustangs to a No. 25 ranking. He’s 55-53 overall, but he was 19-30 at California. Hard to imagine the Hogs taking a second SMU coach.

Hugh Freeze, Liberty, 8-1: Freeze, 50, is a dynamic personality and recruiter. He led Ole Miss to two victories over Alabama, making him one of only three coaches to beat Saban at Alabama twice (Mark Richt and Urban Meyer are the other two).

The “baggage” was ugly and in the past. He left the Rebels on probation, but he was cited only for lack of control of his staff.

Gus Malzahn, Auburn, 12-1: Seriously? Again?

Bobby Petrino, 18-1: An offensive genius who took the Razorbacks to their only BCS appearance. Arkansas is 37-60 since he left and is looking for its fourth coach. Petrino’s baggage was well-documented in 2012, but there has been no hint of anything since.

Houston Nutt, 25-1: Nutt, 62, was 75-48 at Arkansas, but in the end the fans split over him and Malzahn. He’s now a successful TV analyst with CBS Sports.

No doubt, this is not Yurachek’s complete list.

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