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:
Whoever is named new coach needs time
Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek is shown during a news conference Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
In a week or so, the University of Arkansas will have a new head football coach.
Some will be thrilled. Others won’t.
Regardless, the guy will deserve a chance.
Most likely, established head coaches are not lining up to interview with Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek.
The Razorbacks are 4-19 with no SEC wins the past two years. In just SEC games last season, the Hogs were outscored 319-138. This season, with Missouri left Friday, it is 295-125.
Two head football coaches, a basketball coach and an athletic director also have been fired in the past two years.
Which is why it is believed Memphis’ Mike Norvell, SMU’s Sonny Dykes and UAB’s Bill Clark reportedly have said they are not interested in coaching the Razorbacks.
If they aren’t up to the challenge, then the Razorbacks don’t want them either.
Since Chad Morris was fired — and the score differentials the past two seasons show there was no improvement from last season to this one — two names have been linked to the Arkansas job: Butch Jones, the former Tennessee head coach and current adviser for Nick Saban at Alabama, and Norvell.
Both of those were planted with media outside of Arkansas.
While very little information is coming out of the UA during this coaching search, here are some things that seem apparent.
Yurachek is not going to be used by an agent to get his client a raise at his current employer.
He has not been in a hurry because his vetting process is long and detailed.
He has not interviewed a single coach who is currently employed somewhere else.
That hasn’t kept him from talking to agents to gauge interest, but it comes without promises.
Saturday night in the LSU press box, Yurachek looked tired, which means he is working hard.
While he was sitting in a suite watching the game, one of the ESPN announcers proved why he is a talking head when he said Morris had not been given enough time.
That statement couldn’t be more uninformed.
Morris is a very good recruiter, but he wasn’t a good teacher or leader.
He knew the future was in his recruits, and he paid more attention to them than those who already were on campus. When they felt ignored, they quit playing for him.
That was mostly on the defensive side of the ball, which has had issues for two years.
Over the next few days, there will be rumors. Some of the names you will hear are Lane Kiffin (Florida Atlantic), Luke Fickell (Cincinnati), Steve Sarkisian (Alabama offensive coordinator, and the former head coach at Washington and Southern Cal), Hugh Freeze (Liberty, former head coach at Ole Miss and Arkansas State), Mike Leach (Washington State, previously at Texas Tech) and Willie Fritz (Tulane).
All, some or none of those coaches may be on Yurachek’s list.
Kiffin had one year as head coach at Tennessee before bolting to USC, where he was fired. Fickell never has coached anywhere but the state of Ohio. Sarkisian is mostly a West Coast coach. Freeze beat Alabama twice while at Ole Miss but was cited for not monitoring his coaches by the NCAA. Leach has won at two Power Five schools. Fritz never has coached at a Power Five school.
Again, it is possible none of those are candidates. If they did make the list, there are probably others not mentioned here.
Yurachek is keeping his cards close to his vest, and his list even closer.
He is doing it the right way and is waiting on the end of the season to interview coaches who are interested and unafraid.
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