The latest on the Arkansas coaching search
Posted by: Pete Roussel on November 8, 2012
I spent Wednesday in Fayetteville, where I spoke at the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club.
It was a pleasure to speak at such a first-class event.
While Arkansas fans remain interested in the Razorbacks over the next three weeks, the anticipation of their new head football coach outweighs the hopes of becoming bowl eligible.
Arkansas travels the next two weeks to Columbia (SC) and Starkville (MS). The season finale is against LSU in Fayetteville. Unless the Razorbacks win two of three, the Hogs will be home for the holidays.
So who will be the next head coach at Arkansas?
Don't be surprised if athletic director Jeff Long targets Texas Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville. In his third season in Lubbock, Tuberville brings instant credibility as a proven winner in the Southeastern Conference. He knows how to beat Nick Saban and Les Miles.
If Tuberville were to land the Arkansas job, LA Tech head coach Sonny Dykes seems like an obvious fit at Texas Tech. Sonny's father, Spike, served as the Red Raiders' head coach from 1986 - 1989. Dykes has built the LA Tech program primarily on Texas recruits. His offense is ideal for the identity associated with Texas Tech football. Spike and Sonny are well-liked in Texas and specifically, Lubbock.
Dykes, however, could be a legitimate candidate for the Arkansas job if Jeff Long doesn't choose to pursue Tuberville for whatever reason.
Western Kentucky head coach Willie Taggart would be another viable option. Taggart served on Jim Harbaugh's staff at Stanford before becoming the head coach at Western Kentucky three years ago. His overall record is 15-18, but 12-9 in the Sun Belt Conference. Doesn't sound all that impressive, but consider the Hilltoppers were 2-22 in the previous two seasons before Taggart arrived. He's also done it while losing several coaches including two coordinators (Clint Bowen, Zach Azzanni). The continuity hasn't been very good. It's not easy to keep coaches at Western Kentucky; something that's not typically an issue at Arkansas considering the resources.
Oh, and if Jeff Long wants a positive, smiling, happy looking, optimistic head coach (unlike Petrino), Arkansas would be hard pressed to find something the fits the mold better than Taggart.
Speaking of the Jim Harbaugh coaching tree, Stanford head coach David Shaw is a proven head coach that garners attention. On many levels, I can see why Jeff Long would have interest in Shaw. To boot, Stanford wouldn't be able to match any sort of offer from Arkansas.
There's a lot of talk about Mike Gundy, who might have his ears open. The perception is that Gundy hasn't been on the same page with his athletic director on a number of subjects. If Arkansas contacted Gundy, he'd listen, but I don't see Arkansas going that route. Charlie Strong willl not enter the mix.
And then there's Gary Patterson. Arkansas would have to offer an enormous package, which they are capable of doing. Patterson seems invested in TCU. Patterson was very instrumental in raising millions of dollars to renovate Amon G. Carter Stadium. But it's the SEC, combined with an athletic director that is an enabler, one spoken of to me very highly from current and previous Arkansas coaches. I think Patterson will remain at TCU, but Arkansas has the facilities. Trust me, I saw them on Wednesday.
In the end, a new head coach will have the opportunity to uplift the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville community, and quite frankly the entire state of Arkansas. A proven winner as a head coach seems almost a lock and would give the Arkansas fan base a sense of relief. They want to know the new head coach, exhilarate, and move forward.
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