The best thing that could have happened to the Arkansas football program happened when athletic director Hunter Yurachek announced Sam Pittman would remain Arkansas’ coach going into the 2024 season.
Now, this announcement isn’t the best thing to happen to the Arkansas football program simply because Pittman deserved another year (although, in this writer’s opinion, he most certainly did). The announcement is the best thing to happen to the Arkansas football program because the biggest issue said program has had in the post-Bobby Petrino era is a lack of direction.
You could, and some of you will, argue that that direction is south. Womp-womp. But think about it like an actual appreciator of the sport and its business and not just through those proverbial rose-colored glasses, however hard they may be to remove.
Arkansas Football Wants an “Arkansas Man“
Arkansas football has wanted an Arkansas man for, honestly, pretty much since Frank Broyles was running the show. Its head coaches have been, almost exclusively, good ol’ boys who grew up rough-housing with the pigskin out in some hay pasture. I’m being facetious, but only a bit. Think about it:
Lou Holtz is coal country.
Danny Ford’s entire coaching career took place in the Deep South.
Houston Nutt’s Wikipedia page literally state’s he’s from “a family prominent in Southern society.”
Petrino is slightly different as he’s a Montanan.
Bret Bielema was the corn-fed Midwestern type.
Chad Morris was a cross between Baptist preacher and a poor man’s Burt Reynolds.
And there’s Sam Pittman, who is actually the most out of the mold outside of Petrino. Some might not buy that, given his folksy sayings and accent. But he’s also the same man who used to come into the media room in the bowels of the Smith Center in flip-flops, take a seat and throw his feet up in a chair and hold court as offensive line coach.
Questions about Sam Pittman
That was only 10 years ago, but it feels like a lifetime, not only in that a positional coach can be more casual than a head coach, but in that those were the days when access to said coaches was less restrained. Heck, longtime KATV anchor Steve Sullivan says Pittman has practically lost his essential Arkansas nature, noting the coach “isn’t the same man” since he moved on from Little Rock-based Judy Henry as his agent, suggesting that hiring the most-renowned agent in the game, Jimmy Sexton, was a very un-Arkansas move.
Those are my eyes you can sense rolling.
What hasn’t changed is Pittman’s reputation as a decent human being. Not that the others before him weren’t or aren’t, but scandal – or at least questionable ethics and/or rumor – has run rampant in the Arkansas football program among its head coaches for generations.
Pittman has never once had a bit of innuendo leveled his way. For four years, cleanliness has been top of the charts for the Razorbacks.
Cleanliness does not keep a job, but it helps. Pittman received not just a vote of confidence from athletic director Hunter Yurachek on Sunday, but confirmation of his return to start the 2024 season regardless of what happens Friday against Missouri. Three bowl berths – albeit one that didn’t pan out because of COVID-19 – helped soften the blow that has been the discomfort of the 2023 season.
Pittman is the first and only football coach Yurachek has hired at Arkansas, so the vote of confidence makes sense. It’s also gotten some of the angrier parts of the Arkansas football fan base on Yurachek’s tail now, too. Not to mention some of the donor class. Pig Trail Nation’s Mike Irwin said, however, that if next year is as messy on the field as 2023 has been, Yurachek might not be on the same chopping block as Pittman would.
Careful Meddling with Hunter Yurachek
Irwin lays it out in the video below: “I was told that if this doesn’t work out and next year at this time, if he has to fire Pittman, that the only consequences for Hunter Yurachek are the fact that he might have to hire the next coach under the supervision of a committee appointed by the board of trustees.”
That doesn’t seem like such a good idea.
Yurachek broke the streak of hiring traditional Arkansas-type guys (sort of) and apparently he only gets one shot at it. The board taking over, which is ostensibly what they’d be doing, is the same thing that happened pre-Pittman, too.
They were responsible for the firing of Bielema and the hiring of Morris. You don’t need reminding that the Morris days were the darkest in school history (although some on social media would have you believe these are just as bad, which is asinine).
So 2024 needs to work. Not just for Pittman’s future or for Yurachek’s, but maybe for the future of Arkansas football. At least if the Razorbacks want to progress with the rest of the college football world.
Either that or maybe the board would actually make a hire out of its comfort zone.
Good luck, then, Sam.
For more on Mike Irwin about the Pittman/Yurachek situation, start at the 18:50 mark below:
Arkansas vs Missouri: Is Drinkwitz Changing His Tune?
Missouri football coach Eli Drinkwitz has a convoluted personal history with the state of Arkansas. He’s a native Arkansan who played and coached in the state until being whisked off into the college coaching carousel. In late 2019, he was even thought to be a candidate for the head coaching position at the state’s flagship university until he signed a deal with Missouri.
Perhaps that is one of the reasons Arkansans took it so hard when in 2021 Drinkwitz made a bit of a cheap shot with this comment: “I kind of like the rivalry we’ve got with Arkansas. I don’t remember the last time they beat us, so I kind of like that one. The Battle Line Rivalry, it’s pretty good for us. I think we’ll just keep that one right now. That’s a good one.”
The fact that Arkansas had lost five straight times to a Mizzou program that had less money and support grated on Arkansas football fans’ nerves and Drinkwitz poured salt in the wound with that remark.
Read the rest here:
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