FAYETTEVILLE — Sam Pittman is expected to move quickly in his search for Arkansas’ next offensive coordinator.
With athletics director Hunter Yurachek releasing a statement confirming his return in 2024, that became the top priority and Pittman told reporters he hoped to have it done sometime next week.
In fact, he’d like to have someone in place before the staff hits the road for recruiting later in the week. That would allow the new hire to address the team before the transfer portal opens on Dec. 4.
It remains to be seen if Pittman can pull that off, but he did say he had “been in conversations with several different people.” Until then, fans will be speculating on potential candidates.
Pittman did give some insight into what style of offensive coordinator he was looking to bring in.
“I think you have to find a fit,” Pittman said. “You certainly want a guy that brings something special to the university, whether that be what (Kendal Briles) did in the past. Whether that be a combination of what Kendal did and some pro-style stuff, I think we need a guy that really wants to be here and understands Arkansas.”
That is a somewhat broad answer, but he did zero in on the run game being an emphasis, as this was arguably the Razorbacks’ worst rushing season in more than a quarter century. They averaged just 3.5 yards per carry and scored only nine total touchdowns on the ground — their lowest figures since 1997.
“The No. 1 thing is we need somebody who understands how to run the football, because we have to run the football, in my opinion, to win,” Pittman said. “Of all the problems that we’ve had this year, in all honesty it all stemmed, a bunch of it, because we can’t run the football. That would be my No. 1 thing is to sit down and visit with a man that knows how to run the football.”
Addressing the Bobby Petrino Desire
Naturally, one name that keeps coming up for the vacant offensive coordinator position is Bobby Petrino.
After all, the former Arkansas head coach did return to the SEC in that role this year at Texas A&M and he’ll presumably be looking for another job in the wake of Jimbo Fisher’s firing. The Texas A&M football coach search is ongoing after the smoke around Mark Stoops’ arrival from Kentucky was snuffed out early Sunday morning.
Petrino would also be a coordinator capable of helping Sam Pittman with game management issues similar to Barry Odom his first three seasons.
However, such a reunion appears highly unlikely.
Schematically, Petrino wouldn’t exactly fit Pittman’s requirement of knowing how to run the football. The Aggies put up only 141.4 rushing yards per game and 3.9 yards per carry this season — numbers comparable to what he did at Arkansas from 2008-11. Over those four seasons, the Razorbacks averaged 133.3 yards per game and 4.2 yards per carry.
Aside from that, there’s the whole off-the-field situation. Petrino’s tenure in Fayetteville didn’t end because of an extramarital affair as some fans remember.
What did him in was the fact that he hired his mistress to a position on his staff and then lied to then-AD Jeff Long, both about the nature of the improper relationship and her presence at the motorcycle accident that brought everything to light. It all led to him being fired with cause.
That is an important distinction because it could keep him from even being a candidate for the current offensive coordinator opening.
The UA System has a policy that stipulates those who have “been dismissed for cause…shall not be eligible for re-employment” within the system. The policy was originally passed on May 23, 2013, with a revised version being adopted on Nov. 22, 2019.
Despite the policy being adopted about a year after Petrino’s firing, Best of Arkansas Sports confirmed with the UA’s Office of General Counsel that it’d still apply to him — contrary to what some fans have posted on social media.
However, the policy does leave open the possibility of an exception, but it would require the approval of the UA System President, Dr. Donald R. Bobbitt.
That would be a lot of work and effort for someone who would dredge up one of the school’s most embarrassing moments and put it back into the spotlight.
UPDATE (Nov. 28): Well, it’s actually happening. Apparently, Bobbitt made the exception. More on Bobby Petrino as the next Arkansas offensive coordinator:
Ranking Bobby Petrino Downfall Among Top “What If’s” In Razorback History
Under Petrino, Arkansas had back-to-back seasons with double-digit wins for the first time in two decades. With guys like Tyler Wilson, Cobi Hamilton, Chris Gragg, Chris Smith and Trey Flowers coming back and Knile Davis returning from injury, the Razorbacks had their sights set on a national title in 2012.
However, what started out like a sick April Fool’s joke quickly turned into Arkansas’ worst nightmare, as Petrino was involved in a motorcycle wreck on April 1 that set in motion his eventual firing. Not only did the accident reveal his affair with Jessica Dorrell, but also the fact that he hired her as part of his staff. To make matters worse, Petrino then lied about it to athletics director Jeff Long. Nine days later, on April 10, Long announced his decision to fire Petrino.
Arkansas football fans don’t need to be reminded about what unfolded next, as the Razorbacks toiled in mediocrity at their best and hit the lowest of lows at their worst over a decade until current head coach Sam Pittman briefly revived the program.
Nobody is expecting national title contention this time around. In 2024, if all the pieces come together, best case scenario feels like a return to the 9-win mark of a couple years ago.
For more on where Petrino’s downfall ranks, go here:
And here is what an Arkansas native rising star in coaching thinks about the current state of the Hogs:
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