As one of the premier voices of college football, particularly in SEC country, Paul Finebaum has cut it up with many legends of the game.
From his time in the newspaper business to his current role with ESPN and the SEC Network, the Memphis native has covered arguably the two greatest coaches in the history of the sport in Paul “Bear” Bryant and Nick Saban.
Speaking at the Little Rock Touchdown Club on Monday, Finebaum — who later recounted the time he and Saban got into it on national television at 2016 SEC Media Days — said Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman was among his current favorites to deal with.
“Every once in a while, you do run into somebody unique,” Finebaum said. “You do run into a Sam and Jamie Pittman, who are salt of the earth, who are the antithesis of the new-wave coaches and it inspires me to keep doing this a few more years.”
Of course, he could have just been playing to a very pro-Razorbacks crowd, but that comment seems to jibe with pretty much what everyone says about the third-year coach.
Aside from perhaps a rogue Tennessee Titans writer, it seems nobody of note has recently said a negative thing about Pittman — neither before nor after he resurrected the Arkansas football program, which cracked the top 10 of the AP Poll for the second time in as many years this week.
Paul Finebaum Dunks on Chad Morris
While Sam Pittman is virtually universally loved, the same can not be said about his predecessor, Chad Morris.
Arguably the worst coach in SEC history, Morris went 4-20 before getting fired with two games remaining in his second season. The disdain isn’t limited to Arkansas football fans, either.
After apparently touching on Pittman, Paul Finebaum brought up the Razorbacks’ former coach and wasn’t particularly complimentary — much to the pleasure of the crowd, which responded with laughter and cheers.
“Does (Pittman) represent the state better than — let me think for a second — Chad Morris?” Finebaum said. “If I can go off the record, personally I thought he was one of the biggest clowns I’ve ever met in my life. Off the record.”
Finebaum continued by also bringing up former coaches Bret Bielema and John L. Smith.
“By the way, I like Bielema,” Finebaum said. “I thought he was a fun guy to hang out with and I got to know both Bret and his wife. Closed many bars down with both. John L. Smith — a bigger comedian I’ve never met.”
It’s worth noting, though, that not everyone is sold on Morris being a “clown.” It probably flew under the radar of most fans because it was a wild day of college football, but Morris caught some rare praise during the ESPN3 broadcast of the Troy-Alabama A&M game.
That may sound random considering it was a Sun Belt-SWAC matchup, but the Trojans’ first-year offensive coordinator is Joe Craddock. Prior to his two-year stint as UAB’s tight ends coach, he was the offensive coordinator for Morris at Arkansas, where he didn’t exactly knock it out of the park, and SMU, where better days were had. That connection made its way into the broadcast:
Arkansas Football’s Turnaround Under Pittman
That’s a pretty incredible statement considering the Razorbacks averaged just 21 points per game in each of Morris and Craddock’s two seasons.
In fact, even with the 10-game, SEC-only slate in 2020 factored in, Arkansas averaged about one more touchdown per game in Sam Pittman’s first 24 games at the helm compared to the 24 games prior to his arrival.
That’s not the only area where the Razorbacks have dramatically improved under their new leadership. Best of Arkansas Sports recently examined the difference in the Arkansas football program in this piece, which featured this side-by-side comparison:
|Chad Morris||Statistic||Sam Pittman|
|4-20 (4-18 under Morris)||W/L Record||13-11|
|0-16 (0-14 under Morris)||SEC Record||7-11|
|9-14-1 (7-14-1 under Morris)||ATS||16-7-1|
|2 games||Never Trailed||8 games|
|14 games||Never Led||4 games|
|21.5 points/game||Scoring Offense||28.8 points/game|
|35.8 points allowed/game||Scoring Defense||28.0 points allowed/game|
|337.9 yards/game||Total Offense||421.0 yards/game|
|431.9 yards allowed/game||Total Defense||405.0 yards allowed/game|
Watch Paul Finebaum’s full talk at the Little Rock Touchdown Club here:
More coverage of Arkansas football from BoAS…
Speaking of former coaches, here’s some fun stuff about Bobby Petrino returning to town: