Pittman Doesn’t Need to Risk Breaking Own Neck to Get What Barry Odom Seeks

Sam Pittman, Barry Odom, Arkansas football, UNLV football
photo credit: Craven Whitlow / Twitter

When Barry Odom was defensive coordinator at Arkansas under coach Sam Pittman from 2020-2022, few would have pegged him as a trendy, hip kind of guy. Genial guy. Middle-aged, sure, but comes across as a younger guy. Young enough, maybe, to relate to players better than the fogies, but marketing genius? Nah.

Turns out, Odom is keeping up with the times, even in the ever-changing world of the transfer portal and NIL in the social-media era. Not only do head coaches have that to deal with, but in college football, a few new rule changes could drastically alter the way things play out on the field, instead of just in the Instagram feed. Considering Odom was seen riding a bull over the weekend in an effort to bring some attention to UNLV, where he’s set to enter his second season running the program, the Rebels’ head man is going where the proverbial winds take him.

“I love Barry,” Pittman said on Hogs+, “so I love him enough to text him and say ‘What the hell were you doing?!’”

Another question is what Odom’s former boss is doing to keep up. Well, hiring Bobby Petrino checks all the boxes. First, let’s consider the coming rule changes. Three biggies are on the horizon, none of which are set-in-stone yet, but proposals have been bandied by the NCAA Football Rules Committee.

The masses made plenty of Pittman’s comment last year that he “didn’t know what to do” in the late stages against Mississippi State. Arkansas was down 7-3 late in the third quarter, had the ball on 4th-and-2 at the Bulldogs 33 and Pittman didn’t pull the trigger. Any trigger. The Razorbacks were flagged for delay of game and punted. In the grand scheme of things, it was a simple mistake, one that coaches make, well, not regularly, but often enough that it isn’t unusual. In the context of the Arkansas football season, one that ended with the Razorbacks holding a 4-8 record and Pittman’s ass in a sling, it was a microcosm for the failures wrought across the board.

Bobby Petrino to the Rescue

Bobby Petrino’s hiring can help alleviate such issues. Sam Pittman didn’t have those problems when Barry Odom, a former power-conference head coach, was on the Razorbacks’ staff as defensive coordinator. Dan Enos, also a former head coach, was there last year, too, but instead, was fired shortly after the game ended in that 7-3 score, not even making it a full season. The difference was notable. Odom might have been a defensive coach, but whether by coincidence or not, Arkansas was more committed on both sides of the ball when he was there, theoretically helping Pittman with his plate.

Now, with Petrino in tow, Pittman will almost certainly hand some reigns over. Expect Petrino to pounce on the prospect of exploiting new rule changes like the ability to communicate with players on the field until 15 seconds remain on the play-clock. The addition of a two-minute warning in the future, as well, would be especially advantageous for teams with multiple former head coaches on staff. So will the addition of tablets on the sidelines to view plays almost instantaneously after their conclusion, though that will be more of a positional-coach thing than something coordinators, who sometimes sit in booths, and head coaches use. 

Consider the headset communication. It’s easy to envision Petrino, whose offenses were some of the most innovative of the 2000s (note: why does no one ever mention that Petrino’s best results were almost 20 years ago? Are we ignoring the only truly great success he’s had since Arkansas was the one year with Lamar Jackson or do we just not care? Anyway…), talking to Taylen Green or Jacolby Criswell, or whoever ends up as Arkansas’ primary quarterback for a bulk of the play-clock after the Razorbacks quickly went up to the line of scrimmage to catch an opposing defense off-guard. The scenario probably won’t happen often because it’s not as though the other team’s defensive coaches are clueless, but as Adam Hill wrote in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, my former sister newspaper, it’s an idea worth considering.

Publicity for Arkansas Football

The new rules are going to get old quickly, really, though. Any advantage gained from them, even if for a year, won’t last. No, what’s truly going to make Arkansas stand out from its opponents is Bobby Petrino himself. Everything is marketing nowadays. That’s what made Arkansas’ re-hiring of its disgraced former head coach so curious. If it were to backfire, the Razorbacks would become a bigger laughingstock. But if it doesn’t, well, everyone loves a comeback tale, especially one in which a former villain rights his wrongs. And, who knows, if the stars align just right, that former villain may just end up with his old job anyway. 

In a me-first, YouTube/Twitter world, you don’t even have to be that great at something to become adored and well-known. Average-and-popular lifts you to the top of the Spotify charts and makes you a meme. I mean, have you heard Morgan Wallen?

Petrino, in all his infamy, already has the buzz factor that Odom got thrown off of a bull named the “Widowmaker” like a rag doll for. He draws eyeballs. For better or worse, his return to Arkansas will be studied and scrutinized in perpetuity both by the locals and the national folks. This is a good thing at a school that almost never draws any interest outside of the Natural State, in a world where any publicity is good publicity.

Arkansas has a lot to gain by even modest success, say a 6-6 year, with Petrino’s offense doing enough to not be the disaster that 2023’s offense was. National-media types will see it as a reclamation, a turned-over leaf of sorts, only increasing clout.

If Sam Pittman and Petrino make use of these advantages, Arkansas is back in the conversation. The Razorbacks won’t be Alabama or Georgia, but a decent season with Petrino back will get the Razorbacks more pub than a season with Briles or Enos on board. And without anyone breaking their neck riding a bull.

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More from Sam Pittman on Barry Odom

On Tuesday, Pittman said he only learned Odom was up these shenanigans from someone else since he’s off social media these days and more in the dark on stuff like this. “Monday morning somebody said, ‘Do you know Barry wrote a bull?’ I said, ‘No, he didn’t,’ and they said ‘look at it.'”

“He about got knocked out. So, I texted him and I said, ‘what the hell are you doing?’ He said it was a $150K ride. Of course I got on Twitter and now I’m supposed to ride a hog or whatever, all that kind of stuff. But it was insane. I said, ‘did you have any training?’ He said, ‘well no, they told me how to hold my hand and all that.’ I say there’s gotta be a better way to raise $150K.”

“But that’s Barry, I mean he’s tougher than hell. He’s always been that way, and I’m just glad that he didn’t get hurt.”

More coverage of Barry Odom, Bobby Petrino and Arkansas football from BoAS…

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