Now that Kendal Briles is signed, sealed and delivered to TCU, it would be easy to write about his time at Arkansas in the past tense, something along the lines of “Now that the Kendal Briles Razorback era has ended…”
Except, as his replacement shows, things sure have a funny way of getting downright circular in the tight-knit coaching community of college football. When Dan Enos left Fayetteville in 2017 for the more wintry climes of Michigan after a less-than-stellar final season with Bret Bielema, hardly anybody expected he would return to very same position one day.
Yet, here he is, back in Arkansas just a month and a half after his wife cleared up hearsay that he’d had a falling out with Sam Pittman, then the offensive line coach. “We loved it in Fayetteville,” Jane Enos Tweeted. “Hated to leave. Sorry, but that’s just one record I had to set straight. I think the world of Sam and Jamie, and I know my husband does too.”
Maybe, someday, we’ll get more insight from the families involved into what happened behind closed doors that caused Kendal Briles to leave Arkansas after broadcasting on January 5 that he was ready to run it back in 2023 with KJ Jefferson.
The Back Story Behind Kendal Briles’ Departure
For now, though, Arkansas football insiders pretty much control that narrative, and the story they tell is one of apparent overreach by Briles and his agent Jimmy Sexton.
That started earlier in January when Briles agreed on a raise that was speculated to have been in the $1.7 million range coming out of the Mississippi State flirtation.
Then, late last week, TCU emerged as a suitor with what would have been a higher offer. According to the Buzz 103.7 FM’s Randy Rainwater, Briles’ representation “apparently went back and said ‘Okay, do you want to counter TCU?’ That’s when basically coach Sam Pittman, backed by Hunter Yurachek, said, ‘Hit the road, Jack’ and that’s when they moved on. Now that’s what I’m hearing.”
Rainwater, while on air on Wednesday’s DriveTime Sports show, then asked Arkansas football reporter Trey Biddy if he could corroborate.
Biddy replied that’s “pretty much what I’m hearing” and that Pittman already had a potential replacement (we now know is Enos) teed up from the Mississippi State flirtation. (Sexton is also Pittman’s agent, so it seems like in his best interest to make sure Pittman wasn’t left high and dry.) The parties agreed Briles’ official departure announcement would best wait until the transfer portal window officially closed.
In another part, Biddy added: “I’ve been told that the Briles family’s really devastated in a way of having to leave, even though they knew they were going to leave eventually. They really love Northwest Arkansas. They have a ton of friends here. This has been Kendal’s longest stop. Obviously they’ve got [three] kids. This has been his longest stop since the days at Baylor. So it wasn’t an easy deal for them, but that’s what I’ve heard is Pittman pretty much was just like, ‘We got to move on’ and I guess basically [got] tired of it.”
Had Briles stayed a fourth consecutive season, he would have been the longest tenured offensive coordinator in Arkansas football history. The two coordinators who stayed on the Hill longer both worked the defensive side of the ball: Fred Goldsmith (1984-88) and Joe Kines (1991-94).
As it is, Enos is set to take the overall record for the position by working a fourth season as a Razorback offensive coordinator in 2023.
A Jimmy Sexton Conspiracy Theory
John Nabors, the host of “Locked on Razorbacks,” shared quite the doozy of a theory/imagined historical reenactment on how Sexton stirred the pot to make this move happen.
Before getting into that, as a recap, Sexton is a power broker of the highest order in the SEC. He and his football division of the Creative Artist Agency represent almost every head coach in the league and he often plays a big hand in both salary negotiations and staff construction, as Hugh Freeze made so abundantly clear in late November after arriving in Auburn.
Freeze bragged about all the “big-time college coaches wanting to come to this place” before adding this: “It will be very difficult to decide. The deciding factor will be putting a staff together that compliments each other and drives the culture. I have a list of guys, and my agent Jimmy Sexton gave me a whole list too of coaches he trusts.”
“Trust” isn’t the word best describing what John Nabors feels for Sexton, however.
The Arkansas sports radio host imagines Sexton didn’t think the raise that Arkansas was offering to Briles in reaction to the Mississippi State interest was high enough, so he decided that TCU was a good prospect for pitching his client based on its former offensive coordinator leaving for Clemson, as well as its historic rivalry with Baylor and recent success.
“Hey, TCU, Sonny. Sonny Dykes.” “Yeah, I’m Jimmy Sexton. My guy over here, Kendall Briles, might be interested in your job,” Nabors says in the below podcast, exaggerating how the imagined conversation went. “Well, I don’t know if we’re interested in him.” “Okay, that’s great, thanks. Thanks. All right, you in the media. Yeah, you over there in TCU Media, there’s some interest here.”
“There’s some interest here going on, and Kendal and TCU may want to talk about this.” “Oh, really? Okay. Yeah, let me write it down.” “Good job. Good job. Make sure you tweet it. Tweet it, and get a lot of people talking about it.”
See the rest of Nabors’ entertaining take on Sexton’s wiles here:
More from Biddy on the Kendal Briles situation at 1:36 below:
Brandon Marcello’s Peek into Arkansas Football
In the below video from Friday, starting at 2:58, 247Sports’ Brandon Marcello provides a similar account of what went down between Briles and Pittman/Yurachek as the one described above.
According to Marcello’s account, Briles’ interest in TCU so soon after the Mississippi State consideration surprised Pittman. “He ‘was sitting there kind of like, ‘What’s going on, man? I thought we were committed to coming back. I can’t be doing this all the time with you back and forth.’
“And my understanding from talking to some folks is that he wasn’t even recruiting the Arkansas players. He was kind of pulled off here this past weekend while he was weighing whether to go to TCU or not and that almost not necessarily sealed Kendal Briles’ fate, but probably gave him that little extra push he needed to just go to TCU. I guess you play with fire and flirt around too much, you kind of get burned or get caught and get something that maybe you don’t want… I think in the end it was just time for both parties to move on.”
“Kendal Briles isn’t necessarily getting a pay raise at TCU or anything like that. He needed a fresh start. I think both sides probably did.”
Nabors then delivered a pretty funny follow-up: “What it sounds like to me….Kendal Briles got played, and is the one who ended up on the wrong side of this whole thing.” Later, he adds he feels Pittman and Yurachek pulled “a power move and I love it. I love it so much.”
So do most Arkansas football fans, John.
h/t David Shaffer
More on Arkansas football from BoAS here: