In less than two years, Sam Pittman has emerged as the most beloved Razorback head football coach since Houston Nutt circa 1998, when the Hogs started 8-0. Bobby Petrino, who won at a higher clip than any other SEC-era Arkansas football coach, did not endear himself nearly as well to Razorback fans.
A big reason for Pittman’s popularity is that he doesn’t depend on well-worn cliches and coachspeak. He is, quite simply, direct. No excuses. So was Petrino.
Just like Petrino, Pittman can bring some Grade A fierceness to the sideline.
The below blowup from the Georgia massacre makes that abundantly clear:
But if Pittman were only direct and fiery, as Petrino was, he wouldn’t be nearly as beloved.
Instead, Pittman shows a genuine affection for his players and enthusiasm for the game and what it means to represent Arkansas. That comes across in the those jukebox victories cries and locker room speeches that are by far the best from a Razorback football coach since heyday Houston Nutt.
Less appreciated, perhaps, is Pittman’s dry sense of humor. He has a way of delivering subtle jokes and jobs that gives him an edge that stands out from previous Arkansas coaches.
One of my favorite examples of this comes from his time as an Arkansas offensive line coach under Bret Bielema. After a documentary crew caught him on tape by a surprise, Pittman hilariously likened his walk to that of the 458-pound wrestler King Kong Bundy.
Sam Pittman Punches Back
Pittman also shows off that edginess in another way — striking back against social media naysayers with King Kong Bundyesque might.
Last year, a Razorback fan who had apparently gone to the dark side insulted Pittman’s integrity in the aftermath of an unfair ejection of Jalen Catalon.
Sam Pittman would have none of that, firing off this Tweet:
Fast forward nearly 11 months, and Pittman has again stood up for himself and his team.
This time, he defended against an attack not on his ethics but rather his coaching acumen.
It came from someone who trades in one of most miserable and masochistic activities imaginable to modern man: commenting on the commentary of cable news commentators.
It’s no surprise that the owner of the Twitter media “outlet” CableNewsWatch is not a very happy person. This week, in response to a Tweet by Pig Trail Nation’s Tera Talmadge, he ($100 says it’s a “he”) decided to indulge his misery by insulting Pittman:
“For starters, Pittman has been an idiot…the last 2 games,” wrote @CableNewsWatch, showing a deep confusion about the grammatical function of the ellipsis.
“WON THE TOSS in both of them… YOU DEFER!! Especially when you are the away team! That’s stupidity on his part.”
Well, that wasn’t too smart to do.
Because Sam Pittman, after letting most social media insults roll off his back since last November, decided enough was enough:
Now that, folks, is how you shut a fool up.
Not a peep on this matter from @CableNewsWatch since.
How someone whose hobby implies he had been sentenced to the sixth circle of Hell would presume to know more about football than an SEC head coach is beyond most Razorback fans.
Justin King said as much on the Razorback Nation Facebook page: “Well apparently that guy has never played football. My whole football career (ages 6-16), we always deferred.”
“It can play out two ways — you either get the chance to score twice once before the half and after or you draw a plan of attack at half and draw first blood after the half.”
Razorback fans kept bringing the hammer down on Pittman’s heckler:
New Era of Arkansas Football
By weighing in on social media insults like this, Sam Pittman theoretically walks a fine line.
What if the tables turn in the future, and he starts losing a lot of games and the negative posts (which are so few now) become much more numerous? Will he just be able to shake it off?
As much as Razorback fans love him now, things always change when teams start losing. We have seen that with Ed Orgeron at LSU. And Houston Nutt, so beloved in his first year, ended up as a polarizing figure by the end (though of course some of that was his own doing).
But this is also a new era of college football, transparency and openness may trump the old-school line coaches would trot out about not letting the outside world’s negative Nancies affect them during game week.
In this new era, it seems OK to lash back — as long as you do it in moderation. It’s also no surprise that Pittman shows some chippiness with naysayers, given Arkansas basketball coach Eric Musselman is essentially writing the textbook on how the modern college coach should do this well.
Finally, when it comes to recruiting, the whole “brand” of the Razorbacks is playing with an edge and testiness that presupposes, as a whole, Arkansas is underappreciated and undervalued by others. The Hogs never have as much talent, size and depth as the big boys in the SEC they want to knock off. If their coach can’t motivate them to play with extra effort, they have no hope.
Pittman will need to rein in his responses in the future if things go south for him in Fayetteville, but while the going’s good, he should let loose every once in a while. He’s not above mixing it up on the fray here and there.
Getting down in the dirt like that is yet another reason he has become so beloved.
Especially when compared to his predecessor: