Head Coaching Rumors Continue to Swirl at Arkansas


A Denver Broncos fan holds a sign for the team to hire current ESPN Monday night commentator Jon Gruden (not pictured) as head coach during the game against the San Diego Chargers at Invesco Field. The Chargers defeated the Broncos 33-28. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

Fayetteville, Ark. – Everyone is an insider yet nobody really knows what is going on, this is the reality centering upon the University of Arkansas search for a new head football coach.

The one thing that is agreed upon, even without confirmation from athletic director Jeff Long, Razorback interim coach John L. Smith will not be on the short list as an interviewee for the coveted head coaching spot.

Just days before the Razorbacks showdown last weekend with Texas A&M the rumor mill began circulating that four University of Arkansas trustees were wanting the immediate dismissal of John L. Smith as head coach for numerous reasons.

Speculation had former Miami and North Carolina head coach Butch Davis as the replacement for Smith.

In order for the trustees to supersede Jeff Long’s authority as athletic director, the trustees in question needed to sway one more trustee to make this happen.

The Razorbacks were again embarrassed on Saturday losing 58-10 to the Aggies and Smith still remains the head coach.

Inside sources say that Davis has been contacted but the results of those conversations remain a mystery.

The next water cooler talk that popped up last Friday was about Jon Gruden.

Different reports state that the current Monday Night Football commentator is not interested in the Arkansas job. On Friday sources close to the Arkansas athletic department contradicted those reports stating that the Super Bowl winning head coach wants to get back into coaching with an asking price starting at $5.5 million.

Gruden is considered a homerun hire that 118 to 119 of the 120 Division-I college football teams would want as their head coach today.

Gruden’s possible public play for the Arkansas job seems more like a national ad posting for a job to the highest bidder or for a position at school that could be open soon, like maybe Texas?

If the Longhorns lose to West Virginia this weekend how soon before the fan base starts looking for Mack Brown’s replacement?

One can start to wonder if USC fans and boosters have caught on that Lane Kiffin is not a good coach.

Would Gruden be interested in the tradition and recruiting abilities seen at Tennessee and Auburn over Arkansas if those jobs came open? Gruden was a graduate assistant for the Vols from 1986 through 1987.

Oklahoma fans have slowly started to turn on head coach Bob Stoops. If Gruden is available will the Sooners make a move?

Despite all the rumors Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long has not made any public statements nor has the program made any known advances to secure Davis or Gruden.

New rumors spilled out of the Fayetteville area early this week stating West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen has turned down the Arkansas job.

Considering the wording of the statement this rumor seems surprising to find out that Holgorsen was offered the job in mid-season and then turned down the job.

Finding out that Holgorsen is not interested in the Arkansas job is not surprising. West Virginia has a fan base very similar to Razorback Nation, rapid, passionate, and that fan base is in full support of Holgorsen. The Mountaineer faithful like the direction of the football program in their first year in the Big 12 and will fight to keep their coach if necessary.

Knowing Holgorsen’s checkered past with alcohol and his lack of defensive minded teams one could seriously question if Long did extend an offer. If Long did extend an offer one can only hope this came with a personal conduct clause along with a list of must hire defensive coordinators.

Perhaps this is why Holgorsen is no longer interested in becoming the next head coach at Arkansas?

The next gossip gathering momentum is Charlie Strong is “interested” in the Arkansas job.

This comes as no surprise. Strong is an Arkansas native with SEC ties to A&M, South Carolina, and Florida. Moving from a Big East Conference that is influx to the well established SEC while Strong’s stock is high makes for a “strong” business decision.

Strong is long overdue for a BCS head coaching opportunity at a top program. If Strong can surround himself with a great staff he should be able to succeed at Arkansas without much downtime. Can he push the Hogs past Alabama that is the big question.

Razorback Nation may want TCU head coach Gary Patterson or Boise State head coach Chris Petersen but the likelihood of luring either one away from the programs they have built is a long shot.

Of the two Chris Petersen seems more likely to jump at the offer considering BSU is still not in a BCS conference and the future of the Big East over the next few years as a BCS conference is shaky at best.

Each year BSU cannot afford a loss on their schedule unlike some SEC teams, and even then the Broncos are not assured of an opportunity to play for a national championship. Maybe the new playoff system will keep Petersen at Boise for a few more years until he finally accepts that he will never realize a dream of a national championship if he stays in Idaho.

Gary Patterson has the full support of the administration, the fan base, and the program is investing in upgrades to the football facilities. TCU’s move to the Big 12 should keep Patterson in the Dallas area for years to come. Why take on the stress of a SEC head coach when life is much easier in the offensive minded Big 12?

The truth is few individuals may really know what all is going on behind the closed doors of Jeff Long and his staff. Reading between the lines, the troubling information to be found if any of these reports have a thread of truth is Long is only looking at current college coaches and is not fully using his resources to contact any and all available coaches.

If Gruden is interested in the job, why was Gruden not contacted by Long weeks ago? What other former successful NFL coaches are out there that have not been contacted by the Arkansas athletic program? Former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher may seem like a long shot, much like Gruden, but if Long does not ask he will never know.