FAYETTEVILLE - If search firms — consultants often receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars to point out the obvious — indeed ever make sense, then the University of Arkansas is on the right track for hiring the Razorbacks’ next head football coach.
However, it appears a waste paying a search firm to find a new Razorbacks athletic director lest the UA brass risk repeating the same reasons they ultimately fired Athletic Director Jeff Long for on Nov. 15 after nearly 10 years.
On Tuesday, UA Chancellor Joe Steinmetz announced that the search firm Korn Ferry has been hired to help in the quest to hire a permanent athletic director, as meanwhile Senior Associate Athletic Director Julie Cromer Peoples serves as interim athletic director.
Cromer Peoples has been leading the search for a new head football coach since the UA fired Bret Bielema last Friday. He had coached the Hogs for the last five seasons.
Steinmetz and Cromer Peoples also announced Tuesday the search firm DHR International is assisting in the head football coaching search.
For a head football coach, the Razorbacks ultimately need the best they can find regardless of location and whether or not they have had past ties with the UA or the State of Arkansas.
That would seem to apply to the athletic director’s job, too, but like an old song’s title, “It Ain’t Necessarily So.”
Though coming in from a brilliant six-year tenure at Wisconsin, Bielema immediately related to Arkansas and Arkansans.
He just didn’t win enough in five years — 29-34 overall and 11-29 in the SEC — to continue into Season Six.
However, Long, an Ohioan hired in 2007 from his AD post at the University of Pittsburgh to replace retiring Arkansas icon Frank Broyles in 2008, seldom connected with any but among the wealthiest of the Razorbacks’ fan base. Long was finally disconnected — well, he’s still connected with an $83,000 per month buyout into 2022 — from the UA because he did not have sufficient support to continue, Steinmetz said.
The Razorbacks desperately need as AD one of their own who can put the Arkansas back in the Arkansas Razorbacks and unify the state, whose unique bond to the Razorbacks indeed makes Arkansas unique.
A national search firm seems far less qualified than those knowing Arkansas what the Razorbacks most need.
Darren McFadden, among the Razorbacks’ greatest ever, retired Tuesday into his 10th year as an NFL running back with the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys.
McFadden was the two-time winner of the Doak Walker Award in 2006 and 2007 was voted as the nation’s best running back. He was also a two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2006 and 2007. McFadden and fellow All-American running back Felix Jones starred together from 2005 through 2007 with the Razorbacks, with each turning pro following their junior 2007 campaign.
An NFL running back-kick returner for Dallas and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jones retired in 2013.
Great as both were on the field, this writer equally recalls them as off the field refreshing during Arkansas’ SEC West championship yet soap opera-like season of 2006. Both just played ball to their ability’s best and handled media obligations to their best, too.
With both now NFL retired and ranking among the greatest ever Razorbacks, it seems appropriate they be inducted together in the next Razorbacks Hall of Honor banquet Aug. 31 before the Hogs open their 2018 season on Sept. 1 in Fayetteville against Eastern Illinois.
BIJHON’S BEST DAY
Though Arkansas lost 48-45 to Missouri in last Friday’s finale in Fayetteville, senior defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson of El Dorado likely will remember it among the best days of his life.
While introduced on Senior Day, Jackson publicly proposed on Frank Broyles Field and got a yes from his fiancee, then played so well that Pro Football Focus announced grading Jackson the highest of any SEC player on defense last week.
Senior running back David Williams and junior left guard Hjalte Froholdt joined Jackson on the Pro Football Focus SEC Team of the Week.
BILL WALTON BEMUSES
During Arkansas Basketball Coach Mike Anderson’s Miked Up radio show Monday night at Sassy’s Barbecue and Grill in Fayetteville, emcee Chuck Barrett noted he heard even more fans complaining about the non sequitur ramblings of ESPN analyst and former UCLA and NBA great Bill Walton at the Phil Knight Invitational Tournament in Portland, Oregon, than lauding the Razorbacks.
Arkansas beat Oklahoma and rebounded from defeat against reigning national champion North Carolina to rout, 102-67, an excellent Connecticut team that in Portland beat Oregon and only trailed eventual tournament champion Michigan State by one at half.
“I heard the same thing,” Anderson said, smiling. “We put so much energy and action up and down the floor — I think people want to hear more about basketball than parks and trees.”