I think before the L was mentioned in John L. Smith's name, Arkansas fans were wondering who will be the coach after the 2012 Razorbacks' season.
I think before the L was mentioned in John L. Smith’s name, Arkansas fans were wondering who will be the coach after the 2012 Razorbacks’ season.
Smith was signed to a 10-month contract, meaning he is not an interim coach but he is really an “interim” coach.
Of course, some media outlets in the state were saying there was a ton of interest in the job but those coaches from the BCS automatic-qualifying conferences that were interested did not want to jump ship during the spring.
I have no doubt there is a ton of interest in the future Arkansas coaching job, but to say a bunch of coaches from the major conferences are interested is misleading. I am sure Oregon State’s Mike Riley is very interested along with Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe and other coaches from mediocre programs.
Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long did the best he could with a difficult situation, and the hiring of Smith is right for now. Once December rolls around, it will be interesting to see who these “big-time” coaches are that want the Arkansas job.
To me, this brings up the question of how big-time is the Arkansas coaching job? Yes, I realize I ask that as an outsider who is an Iowa State fan.
I assume the Razorbacks will start the year with a top-10 ranking in the nation, and Arkansas finished the year the highest it had in decades.
But the Razorbacks still were a distant third in the SEC — I say distant because Alabama and LSU both handled Arkansas — and will be the third-ranked team in the SEC to start the season. Granted, LSU could drop off without a quarterback, but Arkansas is one of the few teams in the SEC that does not play pretty good defense.
So if the Razorbacks finish third in the SEC again, is this really a Tier 1 job in the nation? No.
Arkansas generates a ton of money through its football program and it pays its football staff quite well, which are two of the biggest things the university can offer along with coaching in the best conference in the nation as the third selling point.
After that, this is the first time the Razorbacks have been relevant on the national scale for the first time in decades, meaning this is a Tier 2 job instead of a Tier 1 job.
So is a Bob Stoops really going to jump ship at Oklahoma and go to Arkansas? Is Chip Kelly going to get away from the Nike money to go to Arkansas? Heck, is Mike Gundy going to leave all of the money from T. Boone Pickens that has put Oklahoma State in the same position as Arkansas for the Razorbacks’ position?
Doubtful, but I would not rule it out of the realm of possibilities. More realistically, I would say Skip Holtz for South Florida or someone along that line is a possibility.
Granted, this situation does seem a bit familiar. Remember a program that was trying to return to national relevance in the mid-2000s and coaxed a coach away from the NFL and went on to win a couple of national championships? Alabama, and the main thing it took was hiring the right coach in Nick Saban.
Could Arkansas make the same type of move and become a Tier 1 program with the right coaching hire? Yes, and it may be as simple as what Alabama did, but that would mean the state of Arkansas would have to start rooting for the Seattle Seahawks to start losing this season to free up the potential head coach.
Justin Rust is a sports writer at The Commercial. Email him at email@example.com.