Jeff Long

Potential replacements for Petrino at Arkansas

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With the ghosts of Butch Davis‘ and Jim Tressel‘s coaching careers looming off in the distance, Arkansas officially announced its stunning decision Tuesday evening: the university has fired Bobby Petrino as the Razorbacks’ head football coach less than five months before the start of a new season.

The how’s and why’s of what led the football program to this point are not pertinent to this post; Ben’s had you covered very, very well on that front for the past few days.  What is pertinent is the future, and what tack UA takes in finding a replacement — interim or permanent — for Petrino.

During the press conference making Petrino’s dismissal official, athletic director Jeff Long announced that interim head coach Taver Johnson would continue in the same role through the end of spring practice, which will conclude with the spring game April 21.  Beyond that?  Long stated that he would commence a search for a permanent replacement “at the end of the press conference”, although he acknowledged, when pressed on the question of whether a permanent successor would be in place before the start of the upcoming season, that it’s possible an interim head coach could lead the Razorbacks in 2012.

Given the timing of the dismissal, it’s highly possible or even borderline probable that Long will take the path blazed by North Carolina (dismissing Davis a handful of weeks before the start of the 2011 season) and Ohio State (dismissing Tressel a couple of months before the start of the same season) — go the interim route for the upcoming season, while simultaneously conducting a national search for a permanent replacement.  In fact, that would probably be the most prudent course of action for the university, keeping as much of Petrino’s staff in place to lend familiarity for a roster full of players that are certainly in a state of uncertainty and could use some continuity.

While that seems likely, there are some quality candidates who could/would have an interest in what is, thanks in large part to Petrino oddly enough, a high-quality SEC coaching job.

Here are thumbnail looks at but a few of the potential replacements who have already been mentioned — or should be mentioned — as potential long-term and “permanent” successors to Petrino:

Gus Malzahn, head coach, Arkansas State — The former Auburn offensive coordinator has deep ties to the state — he graduated from high school and coached at that level there, and played football at UA for a couple of years — and will be entering his first season as a head coach at the collegiate level.  It’s highly, highly likely Malzahn would have an interest in the top job at his home state’s flagship university — next year.  Malzahn had previously turned down opportunities at high-profile jobs, reportedly because he didn’t feel he was ready for such a coaching step.  Stepping into the maelstrom that currently exists in Fayetteville likely isn’t something Malzahn would consider at this point in time.  Next offseason?  He would have to be considered one of the prohibitive favorites as a permanent replacement.

Garrick McGee, head coach, UAB — Out of all the possibilities, this one might be the most intriguing for both the short- and the long-term.  Don’t believe me?  Just ask former Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett. “GM only coach Ark should look at if they wanna win now. … He can win at Arkansas,” Mallett tweeted, adding for clarity, “and not Gus M[alzahn].”  McGee will be entering his first year as a head coach, heading to UAB after spending the past four seasons at UA, the last two as offensive coordinator.  He was — and still is — beloved by his former players, and would lend some much-needed, instant credibility and stability in both the locker room and on the practice field.  Given the very recent and established relationship with the football program, a McGee hiring might be the only choice right now which would trump going the interim route.  Whether he would abandon UAB before coaching a single game remains to be seen, although those who know McGee and swear to his character would profess there’s no chance he would ditch UAB after the school took a chance on him.

Mark Hudspeth, head coach, Louisiana-Lafayette — The first-year Ragin’ Cajuns coach has no direct ties to either the state or the university, with the exception of two separate coaching stints at Central Arkansas spanning three years.  His name has, however, already been mentioned as a possibility, so we thought we’d toss it out there into the mix.  I will say this: Hudspeth is widely considered one of the rising stars in the college coaching profession, so he should not be dismissed completely simply over the lack of name recognition.

Skip Holtz, head coach, USF — The early buzz is that, if UA does indeed eschew an interim coach and instead hires a permanent replacement, the son of Lou Holtz becomes an instant front-runner.  In fact, CBSSports.com‘s Bruce Feldman tweeted Tuesday night that “Holtz may get in the mix for Arkansas with his dad pushing for it.”  Holtz graduated from an Arkansas high school, attending Fayetteville High while his pops was coaching the Razorbacks in the late 70s and early 80s.  If Longs skews away from the interim approach, he and the football program could do a helluva lot worse than Holtz, who in my opinion is one of the most underrated and undervalued head coaches in the country.

Butch Davis, unemployed — Don’t tell me this isn’t one of the first names you thought of.  Davis played for the Razorbacks in the early 70s before a knee injury ended his career, and the early word is that, obviously, Paul Hilton would jump at the opportunity if offered.  The other obvious part of the Butch equation is his messy departure from the Tar Heels.  Given Petrino’s even messier departure from the Razorbacks, it’s borderline laughable that this would even be an option for Long.  Then again, it was borderline laughable that Petrino.. and Davis… and Tressel… and Paterno would be dismissed over off-field issues, so who’s to know any more given the current state of the game of college football.

Dave Wannstedt, defensive coordinator, Buffalo Bills — There’s one reason and one reason only why the former Pittsburgh head coach has been mentioned by a national writer — a previous relationship with Long.  Beyond that convenient tie, Wannstedt makes zero sense and would instantly and literally become one of the worst hires in the history of the game.

Mike Smith, head coach, Atlanta Falcons — Hey, that’s where Long found his last head coach, right?

In the end, and unless they can pry McGee away from UAB after four months on the job, it seems highly likely that an interim head coach from the current staff will be named for the 2012 season — perhaps as early as next week — and Long will begin a methodical, diligent search to find a permanent successor.  And, based on Long’s impressive and emotional performance in the press conference, the Arkansas faithful can feel at ease knowing that the search will be in good hands.

Then again, Long is the one who hired Petrino away from the Falcons in the midst of an NFL season

Hawaii, Vanderbilt schedule home-and-home series for 2022, 2023

Hawaii wide receiver Ammon Barker, left, runs with the football for a first down after catching a pass on a fake-punt play against Middle Tennessee during the third quarter of the Hawaii Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)
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Vanderbilt fans may want to start planning ahead to budget for a trip to Hawaii. In 2022, Vanderbilt’s football season will open in Honolulu against the Rainbow Warriors in the first game of a home-and-home series.

According to FBSchedules.com, Hawaii will host Vanderbilt on August 27, 2022 in “Week Zero.” The game played before Labor Day weekend is allowed under NCAA scheduling rules. By playing a road game at Hawaii, Vanderbilt will be eligible to add a 13th game during the 2022 season under The Hawaii Exemption. With the NCAA moving toward a 14-week calendar allowing for two bye weeks, it remains to be seen how Vanderbilt will approach their scheduling.

Vanderbilt will host Hawaii in the second game of the home-and-home arrangement on September 30, 2023. The two schools have never faced each other in football.

Vanderbilt is required by the SEC to schedule at least one game each year against another power conference opponent or an approved equivalent such as BYU. Hawaii, a member of the Mountain West Conference, does not satisfy that scheduling requirement for the Commodores, but Vanderbilt already meets the scheduling requirement in 2022 and 2023 with a home-and-home series with Wake Forest of the ACC. Vanderbilt satisfies the SEC non-conference scheduling requirement every season through 2029 except for 2018. Vanderbilt still has one vacancy to fill on its 2018 schedule with games against Middle Tennessee and Tennessee State currently lined up.

VIDEO: Kansas showed off inside look of updated football facility

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With signing day coming up quickly, now is as good a time as any for football programs to show off their latest football facility renovations and upgrades. Kansas got in on the fun with a brief video tour of their newly updated football facilities, complete with laser tag-like lighting.

The new football facility was actually revealed prior to the 2016 season, but the Jayhawks wanted to remind everyone following them on Twitter just how cool their new locker room looks, potentially in hopes of catching the eyes of a recruit still mulling their decision for signing day.

If this is what it takes to beat Texas, then what is it going to take to win the Big 12?

Reports: Cal expected to add Marques Tuiasosopo as QB coach

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 27:  Interim Head Coach Marques Tuiasosopo of the Washington Huskies looks on while his team warms up during pre-game warm ups prior to playing the BYU Cougars in the Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park on December 27, 2013 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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It looks as though Marques Tuiasosopo is heading back to the Pac-12, again. The former Rose Bowl MVP and Washington quarterback has reportedly been added to the coaching staff at Cal under new head coach Justin Wilcox. The news was first reported by Bruin Sports Online and later followed up by Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports, via Twitter.

Tuiasosopo is no stranger to coaching in the Pac-12. After spending 12 seasons in the NFL, Tuiasosopo returned to his alma mater to take on a role as assistant strength coach for the Washington Huskies in 2009. After two years in that role, he joined the UCLA coaching staff as a graduate assistant in 2011 and took on a role as tight ends coach in 2012 under Jim Mora. The following year, in 2013, Tuiasosopo returned to Washington to be the quarterback coach to work for Steve Sarkisian. After Sarkisian accepted a head coaching offer from USC later that year, Tuiasosopo was named interim head coach for a bowl game, but he would follow Sarkisian to USC in 2014 to be the tight ends coach and was given the title of associate head coach. After two seasons with the Trojans, Tuiasosopo worked his way back across town to rejoin Mora at UCLA as a passing game coordinator and quarterback coach last season.

Cal will be Tuiasosopo’s fourth different Pac-12 school in his coaching background, and he will be a valuable asset to Wilcox’s staff given his knowledge and familiarity of the Pac-12 recruiting scene and work with previous quarterbacks like Josh Rosen and Cody Kessler.

Arkansas DE Tevin Beanum retires, LB Khalia Hackett to transfer

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Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema announced a pair of departures from the Razorback program for 2017. Defensive end Tevin Beanum has chosen to step away from football and linebacker Khalia Hackett has decided to transfer to a new school to continue playing football.

Bielema did not confirm the details for why Beanum has stepped away from the sport but did suggest the now former defensive end may qualify for an NCAA hardship waiver. If so, then Beanum can remain on scholarship at Arkansas and continue his education without being concerned about expenses.

Beanum missed summer camp at Arkansas for undisclosed reasons before returning to the team for the 2016 season. Beanum started seven of 12 games for the Razorbacks. In February 2015, Beanum was arrested for suspicion of DWI, which led to Bielema going so far as to take his car keys away.

It is currently unknown where Hackett will move next, but Bielema says he will provide assistance in finding a new football home for the linebacker.

“We had a conversation yesterday,” Bielema said. “He’s moved on. I’ll try to help him find a position or team of interest.”

Hackett is the second Arkansas player to decide to transfer out of Arkansas this offseason. Running back Duwop Mitchell previously made his decision to transfer in December as a graduate transfer. Mitchell announced, via Twitter, he will be transferring to Rutgers, where he will be eligible to play right away.