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Potential replacements for Petrino at Arkansas

Jeff Long AP

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

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52 Responses to “Potential replacements for Petrino at Arkansas”
  1. jckid21 says: Apr 10, 2012 11:30 PM

    I am hearing Bretterson is up for the job. He is the biggest sausage smoker in Arkansas.

  2. 69jaredallen69 says: Apr 10, 2012 11:33 PM

    Petrino to the Saints…why not he can leave half way through the season

  3. Deb says: Apr 10, 2012 11:48 PM

    Quitting a job is one thing, but Petrino skipped out on the Falcons during the season by leaving the players a note taped to their lockers. I agree McGee would be a great choice, but UAB did take a chance on him and Arkansas doesn’t need anymore bad karma. Holtz is an interesting option, and it might be better for the Razorbacks to cut ties with the Petrino era. I’d hate it for USF, but Holtz is going to break with the Bulls for a major program at some point.

  4. sports_dude says: Apr 10, 2012 11:57 PM

    Some of these names are just laughable. It’s going to be Malzahn,McGee or Paul Petrino (who is itching for his 1st head coaching job)

  5. thefiesty1 says: Apr 10, 2012 11:58 PM

    Why hasn’t Gary Peterson’s name popped up yet? He’s done a great job at TCU (except for the recent drug scandal) and it would be a step up for him.

  6. AlohaMrHand says: Apr 11, 2012 12:23 AM

    Wannstadt should never be mentioned as a candidate for Pop Warner head coaching g jobs let alone ANY head coaching jobs in college or the NFL.

  7. vols84 says: Apr 11, 2012 12:26 AM

    John Chavis -Def Coord. LSU

  8. tryagainplease says: Apr 11, 2012 12:35 AM

    Not Malzahn please.

    Hey Deb! :)

  9. hoggeek says: Apr 11, 2012 1:23 AM

    Terrible list. Looks like candidates for a 6-6 Sun Belt job. Listen up, people: we’re stocked with TWO proven consensus Heisman candidates. We’re halfway through constructing a new $40M football operations facility, including two brand new practice fields. We’re in the SEC West. Win at Arkansas and you’re playing for all the marbles. We have a rabid fan base that doesn’t split time supporting any other college or pro teams. We have money. More than you probably realize. And we’ve just proven we have the finest AD in the country. We’re clean. We have probably the most desirable college coaching vacancy in the last 25 years. We’re not going to be hiring any coordinators. #PeteToAR.

  10. Bretterson says: Apr 11, 2012 1:54 AM

    The obsession is cute, jckid21. I’m flattered, but not interested in either the job, or you. Sorry to disappoint.

  11. frug says: Apr 11, 2012 2:09 AM

    @thefiesty1

    Paterson has passed on better jobs than Arkansas so he’s not going to settle for it right as TCU gets to join a power conference.

  12. nisker47 says: Apr 11, 2012 6:34 AM

    How is Todd Graham not mentioned? I hear it was one of his dream jobs!

  13. voodoo4409 says: Apr 11, 2012 7:26 AM

    Why would anyone want to move to the state of Arkeysaw? And to jaredallen69 – still bitter about the loss to the Saints, loosah?? What a Viqueens troll…

  14. bangitfootball says: Apr 11, 2012 7:26 AM

    ED ORGERON!!!!!!!

    Lets have some fun in Fayettevile plus their recruiting will improve!!

  15. dryzzt23 says: Apr 11, 2012 7:32 AM

    Ok so let me get this straight:

    A player can kill dogs (Vick) – but keeps his job
    A player can kill a human (Ray Lewis/Donte Stallworth) – but can keeps his job
    A player can rape a woman (Big Ben) – but keeps his job
    A player can be a drug dealer (Jerome Simpson) but keeps his job
    A politician can do illegal drugs (Marion Barry) – but keeps his job
    A politician can lie under oath, to the American people about cheating on his wife while in office (Slick Willy Clinton) – but keeps his job

    But they will be damned if a coach who cheated on his wife and covered it up can keep his job

    Petrino would have been better off if he had done illegal drugs with Dorrell and went on a dog/human killing spree

  16. chmba says: Apr 11, 2012 7:51 AM

    Why do all these columnists/bloggers love Jeff Long?? What a screwup!! UA needs to start by finding a competent AD. What a pathetic performance of a press conference!

  17. sackbombs says: Apr 11, 2012 8:01 AM

    He got fired for hiring the girl he was banging, not for banging her. Shes pretty hot though. Probably worth it for the ild geezer.

  18. showerswithsandusky says: Apr 11, 2012 8:16 AM

    Barry Switzer? He’s 74 but could manage 1 season until a new coach is in place. He played at Arkansas 1956 to 1960.

  19. ptdennis says: Apr 11, 2012 9:01 AM

    Jimmy Johnson would be a perfect short time fit but his gig at Fox is easier and pays, I think more so I know he would never consider it. Where is Ken Hatfield ?

  20. ptdennis says: Apr 11, 2012 9:04 AM

    @showerswithsandusky … I love me some Barry Switzer also. Don’t drop the soap … lol.

  21. ckenp says: Apr 11, 2012 9:18 AM

    If Garrick McGee declines then I nominate Philip Fulmer. He could step in to administrate and take the heat and leave the staff otherwise unchanged.

  22. bozosforall says: Apr 11, 2012 9:46 AM

    ckenp says:
    Apr 11, 2012 9:18 AM
    If Garrick McGee declines then I nominate Philip Fulmer. He could step in to administrate and take the heat and leave the staff otherwise unchanged.

    __
    Phil Fulmer to replace Fill Full-her?

  23. mogogo1 says: Apr 11, 2012 10:02 AM

    sports_dude says:

    Some of these names are just laughable. It’s going to be Malzahn,McGee or Paul Petrino (who is itching for his 1st head coaching job)

    _____________________

    Through no fault of his own, younger brother Paul is as good as done at Arkansas. They don’t want to hear the name Petrino ever again. He’ll coach through the end of the season and then be moved along as the new head coach brings in his own assistants.

  24. mrpictureman says: Apr 11, 2012 10:59 AM

    We don’t need any high school coaches mentioned above, we deserve better than that. Malzhan?? Give me a break….the guys nothing but trouble. The best man for the job right now is Pete Carroll. He was once an assistant at Arkansas, a proven winner and can walk right in and not miss a beat. College coaching fits Carroll better than the pros. One vote for Pete Carroll

  25. hoggette says: Apr 11, 2012 11:50 AM

    Since the media was acting as an AD for Arkansas and they commend AD Long they need to help with the hiring. None of these bogus names they are throw out! If they really respect Long and there fore would want him to keep his job 2-3 years from now we fans want and expect an NFL/experienced college coach. A mastermind for offensive genius.
    Let’s see how fast they will step back from that request.
    Remember, elite coach. Get busy!

  26. woopigsooieinmo says: Apr 11, 2012 12:32 PM

    My thoughts exactly mrpictureman: We’re one of the best (top 3) football programs in the COUNTRY! We so deserve better than most of these options! We’ve got the team, now we just need the right coach to take us to the national championship this fall. It would be a shame for Tyler Wilson and Jermaine Robertson to have turned down the opportunities they did for nothing!!

  27. vols84 says: Apr 11, 2012 12:47 PM

    Pistol Pete is not coming to Fayetteville.

  28. Deb says: Apr 11, 2012 1:03 PM

    @tryagainplease …

    Hey!!!! Have been wondering where you were!!! Girl, I am sooo sorry about all this happening to your program.

  29. djt3010 says: Apr 11, 2012 1:15 PM

    Barry Switzer, he recently stated there is an interest of coaching again

  30. dryzzt23 says: Apr 11, 2012 1:22 PM

    So I am curious.

    Bobby Petrino was canned.

    Has Jessica Dorrell been canned?

    If not, she should be b/c she was complicit in this whole thing

  31. Deb says: Apr 11, 2012 1:25 PM

    dryzzt23 says:

    Ok so let me get this straight:

    A player can kill dogs (Vick) – but keeps his job
    A player can kill a human (Ray Lewis/Donte Stallworth) – but can keeps his job
    A player can rape a woman (Big Ben) – but keeps his job
    A player can be a drug dealer (Jerome Simpson) but keeps his job
    A politician can do illegal drugs (Marion Barry) – but keeps his job
    A politician can lie under oath, to the American people about cheating on his wife while in office (Slick Willy Clinton) – but keeps his job

    But they will be damned if a coach who cheated on his wife and covered it up can keep his job

    ===================================

    As usual, you don’t have anything straight, and we can count on you to mix the apples of football with the oranges of politics. Man, a trip inside your brain must be a trip.

    * Michael Vick didn’t keep his job. Not did he lose his job with the Falcons, but he was suspended indefinitely from the NFL, and he went to prison. After he served his prison sentence, he was reinstated to the league and hired into another QB position.

    * Ray Lewis has never killed anyone and has never been convicted of killing anyone. He was convicted of obstruction of justice for protecting a friend for which the NFL fined him $250,000–the highest fine ever levied for a non drug-related infraction. Had Goodell been commissioner at the time, he also would have been suspended.

    * Donte Stallworth was convicted of DUI manslaughter in the second degree and sentenced to 30 days in jail, 1,000 hours community service, and eight years probation. He also reached a civil settlement with the victim’s family. He was suspended from the NFL for one year.

    * Ben Roethlisberger was sued for $3 million by a woman with whom he’d had a one-night stand who texted friends the next day she couldn’t wait to see him again. Only a year later did she claim it was rape. The woman in Georgia who accused him had a medical exam showing she hadn’t had sex with anyone that night. Police in both jurisdictions said they had no evidence any rapes had occurred, which is why Roethlisberger has never even been arrested. But he still was suspended four games for general stupidity and acting like an idiot in public.

    All of those players were attended to by the law and/or the league commensurate with their deeds.

    You clearly are obsessed with Bill Clinton. But politicians are elected by the people, and it’s not a simple matter of the boss walking in and firing them. And for the umpteenth time, this is a football blog.

    Petrino wasn’t fired because he had an affair. He was fired because he ignored 160 possibly more qualified applicants to hire his mistress to work for his football team, and he lied to his bosses. Please stop being hysterical and try to stick to the facts.

  32. udub says: Apr 11, 2012 1:36 PM

    Mike Bellotti

  33. dmarado says: Apr 11, 2012 2:14 PM

    woopigsooieinmo says: Apr 11, 2012 12:32 PM

    My thoughts exactly mrpictureman: [b]We’re one of the best (top 3) football programs in the COUNTRY![/b] We so deserve better than most of these options! We’ve got the team, now we just need the right coach to take us to the national championship this fall. It would be a shame for Tyler Wilson and Jermaine Robertson to have turned down the opportunities they did for nothing!!
    ——-

    This is freelz? Because…ummm…yikes.

  34. foreverlsu says: Apr 11, 2012 2:14 PM

    Relax with the holier-than-thou attitude, Deb and try to laugh every once in a while. I believe dryzzt was taking this from the John Kincade show on ESPN last night just to put things in perspective.

  35. Deb says: Apr 11, 2012 2:19 PM

    @foreverlsu …

    dryzzt23 has been posting these diatribes on CFT for a week. And since the information was inaccurate, how does it put anything into perspective?

    Right now I’m laughing at your sanctimonious pomposity in calling someone else holier-than-thou. How’s that?

  36. foreverlsu says: Apr 11, 2012 2:25 PM

    Haven’t followed his comments for a week like you but HE was putting the penalties in perspective. Keep laughing, pea brain!

  37. Deb says: Apr 11, 2012 2:31 PM

    @foreverlsu …

    Give it up. You were on here nonstop when defending poor Les from the foot he stuck in his own mouth. And dryzzt23 wasn’t putting the penalties in perspective since Michael Vick didn’t keep his job, Ray Lewis didn’t kill anyone, and the cops found no evidence of rape in the Roethlisberger case, now was he? Pea brain … now there’s an intelligent comeback. Gee, baby … maybe you should learn to lighten up and laugh. :lol:

  38. uschawk says: Apr 11, 2012 2:44 PM

    mrpictureman says: Apr 11, 2012 10:59 AM

    We don’t need any high school coaches mentioned above, we deserve better than that. Malzhan?? Give me a break….the guys nothing but trouble. The best man for the job right now is Pete Carroll. He was once an assistant at Arkansas, a proven winner and can walk right in and not miss a beat. College coaching fits Carroll better than the pros. One vote for Pete Carroll

    Pete’s making $7 mil a year with the Seahawks he’s not going anywhere.

  39. foreverlsu says: Apr 11, 2012 3:02 PM

    sure deb, Ray Lewis didn’t kill anyone. Neither did O.J.

  40. 24sirporkalot24 says: Apr 11, 2012 3:15 PM

    I’d like to see Skip Holtz and keep the rest of the staff intact. Garrick McGee is another choice and although he doesn’t have the Head Coaching experience, he would keep the continuity of the staff together. Keeping the staff is paramount for success this fall.
    The Hawgs will have a Hell on Wheels Defense and we need a scoring Offense to make everything happen.
    This is all just my opinion.

  41. Deb says: Apr 11, 2012 3:24 PM

    @foreverlsu …

    Just going by the evidence in Lewis’s case. Different case, different evidence. None of these situations are interchangeable–and that’s the point. dryzzt23 usually just rants on politics, which definitely has nothing to do with this. None of these people got off scot-free (not even O.J.). But even if they had; all of them were punished in some way related to their actions. O.J. certainly appeared to get away with murder, but he’ll likely spend the rest of his life in prison thanks to a convoluted series of events linking back to the civil suit regarding those murders.

    dryzzt23 keeps declaring Petrino was fired just because people were peeking into his bedroom. He wasn’t. He was fired because he brought the bedroom into the workplace by giving that woman a job she didn’t merit and entangling the football team in his private sexual affairs. As the line in the movie goes, “Don’t sh*t where you eat.”

    And when people take a shot at me, I fire back. Nothing personal.

  42. hoggette says: Apr 11, 2012 3:48 PM

    Hard to take out of state comments from anyone right now. I agree with the Uncle Ugy radio show on now.
    Other fans will talk about something else in a few days
    Media will turn to something else shiny.

    IT’S RAZORBACK FANS THAT WERE THROWN UNDER THE BUS. By both parties. Long and Petrino.
    Alabama and rest of nation can be happy now. We will never have the NFL/Offensive genius coach again I love my beautiful state but this won’t happen. We are hurting inside Merry Christmas.

  43. Deb says: Apr 11, 2012 4:49 PM

    @hoggette …

    It’s a football blog. This is what people do on a football blog. Auburn fans went through worse with Newton. Ohio State fans–including our host John Taylor–went through worse with Tressel. Penn State fans went through triple hell with Paterno. And none of this compares to what you go through on PFT, as this Steelers diehard can attest from Roethlisberger’s idiotic experiences and as Saint and Patriots fans also know well.

    I’m an Alabama fan, and I’m not happy. First, I don’t revel in other people’s misery. Second, I want our division to remain strong. Third, both the Tide and LSU did just fine last year with Petrino in place, we weren’t worried. And finally, we’re the SEC–if it’s bad for you, it’s bad for us.

  44. Deb says: Apr 11, 2012 4:50 PM

    And hoggette … offensive genius is a bit of a stretch.

  45. AlohaMrHand says: Apr 11, 2012 4:53 PM

    As a UNLV fan you are more than welcome to hire Bobby Hauke away from us .

  46. bozosforall says: Apr 11, 2012 6:51 PM

    hoggette is a moron. Figures that he/she is from Arkansas.

  47. normtide says: Apr 11, 2012 8:12 PM

    Sad fact is, Long will prob be let go in a season or two. Petrino was his hire, and there was scandal then too. Gus Malzhan would be a bad hire, his only great year was with Cam Newton, and any of us could win 10 games at least with him.

    I was against the firing, until I heard about the 20 grand payment. As far as a leader of men can not have an affair, please check history. Patton, Churchill, and countless other GREAT leaders had mistresses. Sad, but is an alpha male trait.

    In the SEC coaching cauldron, ARK needs a big name coach. Even with recent success, ARK never was elite recruiters. They have to get a coach who can find the ones the services missed. For these reasons, Long has to erase his last mistake with a homerun, and alas, I say he will be gone soon. Crying on national tv does not help. Neither does the affection of CFT’s writers. It seems his kin work here lol.

  48. Deb says: Apr 11, 2012 10:55 PM

    @normtide …

    They had a top-five recruiting program last season. And Petrino hired Dorrell to take a key position in the recruiting department. That’s reason enough to fire him. A coach’s private life doesn’t interest me–unless he brings it into the program. Recruiting is the one area where the NCAA is most likely to rain misery on your head, and he puts his mistress in there with no football background??? Like she’s going to catch all the 10 million potential NCAA violations … especially when she’s texting Boss Hogg 90 times a day. Don’t confuse this with FDR and Lucy Mercer.

  49. hoggeek says: Apr 12, 2012 1:31 AM

    #PeteToAR. I’m on the Stinky Pete bus.

    Think about this: after that performance by Long the other night, the media will love this. Nobody is better equipped to rehabilitate Pete than Jeff Long. Those two together, Pete coming back home, team LOADED, SEC…match made in heaven.

    Don’t worry about that 7M. Every coach that ever left the pros to come back to college took a minor hit. And 4M in Fayetteville will get you the same standard of living as 7M in Seattle.

    This is what they’re putting together. It makes sense.

  50. vincentbojackson says: Apr 12, 2012 9:32 AM

    Long is waiting for Jerry Jones to tell him who the next head coach will be.

  51. burntorangehorn says: Apr 12, 2012 9:37 AM

    woopigsooieinmo says:
    Apr 11, 2012 12:32 PM
    My thoughts exactly mrpictureman: We’re one of the best (top 3) football programs in the COUNTRY! We so deserve better than most of these options! We’ve got the team, now we just need the right coach to take us to the national championship this fall. It would be a shame for Tyler Wilson and Jermaine Robertson to have turned down the opportunities they did for nothing!!
    ================================
    Top 3? Not even in their own division of the SEC, although that’s not to say I don’t think Arkansas is a solid program.

    Anyway, McGee was the one who came most immediately to mind, although Hugh Freeze and Gus Malzahn seem to make sense. I just don’t think anyone but McGee would be in consideration as a permanent replacement between now and November/December.

  52. czbrat69 says: Apr 13, 2012 10:35 PM

    Sean Payton he’s on suspension.

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