Take solace, Hog fans. Your coaching savior’s white horse is just a couple of months down the road. Maybe.
Speaking at a Little Rock Touchdown Club gathering Monday afternoon, athletic director Jeff Long gave his preferred timeline for hiring a permanent replacement for the fired Bobby Petrino — roughly two weeks following the conclusion of what’s highly likely to be a bowl-less regular season. As the Razorbacks last game is Nov. 23, Long would like to have a new head coach in place sometime in early December.
While Long obviously didn’t get into any specific names, he did relay some of the characteristics he’s looking for in a new coach. Suffice to say, given the scandal that swept Petrino out of Fayetteville in disgrace, character is high on the AD’s to-do list.
“[D]iscipline and accountability,” Long said when asked about the traits he will be looking for, adding UA’s new coach will have “honesty and integrity on and off the field.”
Petrino was fired April 10 after an April 1 motorcycle accident led to the revelation that the coach had been involved in an illicit relationship with a female member of the football staff.
Long told the assembled audience that neither the stain of that scandal nor the rough first half of the 2012 season would dissuade high-quality candidates from pursuing the job, pointing to the program’s facilities among its selling points. The conference to which UA is attached certainly won’t hurt as, Kentucky notwithstanding, being the head coach at an SEC school is just about as plum of a job as there is in the game of college football.
And what of the current interim head coach? John L. Smith was hired on a 10-month contract in the wake of the Petrino scandal and Long said he hasn’t ruled him out for the permanent job; we’re assuming the AD said that with a straight face and wasn’t chuckling over such a laughable proposition.
Back in mid-April, the betting favorites to replace Petrino on a permanent basis included Arkansas State’s Gus Malzahn, USF’s Skip Holtz — who’s now on the hot seat at his current school — and FIU’s Mario Cristobal among others. One name to keep an eye on and an ear out for? Louisiana Tech’s Sonny Dykes, who more than a couple of individuals with insight into the situation have been mentioned to us as someone UA will heavily pursue — if they haven’t already through back-channel conversations.
Bob Stitt, who has become a bit of a cult hero in the college football coaching world over the last few years, is moving on up. Oklahoma State will reportedly add Stitt as an offensive analyst, according to a report from Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated, via Twitter.
Stitt was fired by Montana after this past season after missing the FCS playoffs for a second consecutive season and a second-round exit in his first season with the program in 2015. Stitt had become a rising star in the lower levels of college football after reshaping the offensive strategies with Colorado Mines in Division 2. The Nebraska native has coached a Harlon Hill Trophy winner (Division 2’s equivalent to the Heisman Trophy) and has coached Colorado Mines to three conference championships. Stitt gained notoriety after being given credit for his offensive strategies by West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen.
Stitt being let go by Montana came as a bit of a surprise after just three seasons with the program. Offensively speaking, Oklahoma State rarely needs any assistance in moving the football and scoring, but Mike Gundy is wise to bring in a mind like Stitt to add to the expanding of the offensive schemes in Stillwater.
As an offensive analyst, Stitt will be prevented from doing any on-field coaching and instead will focus on prepping the game plan and breaking down film. However, having Stitt on the staff in some capacity leaves a door open for a future position on the 10-man coaching staff should a position open at some point.
If there is any crack in Alabama’s championship foundation, it may be on special teams. Looking to patch things up with the special teams, Alabama head coach Nick Saban has brought on new special teams coordinator Jeff Banks. The former Texas A&M special teams coordinator was officially announced as Alabama’s new special teams coach on Thursday.
“We are pleased to be able to add a coach the caliber of Jeff Banks to our staff as special teams coordinator,” Saban said in a released statement. “Jeff is well-respected across the country for his knowledge of the game and his ability to recruit. He is a great teacher and someone who will help our football team be successful.”
Banks comes to Alabama after five years at Texas A&M under former Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin, who was recently hired by Arizona. Special teams was one of the more consistently reliable aspects of the Aggies program under his watch, so Alabama hopes that can carry over to Tuscaloosa.
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to join Coach Saban’s staff at The University of Alabama and work with such a talented group of student-athletes,” Banks said. “Coach Saban has built an unbelievable program that has a long tradition of success. I’m really excited to get out on the road recruiting, and I look forward to doing my part to help continue the success this program has enjoyed.”
Alabama ranked 90th in the nation last season in field goal percentage and 50th in the nation in punting average. Obviously, this has not hurt Alabama’s chances of competing for and winning national titles over the course of Saban’s time at Alabama, but it is somewhat remarkable just how many times special teams seems to make things just a little more difficult for the Crimson Tide. I suppose something has to at some point, right? In the recent College Football Playoff national championship, Alabama had to beat Georgia in overtime after a last-second field goal attempt at the end of the fourth quarter was missed.
The rich just keep getting richer at Alabama.
With time running out on the current lease at Lincoln Financial Field appearing on the horizon, Temple University continues to move forward with exploring their plans for a potential multipurpose facility that could be used to host Temple football on Temple’s campus. The school is now preparing to take the next step forward with the idea by presenting the plans to the City Planning Commission with the hope of being given the approval to continue pushing toward breaking ground on a new facility on Temple’s campus.
“We have said from the start that our first priority has been to engage with our neighbors and local leaders to determine the potential for, and impact of, this facility,” Temple president Richard Englert said in a released statement. “After more than two years of these discussions, and in light of the project’s tremendous value for Temple and North Philadelphia, I have concluded that the time is right to take this step.”
One of the biggest concerns about any on-campus football stadium is the reaction from the neighboring community that has been reluctant to embrace a football stadium being dropped right in the neighborhood.
Englert said in a released statement the university “will continue our conversations with neighbors to address concerns over the impact of the project.”
The football stadium would, in theory, be able to serve multiple purposes in addition to football and will be designed with surrounding economic opportunities in mind. Space for retail locations will be a part of the master plans to help inject some revenue into the surrounding area, and educational facilities will be included in the plans as well.
In all, the plan is currently estimated to cost roughly $130 million. Temple recently negotiated a short-term extension on their lease to use Lincoln Financial Field through 2019. If Temple is given the approval to move forward with their stadium plan, they could theoretically be able to play a true home game on their campus beginning in 2020.
One of Utah State’s all-time best players is back with the program. Chuckie Keeton is joining the Utah State coaching staff, although his exact title has not yet been officially confirmed.
What role Keeton will take on remains to be officially announced, although the speculation is he will be an offensive assistant coach who will work with the Utah State quarterbacks. This will be Keeton’s second coaching job since his playing days came to a close. Keeton got started at Oregon State under former Utah State and Oregon State head coach Gary Andersen. Keeton joined the Oregon State coaching staff in 2016. With changes in the Oregon State program with a coaching change this offseason, now was as good a time as any for Keeton to return to Utah State, where he became one of the top players from a non-power conference program to become a bit of a household name.
Keeton shared his reaction to returning to his alma mater on Twitter.
Keeton holds a number of Utah State records including career records for completion percentage and pass efficiency and season records for most touchdown passes, passing yards, total offensive yards, and completion percentage. Utah State finished the 2017 season ranked 69th in the nation in passing offense and ended the year with 17 passing touchdowns to 13 interceptions.
Keeton’s college career was sidetracked by injuries far too often, but it will be good to see Keeton back with the Utah State program as he continues his coaching career.