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.
Lane Kiffin says he’s happy at Florida Atlantic, but everyone suspects that happiness has an expiration date. A coach with his talents and pedigree — and remember, Kiffin is just 42 — is destined to return to the big time at some point.
And according to a reporter at ESPN, Kiffin would like “some point” to be “right now.” Chris Low spent a week in Boca Raton shadowing Kiffin, and came away believing Kiffin would be open to a reunion with Tennessee.
“Lane is definitely on board if Tennessee gives him a call,” Low told the Orange and White Report radio show in Knoxville. “That’s not going to happen, but as he told me, ‘People break up all the time and get back together.’”
As we know, Kiffin spent one 7-6 season as Tennessee’s head coach in 2009 before darting off in the middle of the night to return to USC, and Kiffin was persona non grata in Knoxville for years afterwards.
But it seems feelings have softened toward him sense then. Kiffin has made a habit of trolling Vols fans on Twitter, but he trolls because he loves. “I don’t really think before I tweet,” Kiffin told AL.com last week. “I like to get a reaction. I like to make people laugh.”
While the idea of Kiffin returning to Knoxville may be a bridge too far for Vols AD John Currie, he does fit the mold of someone Tennessee should consider. A 42-year-old coach that lived and learned through two Power 5 head coaching jobs, is fresh off an ultra-successful run as an SEC coordinator and is now on the verge of winning Conference USA in his first season?
Perhaps Kiffin and Currie can negotiate over Twitter direct messages.
Ole Miss will put the finishing touches on its 2017 season with the annual Egg Bowl Thanksgiving night, but there’s a bit of 2018 scheduling news involving the Rebels to touch on first.
Wednesday, Arkansas announced that its 2018 game against Ole Miss will be played at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock instead of their on-campus home in Fayetteville. Next season will mark the 70th anniversary of the opening of War Memorial Stadium.
“We look forward to our return to Central Arkansas to take on Ole Miss at War Memorial Stadium in October 2018,” interim athletic director Julie Cromer Peoples said in a statement. “I know Razorback fans will be excited and ready to cheer on our team in a key Southeastern Conference Western Division matchup.
“Arkansas and Ole Miss first met on the football field more than a century ago and we look forward to the next chapter in this rivalry, in a venue that has hosted so many important games in this series.”
In fact, the game next season will mark the 110th anniversary of the first-ever meeting between the two football programs.
The Razorbacks and Rebels last played in Little Rock in 2012. Their only other matchup at War Memorial Stadium as conference foes came in 1992.
Happy Thanksgiving, y’all! And, as you get set for your Turkey Day feast, here’s a little future scheduling news on which to nibble.
Just a handful of days after dumping its head coach, UCLA, along with UNLV, announced that the two football programs have reached an agreement on a future home-and-home series. The Bruins will play host to the Rebels on Sept. 7, 2024, at the Rose Bowl. The following season, on Sept. 6, 2025, the two teams will meet up once again in Las Vegas.
“This is another series that bolsters our future schedules and is beneficial for both sides geographically,” a statement from Desiree Reed-Francois began. “Our fans enjoy seeing traditional powers come to town, it enhances our football program’s efforts in the recruiting hotbed of Southern California and partnering with prestigious institutions in the Pac-12 only helps our development as a University.”
The schools have met twice previously, in 2015 and 2016, with the Bruins winning both by a combined score of 79-24.
This scheduling news comes three weeks after UNLV announced a future four-game series with Cal. The MWC program also has future games against Pac-12 members USC (2018 season opener) and Arizona State (home-and-home in 2020 and 2021) on the scheduling docket.
The 2017 season just can’t end quick enough for Tennessee.
Proving that there have been much better days on Rocky Top, the school has reportedly and unexpectedly dismissed wide receiver Jauan Jennings from the team on Wednesday evening — just hours after the junior went on a tirade against the current coaching staff and posted it to his social media accounts.
Jennings reportedly went off earlier in the day at the staff and called them several choice, NSFW names in videos posted to his private Instagram account.
The receiver was somewhat of a surprise return to practice recently as it was expected he was going to miss the rest of the season after being injured in season opener against Georgia Tech. Jennings enter the year as an All-SEC third team selection in the preseason but was limited to just three catches for 17 yards the first half of the Vols’ first game.
Jennings could transfer to another school as he has a redshirt year available and likely would be able to receive a medical redshirt as well. Declaring for the NFL Draft seems the more likely scenario however but one thing is for certain: a return to Tennessee doesn’t look like it’s in the cards after Wednesday’s actions on both sides.