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.”
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.