In forty-eight seasons of covering Arkansas’ football program I’ve never called for a coach to be fired, not even Chad Morris. Quite simply it is not my job to say who should be hired or who should be fired. It is my job to report what I see. What I see now is a program that is right at bottom of the barrel in the SEC at a school where basketball, baseball, track and several of the women’s sports are at or near the top in the league.
Hunter Yurachek may not have hired most of the current head coaches on campus but he has created an environment where they can succeed at a high level. If this school can be that successful in that many sports there is nothing about football that suggests the same success can’t happen here. Yes, it takes longer to rebuild a program in football if it is rock bottom. We’re talking 85 scholarships. Recruiting is a much bigger challenge. However the biggest problem with Razorback football is a series of hires that have gone bust either sooner or later.
Other than some decent recruiting there was nothing about Chad Morris that was positive. It didn’t take long to see that. The big issue with him was a lack of proven success as a head coach. SMU is not the SEC. Not having a sitting athletic director at the time was a big part of that hire gone bad.
Bobby Petrino was like a supernova that exploded but was eventually sucked into a black hole. It took longer to see it but there were some warning signs in his personal behavior that Jeff Long clearly ignored.
Bret Bielema had good success success at Wisconsin but Long failed to ask himself how a power blocking, two tight ends offense would play out in the SEC. After a terrible start Bret had a couple of semi-successful seasons before the wheels started coming off. He lost assistant coaches and did not replace them with the same experience level.
What did Yurachek see in Sam Pittman? Probably a successful career assistant coach who wanted the job badly, who said it would be his last and who promised to put everything he had into rebuilding Razorback football. He also had a strong reputation as a recruiter and was almost universally loved by the players he had coached, many of them ex Razorbacks. He also had an answer for the fact that he’d never been a head coach. He would hire his friend Barry Odom who had been a head coach at Missouri and a man he would lean on for advice.
It is that Odom connection that has been missing this season and I find myself wondering if that is why Pittman seems to have struggled so much in dealing with issues that should have been addressed much earlier in the season.
Pittman said after Arkansas’ embarrassing and almost unexplainable 48-10 loss to a 5-4 Auburn team that he was not concerned about his job security. I found myself thinking, that doesn’t mean you plan to be back in 2024. He also said, “we got dominated and we have to go and figure out why.” A former Razorback coach in another sport once said to me that he faced that very question many times. He said he finally looked himself in the mirror and said, “I’m why.”
If Sam Pittman continues to coach this team in 2024 I will cover the program like I always have. When something looks encouraging I will say so. When it looks bad I will say it looks bad.
Right now the program doesn’t look a whole lot better to me than it did the day Hunter Yurachek fired Chad Morris. One SEC win better, I guess.
Can Pittman solve problems in the offseason that he could not solve beginning last year at this time? His program is now perceived be be much lower in the SEC pecking order than it was in 2022 when there was a bowl win to recruit upon.
There will be no bowl at all this time around.
Does he keep Kenny Guiton as an offensive coordinator? If not who will take the job? Can he hold his recruiting class together and work the portal like he did last December and in the spring of 2023?
If the offense stays the same can Jacolby Criswell do what K.J. Jefferson could not do? What will Pittman do about an offensive line that was Arkansas worst since at least 2013?
There are a lot of other issues the Hog media will be looking at if Sam Pittman returns in 2024. I am highly skeptical that Pittman can resolve them. It’s very easy for me to look a year down the road and envision an even worse situation than we have now.
That’s how I see it. I have no idea how Hunter Yurachek sees it.