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Hogs’ Long Needs To Worry About A Coach, Not Recruits

There’s an old saying that goes a little something like this: “It’s not about the Xs and Os, it’s about the Jimmys and Joes.”  Translation: Players are more important than coaches.

There are quite a few Arkansas fans today who buy into that line even though they’re last coach just proved you don’t have to have five-star guys to win double-digit games in a season.

This week, we’ve stated repeatedly that Razorback AD Jeff Long needs to take his time in replacing Bobby Petrino.  By all indications, that’s what it looks like he’s going to do — use an interim coach this season while conducting a long, thorough coaching search in the hopes of finding a long-term solution to the school’s current problem.

Each time we’ve touted the “take your time” approach, we’ve received a number of emails from Hog fans who believe that going the interim route will destroy/crush/annihilate/end Razorback recruiting.  “The school will lose out on the 2013 class and it won’t be making valuable connections to this year’s high school juniors and sophomores, either,” they claim.

And to their point we say… so?

Petrino provides two examples of why fans should be more worried about the man at the head of the program than the kids who may or may not ink with, arrive at, develop for, and stick with said program.

First, Petrino proved that Xs and Os can mean more than Jimmys and Joes.  Under their ex, the Hogs finished in the bottom half of the SEC just about every year in terms of signing day rankings.  Good coaches know how to win and they know how to recruit to fit their needs.

Second, Petrino also proved that making a hasty hire can eventually blow up in a school’s face.  Arkansas and Long — the same guy who’s getting praise for ousting Petrino now — are the same ones who snuck into Atlanta and absconded with the Falcons’ head coach in the middle of the NFL season.  Despite many warnings about his character, Long and his school and its fans went all-in with Petrino.  And then they found out the hard way why people were sending out warnings.

Arkansas fans need to pay attention to their recent history and understand that finding the right coach is much, much more important than landing a good recruiting class or two.

Question: Would UA be better served by grabbing Garrick McGee to come in right now, save the season, and recruit… or by waiting til year’s end and hiring Nick Saban?  Or Les Miles?  Or Bob Stoops?

No, we don’t believe Arkansas will land any of those guys, but the point should be clear — hire the right coach and the recruits will come.  Might the Hogs take a short step backwards by waiting and making a patient decision?  Possibly.  But the long-term gain of finding the right coach to recruit and win and do it the right way for the long haul should far exceed any short-term pain Hog fans would have to endure.

Long has already proven that when he sets his mind and his boosters’ money to landing the coach he wants, he gets him.  There’s no reason to believe that UA — at year’s end — can’t identify and land a man with a proven track record (a positive one, this time).  Do that, and the Hogs will recover and succeed long-term.

But rush things in order to save a recruiting class?  Well, good luck.

In January of 2010, Lane Kiffin hit the eject button and left Tennessee for Southern Cal less than three weeks before signing day.  Panic set-in in Knoxville.  Then-Vol AD Mike Hamilton announced he would have a new coach by the week’s end, placing a wholly unnecessary deadline on himself and the search process.

The Vols had planes criss-crossing the country in search of someone who could save their recruiting class.  The AD was interviewing a candidate in one place.  Another member of the UT brass was interviewing a different candidate in another spot.  All while a key booster was meeting with yet another candidate somewhere else.

Tennessee’s search looked like a jumbled, panicky mess.  No wonder coach after coach turned the Vols down.  Why would Will Muschamp, Kyle Whittingham, or Troy Calhoun have wanted to jump into a rushed, shotgun wedding?

As a result, the Vols wound up hiring a coach with an overall losing record who’d just finished a 4-8 campaign at Louisiana Tech.  And while the jury’s still out on Derek Dooley, the evidence so far seems to be piling up against him.

Oh, but Tennessee saved its recruiting class.

Arkansas fans should pay attention to their own recent history as well as that of their neighbor to the east.

Finding the right coach is more important than saving a recruiting class.  Much, much more important.



With all due respect to Arky fans, they arent going to nab a rock star in December, McGee hasnt shown any interest (yet), and I personally believe a UA job is out of Gus's comfort zone for now. I think he's be at State for several years. Bottom line is that the Arkansas job is just not that attractive. Aside from money and facilities, the difficulty of recruiting there is clearly demonstrated by Petrino's classes that averaged #30 (Rivals) in the last 4 years, and were #10 in the SEC for 2012 not including Mizzou and A&M. Petrino did a great job at talent eval, but still its an uphill battle demonstrated by losses to Bama and LSU last season yielding 80 points in the process. Its a tough job, and now its plagued by scandal the mommas and daddys arent going to forget anytime soon. The rock star aint happening.


On the subject of Tennessee, Dooley did an amazing job of salvaging that first class in only 2 weeks. He has 3 solid classes under him now, but most all Fulmer and Kiffin's guys are gone. The Vols are still young but finally have some depth to compete even though there will only be 3 seniors on the field this fall. Even with all the staff turnover Dooley has proven again he's a magician when it comes to off-field diversity, the staff has undergone a major upgrade, during the worst of times. This will be the year to find out if Dooley gets to lose his training wheels and should win 9 games or he should be shown the door. Recruiting does matter in the SEC.


Hi John, thanks for the response. BPs actions are a surprise to me.  I might expect him to do something that would be for his personal gain, but what he did cost him his job and 18M over the next 7 years.  This isn't something I expected from Bobby Patrino.  It doesn't fit his known character flaw. 


I've been reading a lot of sports articles and listening to national sports show, and there is a recurring theme that Arkansas should not be surprise, and that we basically got what we deserved. The situation that happened here was not something that Hog fans should have been expecting. All the warnings we were given had to do with BP running out on us like he did Louisville and Atlanta. He wasn't dismissed from these organizations for violating policy, he left them for what he thought was greener pastures. Loyalty to a program was the issue with him.


What happened here had nothing to do with him interviewing behind our backs or running off to another program. UofA addressed that possible issue by adding an 18M buy-out clause in his contact. BP wasn't going anywhere soon, and I believe he was generally happy at the UofA. If he hadn't violated hiring policies, and lied to his superiors, he'd still be our coach today.


John, I agree with your opinion that the UofA should not rush this process. From what I've read the team wants to work with the staff that remains, and that continuity is very important for a successfully 2012 season. Arkansas has the upgrade facilities, rabid fan base, and salary that will draw a good candidate to replace BP. We just need to show patience and let the process run its course. The 2013 recruiting season is going to be below our expectations regardless of having a new HC or an interim HC.



Good word, John.  Thanks for sharing your take on this.


Well said, John.  Initially I was all in for McGee to come back so that the program wouldn't "skip a beat."  Now that emotions have died down, I definitely see the benefit in waiting until December.  Maybe by then Malzahn or McGee have proved themselves, but we're also more likely to woo a higher caliber coach with years of proven success.  As always, thanks for being the voice of reason!


If I remember correctly, all the warnings were about him being a job hopper and not being able to stay put in one place too long.  I'm not sure anyone could have predicted what has happened to the Univ of AR.  I think most people thought we would get burned by Petrino for leaving for another/better job.  All that being said, I do feel we are in much better shape than were were 4-5 years ago.  We have to build upon what we have going and I have no doubt in my mind that Jeff Long will make a great hire. 


Arkansas has a good redshirt program going so one year of mediocre recruiting won't really hurt.


The Razorbacks also have a fine staff currently, both coaching wise and recruiting wise, so we also have the  luxury of looking into the NFL ranks for and ex-head coach or a coordinator with head coaching experience.



John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator



Loyalty to a program was an issue.  But so was the character of a man who would go behind his boss' back at Louisville, try to stab the back of his previous boss at Auburn, and then stab the back of his boss with the Falcons.


A sex scandal could not have been predicted.  Character issues were.


Thanks for reading,



 @Hogitall Exactly. We didn't hire a guy who's been through messy divorces, affairs, text scandals, or cheating the NCAA.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator



The warnings were regarding Petrino's character.  His plane-gate meeting behind his Louisville boss' back in an attempt to land the Auburn job -- in a backstab of his old Auburn boss -- gave him a pretty big black eye.  Then we left the Falcons everyone warned that a) he's not an honest guy and b) he'd leave UA.


Arkansas chose to ignore the character concerns and some fans even sent so far as to say Arthur Blank and the Falcons had done PETRINO wrong.


Character was the issue with Petrino.  And it turned out to be a bigger issue than expected the way all's played out.


Thanks for reading,john 


 @John at MrSEC You are correct with those character issues.  I just remember it being more of the "he won't stay in once place long, always looking for the next big thing".  I am not sure why the Falcons ordeal was as big as everyone made it out to be.  Yes, he left during the season.  I think he knew the NFL wasn't for him, especially not being able to have Vick playing.  If he wanted the AR job, he knew he had to leave then to be able to finish up with recruiting before it ended in February.  You say that AR and Long snuck into Atlanta.  Maybe it was Petrino's agent who contacted Long first.  I don't know what actually happened.  Do you know for a fact everything that transpired?  And the way he left, maybe he was told by Blank to leave immediately and he didn't have time to tell the players in person.  I know if you work at a bank and you leave to go to a competing bank, you are usually told to leave right then.  Get your stuff together and leave.  They don't want you haning around.  There are different circumstances for different situations. 

As far as Long hiring him with the potential character issues, he basically took a chance and got burned.  It's kind of like the recruiting game.  Some coaches take risks on players even though there are red flags/character issues about them.  Sometimes they get burned, sometimes it works out. 

Thanks for listening.  I enjoy reading your sight and keep up the great work.


  1. [...] rapid-fire solution.  Readers of this site know that this writer is of the opinion that Arkansas should tab an interim coach for 2012 and spend the next eight months looking for the absolute perfect fit for it’s head coaching [...]

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