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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.

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