Bobby Petrino Scandal: 5 Coaches to Replace Petrino as the Razorback Head Coach
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Who will replace him?
For Razorback fans, this is the million-dollar question. Even in the immediate aftermath, plenty of opinions have already been offered.
For starters, let's dispel a few names that the national pundits keep throwing around.
1. Houston Nutt: I'm not even going to waste your time or mine discussing this ludicrous option.
2. Butch Davis: Yes, he has Razorback connections. But, do you really think—in response to the biggest scandal in the history of Arkansas athletics—that they would hire a guy who just got fired for an enormous academic-cheating scandal? Me neither.
Who are the five most logical names (many of which you won't hear in the national media) that can stabilize the Razorbacks football team in the immediate future?
5. June Jones
June Jones' success as an offensive innovator in the NFL (as both an offensive coordinator and head coach with the Atlanta Falcons) and in college (as the head coach at Hawaii and now SMU) will endear himself to Razorback fans who are looking for a coach to provide offensive continuity.
Another enticing aspect to hiring Jones is his established presence in one of the Razorbacks' most prized recruiting grounds, the Dallas-Fort Worth area. His recruiting success has been an integral component to the success the Mustangs have achieved, posting three straight seasons of at least seven wins. In addition, while the head coach at Hawaii, he led the Warriors to their first BCS bowl game in 2007.
Jones certainly has his detractors, but his offensive expertise, success at the college level and recruiting roots in the Dallas-Fort Worth area will make him an intriguing wild card in the search process.
4. Garrick McGee
Many in the Razorback nation will be clamoring for newly minted Arkansas State head coach Gus Malzahn to return to Fayetteville as the head coach of the Razorbacks.
This choice, however, is not the most logical in terms of former Razorback offensive coordinators. If a recent Razorback assistant were to be hired, it should be one that left on good terms, would provide a seamless transition from one staff to the next and has a good relationship with the players.
The answer to these questions is not Malzahn, but the recently departed Garrick McGee.
Although McGee has not even coached his first game as the head coach of the University of Alabama-Birmingham, this option makes more sense than initially meets the eye.
McGee was an integral part of current Razorback Tyler Wilson's development as a quarterback and obviously has great familiarity with the entire team.
In addition, there is a precedent for a coach leaving after one year to accept his dream job (see: Lane Kiffin's fleeing from Tennessee to USC). This would more than likely be McGee's dream job, given his connections to the school.
If a former Razorback coach were to step in for Petrino, look for McGee to be the most logical choice.
3. Gary Patterson
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Here is a name no one is talking about, but makes a lot of sense for a multitude of reasons.
Yes, Patterson is facing trouble at TCU as a result of several Horned Frog players breaking the code of conduct. But as of this writing, Patterson has not been implicated in any wrongdoing.
As for the upside, Patterson is a highly sought-after coach who has groomed TCU into a national power during his tenure in Fort Worth. As the TCU head coach, Patterson led the Horned Frogs to victory in the 2011 Rose Bowl and accumulated six 10-win seasons in a seven-season span from 2005-2011. His ability to reload, not rebuild, is an important reason why TCU rose from obscurity in the Mountain West in the early 2000s to a program in a position of strength heading to the Big 12 next season.
In addition, much like June Jones, Patterson is a master recruiter in the State of Texas who has done the seemingly impossible by beating out the University of Texas and Texas A&M for in-state recruits.
The combination of his stellar resume and recruiting presence in Texas will make Patterson a highly enticing option for Razorback fans looking for a great coach to replace Petrino.
2. Skip Holtz
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An intriguing candidate who has an Arkansas background (he graduated from high school in Fayetteville when his dad, Lou Holtz, was the head coach at Arkansas from 1977-1983) is current South Florida head coach Skip Holtz.
Although the Bulls had a down year in 2011, Holtz's track record as a great head coach is undeniable. He led the East Carolina Pirates to four straight winning seasons (and placements in bowl games) from 2006-2009. In addition, he posted an 8-5 record and a bowl-game victory in his first season at South Florida in 2010.
One attractive aspect of hiring Holtz is his great recruiting success in the State of Florida, the Razorbacks' second most important recruiting ground behind Texas.
His familiarity with Fayetteville, proven track record as a head coach and recruiting acumen in Florida all make Skip Holtz an alluring candidate to maintain success at Arkansas.
1. Kirby Smart
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Razorback fans, if you're looking for a great coach who's had success in the SEC and would logically leave for Arkansas, your best option might not currently be a head coach.
It's Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.
Why would Smart be the most logical choice over proven head coaches like Skip Holtz and Gary Patterson?
First, Holtz is not likely to leave South Florida after just two seasons, no matter how great the Arkansas job is.
As for Patterson, Jeff Long and the Arkansas athletic department may be hesitant to pursue a coach who is embroiled in some controversy at his current school.
This leaves Smart, who is widely regarded as one of the top defensive minds in college football. For validation of this claim, one needs to look no further than Alabama's recent domination of LSU in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game.
In addition, as a defensive coordinator, Smart will look at the Arkansas job as an enviable pursuit. He would stay in the SEC West (a conference and division he knows well) and be able to continue recruiting in areas he is comfortable with.
All in all, this is a sad day for Razorback fans. Whoever replaces Bobby Petrino will be hard-pressed to speedily replicate his achievements. But, if one of these five candidates is chosen, Razorback fans can feel comfortable that the program is in good hands.