The Bobby Petrino incident has left the Arkansas faithful wondering if their beloved Razorbacks are headed back down the hatch, following two very successful seasons.
Expectations began to loom in 2011 that Arkansas was a worthy contender for a national championship, until they rolled into Tuscaloosa and got drummed, 38-14.
With the SEC beginning, or continuing rather, to take control of college football, anything short of an undefeated season highly dims the hopes of playing in the BCS title game.
Now that Bobby Petrino has been released, Arkansas AD Jeff Long has a mountain to climb very quickly.
Fortunately, the majority of incoming recruits are too near spring and summer practice to jump ship, a very blessed dealing of hands to Arkansas.
With workouts and training sessions continuing, Long must find a worthy replacement while not prolonging the hunt.
The undeniably critical part of the process is assuring the fanbase and current roster with a hire that doesn’t look rushed. In order to achieve this, the athletic department must narrow its search quickly.
There are four names that have surfaced thus far, including Butch Davis, Garrick McGee, Skip Holtz and Gus Malzahn.
Butch Davis—You can’t fire one coach for misconduct and bring in another who got fired for the same reason. Davis was released from the Tar Heels following the 2010-11 season after rumors were confirmed of numerous recruiting violations. Bad hire.
Garrick McGee—While McGee has strong credentials, he's only 39 years old and lacks the management experience to run an SEC program. It's not a bad move to hire him, but it wouldn’t be the sharpest either. Buyer Beware hire.
Skip Holtz—Just named the USF head coach in January of 2010, Holtz is wrangling a program with the sky as the limit. USF has shown very strong improvement in the college football scene and continues to grow. Holtz is more than likely staying in Tampa. Unrealistic hire.
Gus Malzahn—By and far he is the most logical choice to take over a program that will most likely be a strong contender to make a run at the BCS title. This would be a great hire.
Gus Malzahn was hired by Arkansas State five months ago. Arkansas State, as well as everyone in the SEC, should know that Malzahn is likely using the program as a stepping stone to get into Arkansas.
Malzahn was born and raised in Arkansas. He was a walk-on receiver for the Razorbacks during his freshman season, before he transferred and finished his career at Henderson State University.
Following a fairly successful collegiate campaign, Malzahn began coaching high school football. Malzahn racked up two state titles at perennial powerhouse Springdale High before heading back to Fayetteville and becoming an OC and WR coach.
This isn’t where Malzahn made his name, though.
A little gem by the name of Cam Newton began garnering Malzahn’s attention at Blinn College in Texas.
Malzahn displayed amazing “recruiting” ability by landing the soon-to-be controversial quarterback on the Auburn roster going into the 2010-11 season.
Newton sprout on to the scene like wildfire. The Newton-led Auburn Tigers led the nation in scoring offense, total offense, rushing offense, pass efficiency, first downs and first-down conversions.
Newton left for the draft after placing the Heisman in his trophy case, and Auburn struggled during their 2011-12 showing.
Abruptly, Malzahn left the program for Arkansas State. Arkansas State? Sun Belt Conference?
Well slow down, Arkansas State was 10-3 last season, and maybe that justifies the decision. Hell no, it doesn’t.
Malzahn left to get back home—home being Fayetteville.
Malzahn has the experience, offensive acumen and drive to keep Arkansas on pace with their lofty expectations.
If anyone can jump right in and man the oar, it’s Malzahn.
Jeff Long, get yourself a nice Christmas bonus and give Gus a call.