Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long is looking for a new head coach after he terminated Bobby Petrino on Tuesday for having an “inappropriate relationship” with an athletic department employee.
Louisville's Charlie Strong is an Arkansas native and has been a defensive coordinator at two SEC schools.
Long says he’ll begin the search immediately – as soon as the press conference ended, in fact.
Assistant head coach Taver Johnson, who’s been at Arkansas less than three months, will serve as acting coach through spring practice, which ends April 21.
Long said he hasn’t determined if he’ll have a new head coach in place in time for the 2012 season, meaning Johnson, defensive coordinator Paul Haynes or perhaps even offensive coordinator Paul Petrino – Bobby’s younger brother – could serve as the Razorbacks’ interim head coach for the coming season.
In the meantime, we’ve compiled a hot board of coaching candidates. The list is completely unofficial and just our best guess at who Long might take a look at.
Tommy Bowden, former Clemson coach
THE SKINNY: Bowden’s name was linked to the Arkansas job quite a bit before Petrino was hired. He’s looking for a job, too, and took Clemson to eight bowl games in 10 seasons.
Butch Davis, adviser, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
THE SKINNY: Played defensive end at Arkansas, and his father lives in Springdale. Davis is close friends with UA trustee John Tyson. He was fired as head coach at North Carolina in 2011 while the NCAA was investigating academic misconduct and allegations of players receiving benefits from agents. But his resume is very strong. He’s also been head coach of the Miami Hurricanes and the Cleveland Browns and worked under former Hog Jimmy Johnson in Miami and with the Dallas Cowboys.
James Franklin, Vanderbilt
THE SKINNY: Franklin has found unexpected success – but at the SEC level.
Hugh Freeze, head coach, Ole Miss
THE SKINNY: Freeze turned around perennial doormat Arkansas State, and his charisma would no doubt be welcomed by fans and media alike. The problem, though, is he just started a new job.
Skip Holtz, head coach, South Florida
THE SKINNY: Holtz graduated from Fayetteville High, where he played quarterback, while his father, Lou Holtz, was head coach of the Razorbacks. He had two nine-win seasons at East Carolina and was 8-5 in his first season at South Florida. But that 5-7 mark last season might not make him a hot coaching prospect.
Gus Malzahn, head coach, Arkansas State
THE SKINNY: Arkansas native coached and played at the UA. His relationship with Houston Nutt left a bad taste in some fans’ mouths, but he definitely has loyal fans in Northwest Arkansas. Like Freeze, though, he just started a new gig.
Garrick McGee, head coach, Alabama-Birmingham
THE SKINNY: Petrino’s right-hand man until he took the job at UAB prior to last season’s Cotton Bowl, McGee was a popular figure during four seasons as a Razorback assistant.
Paul Rhoads, head coach, Iowa State
THE SKINNY: The Cyclones won a combined five games before Rhoades, a former Auburn defensive coordinator, came to town. In his three years as head coach, they’ve averaged six wins a season. And keep in mind, he was Pittsburgh’s defensive coordinator at the same time that Jeff Long, Arkansas’ current athletic director, served as the Panthers’ AD.
Kirby Smart, defensive coordinator, Alabama
THE SKINNY: One of the hottest coordinators in the country, and a Nick Saban disciple, which carries a ton of weight. He also worked under Bobby Bowden as a graduate assistant. Three years ago, Smart won the Broyles Award, which is given to the nation’s top assistant football coach.
Charlie Strong, head coach, Louisville
THE SKINNY: Strong is a Batesville native and played at Central Arkansas. He’s also been an SEC defensive coordinator, working at Florida and South Carolina, where in 1999 he became the conference’s first black coordinator. He’s had back-to-back 7-6 seasons in his two years at Louisville.
Tommy Tuberville, head coach, Texas Tech
THE SKINNY: A Camden native, Tuberville’s name almost always seems to come up when Arkansas has an opening. Though his star has dimmed some since his days at Ole Miss and Auburn, he may still have a shot at this job.