Head Coach Sam Pittman came into a bleak, bothered Arkansas Football locker room following Chad Morris’s (2-10, 0-8 SEC) 2019 firing year and (4-18, 0-14 SEC) overall tenure record. Follow that fun up with a little thing called COVID-19 in his 2020 premier and the PittBoss has gotten Arkansas through a lot of mess. A lot. That being said, the 2021 run appears to be the ceiling here for Arkansas and it’s time to aim for a higher consistent ceiling and the next step as a program.
Your fan base is over it. Firing Offensive Coordinator Dan Enos was a smart scapegoat by Pittman to buy himself some time and grace in Fayetteville. The Hogs had the 84th-best offense in the country with an average of 26.5 points per game with Enos. Over their six-game losing streak, that production went downward for an average of 21.3 points. It’s hard to imagine a better quarterback than K.J. Jefferson walking through the door soon on top of that. As Pittman said, “We’ve lost our spirit and there’s a lot to be said about that.” A nice $2.8 Million buyout will buy many things and a lot of spirit for Enos, and there’s a lot to be said about that.
This department isn’t lacking in funds. Pitt has $20M coming his way for the next four years on a base salary contract. Sure, there are some bonuses sprinkled in there roughly around $2 Million, but look at base salary for perspective. On3 very well explained this buyout situation, “Pittman is due just 75% of that total if he’s fired and the team’s record since the start of the 2021 season is at or above .500. Right now, following the loss to Mississippi State, he’s 18-16. On the other hand, if Arkansas were to lose the next three games and he drops to sub-.500 since 2021, the buyout would then drop to just 50% of the total he’s owed.” For that much money, the Razorbacks are better, in the long run, to just ride this season out and see where they stand.
How bleak does it get in 2023? There are four remaining regular season games for the Razorbacks:
@ Florida in 2 weeks
I see a ceiling of 4-8 and a floor of 3-9. There’s no world where a bowl game is happening. It’s very likely Arkansas does not win a single conference game this year, for the first time since Chad Morris’s firing year.
Here’s Pitt’s 4 years:
2-6, 0-5 in 2023 thus far
7-6, 3-5 in 2022
9-4, 4-4 in 2021
3-7 in 2020 (SEC-only)
Do you notice a trend? A 10-20 conference record is cold. I mentioned earlier, "The 2021 run appears to be the ceiling here for Arkansas and it’s time to aim for a higher consistent ceiling." Arkansas is (9-12, 3-10 SEC) since. So who are a few names that could be another direction? Here are two to start the conversation with:
Coaches Who Could Takeover
Gus Malzahn, Head Coach at UCF
We’ve heard Gus tied to this job a million times. Can Joanie finally love Chachi? Gus was born in Texas, he played at Arkansas, he’s coached at Arkansas as a coordinator, and he got his coaching career started in Arkansas high school football for over a decade. Talk about someone who could come hit the recruiting trail running in your backyard and have familiarity all over the southeast. Gus has been an SEC Coach of the Year and knows what it takes to win in the SEC West. Hell, there’s no one out there who has had more success slaying the dragon that is Nick Saban more than Gus. A 98-51 collegiate record to tote on the belt as well would have Gus as prepared as any incoming Razorbacks coach you’ve seen. Gus should’ve never been fired from Auburn, but that’s another conversation….. Malzahn is making $2.3 Million this year versus the $5 Million+ going to Pittman. He has a sweet setup at UCF. Make him say no to a big bag of money.
Jeff Traylor, Head Coach at UTSA
A 34-13 record at UTSA is all you need to know that Traylor will get a program running. Texas, Texas, Texas. There will be no shortage of recruiting Texas with Traylor at the helm. Born and raised in Texas and a 25-year high school coach before his transition to college football, Traylor having connections is an understatement. It helps to explain his immediate success in Conference USA and it’d likewise be his key to success in returning to Arkansas, where he served as assistant head coach and running backs coach before taking the UTSA role. Traylor makes $2.5 Million a year in his current position. Make a man say no to doubling his salary.
Sam Pittman is a great football coach and has done a ton of lasting good for the University of Arkansas. The next step has been taken as a program going from Chad Morris to Coach Pittman. Hell, fans in Athens still talk about Pitt like they’d build a statue for him and you’ll never find a coach who could go sign offensive line talent like Pitt. That’ll never be taken away, even if it is time for new in 2024.
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