Funny thing is there is a strong consensus that Arkansas wants to leave the SEC because they are tired of getting their ass kicked. They want to join the Big 12 and Jerry Jones wants that. Jerry wants to have a Big 12 Championship game in his stadium again and wants his alma mater to be part of it. What Jerry wants Jerry usually gets.
For the final month of John Pelphey’s tenure in Fayetteville, many Arkansas fans kept their eyes on the Missouri Tigers. Mizzou head coach Mike Anderson is a “40 minutes of Hell,” pressure-defense, Nolan Richardson disciple. Anderson is the man many Hog fans want leading the UA program next season.
Of course, there are many other fans — and quite a few impact boosters — who do not want any part of Anderson. Why? Well, did we mention that he’s a Nolan Richardson disciple? UA and Richardson had a harsh split and despite the fact the ex-coach returned for a game this year, many hard feelings remain. Some fear that bringing in Anderson would re-open the door for Richardson to try to exert some influence over the program.
But Anderson — as we’ve noted more than a few times — might not be a viable option in the first place. The Tigers’ coach has already turned down more lucrative offers (from Georgia and Oregon) in the last couple of years to remain at Missouri. He’s already put his lesser money where his mouth is. And earlier this month he actually called a beatwriter for The Columbia Tribune to say: “I plan on being at Missouri for a long time, retire here.”
If Arkansas chooses to make a run at Mizzou’s coach and can’t convince him to move six hours to the Southwest, where will UA turn? And, no, we still don’t buy the Tubby Smith-to-Arkansas talk (though Kentucky play-by-play man Tom Leach told me during his radio show yesterday that he wouldn’t be surprised to see the ex-Wildcat coach land in the ACC).
From Day One of the search, the names Mark Turgeon (Texas A&M), Buzz Williams (Marquette) and Frank Martin (Kansas State) have been floating around. Harry King of ArkansasNews.com adds the names Greg Marshall (Wichita State) and Mick Cronin (Cincinnati) to the list today.
Former Kentucky coach Billy Gillispee’s name has made its way around the rumor mill a couple of times, but Arkansas AD Jeff Long said this week that the Razorback job “will command a sitting head coach at a high level.” That doesn’t describe Gillispee’s current situation.
So do any of those names — Turgeon, Williams, Martin, Marshall and Cronin — really guarantee success?
On the “big name” front, Tim Floyd (and his NCAA baggage), Bill Self (Kansas) and Jamie Dixon (Pittsburgh) have also popped up in messageboard chatter. Enough so that they’ve made one blog’s “rumor” list.
HawgSports.com — the Rivals site covering Arkansas — tosses out a few more potential candidates: Scott Drew (Baylor), Steve Lavin (St. John’s), Billy Kennedy (Murray State), Shaka Smart (VCU), and Doc Sadler (Nebraska).
Obviously, the fanbase will clamor for Anderson, Self, and/or Dixon. But we’ve discussed Anderson’s apparent desire to stay put (and the political battles his hiring would bring). Self won’t leave Kansas for Arkansas (or any place else) regardless of the Big 12′s shaky future. And Dixon turned down perennial power Arizona last year. Why would he jump at the Razorbacks’ opening now?
If the Hogs don’t land one of those big three, then there will be question marks about UA’s new hire. Arkansas fans tired of Pelphrey will tell you that anyone on the above list would be an improvement, but the truth is, UA canned Pelphrey in the hopes of returning to the glory days. Would guys like Turgeon or Williams or Cronin guarantee such a rebound? The jury’s still out on that one.