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Arkansas' Next Head Coach Tracker - 10.8.2012

Sorting through the latest news and rumors regarding coaches frequently mentioned as possible candidates for the Arkansas job.

Bob Levey - Getty Images

Every week we've been running the tracker, we've added a few new names to the list. This week we added Sonny Dykes of Louisiana Tech. I feel confident this will be the list we'll use from here on out unless strong rumors surface of a new name. I don't want to add too many NFL names to the list because A) the list would then go on forever, and B) I'm hoping Arkansas doesn't go after an NFL type.

As always, with most coaching searches, we have no idea who's actually on Jeff Long's list and the next coach could very well be someone completely out of left field.


  • L.: Victory! Who knew?. Gut Feeling: 0% Hope he bet a lot of what little money he has left on that Auburn game.
  • Paul Petrino: Went from the sideline to the booth and a whole new world opened up! Gut Feeling: 0% Still not happening.


  • Charlie Strong, Louisville: Bye week. Went on radio and expressed desire to stay at Louisville. Gut: 30%. Obviously, there's not a coach with a job anywhere that will publicly say he wants to leave his current position. But you do have to take his comments into consideration.
  • James Franklin, Vanderbilt: Picked up a road victory at Missouri. Gut: 15%. Commodores have a long way still to go to keep up with preseason hype.
  • Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia: Beat Texas in Austin. Gut: 3% If Arkansas is interested, they'll have to offer a ton of money. Holgorsen is just the 6th-highest paid coach in the Big 12 at about $2.3 million this season. Arkansas could theoretically offer to double that. Holgorsen also could use Arkansas to get a better deal at West Virginia.
  • Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech: Defeated UNLV 58-31. 5-0 on the year. Gut: 8% LaTech is ranked for the first time ever. Have to start taking him seriously as someone who will get looked at by bigger programs after the season is over. Has a chance to make a huge statement if they can knock off A&M in Shreveport on Saturday.
  • Willie Taggart, Western Kentucky: Coming off bye week. 4-1 for the year. Gut: 5% It should be noted that the Sun Belt has an impressive set of upcoming coaches at the moment. SEC school may have to start hiring them or else the Sun Belt may start beating them more regularly. Already happened twice this year.
  • Steve Sarkisian, Washington: Lost to Oregon 52-21. Gut: 2% The Stanford High didn't last long. Still, as good a performance against Oregon as anybody else has had so far.
  • Gus Malzahn, Arkansas State: Defeated Florida International 34-20. Gut: 8% He'll always be mentioned as a candidate for the Razorbacks until he either retires, career goes South, or actually becomes the head coach. He's still a divisive figure in the state and it's hard to see him at the top of Long's list, but he could be on it toward the bottom.
  • Gary Patterson, TCU: Suspended their starting quarterback and lost to Iowa State by two touchdowns. Gut: 1% Among the guys who almost definitely aren't leaving for Arkansas, Patterson's name gets popped up the most. Someone explain why he would leave? If you don't leave a program when they're in the MWC, why would you leave a year into their Big 12 era?
  • Dave Doeren, Northern Illinois: Defeated Ball State 35-23. 5-1 on the year. Gut: 3% Huskies are rolling through the MAC. .
  • Art Briles, Baylor: Coming off bye week. Gut: 5% If you can't win by scoring 63 points, is it really something Arkansas should be interested in? But he still gets mentioned a lot among Arkansas fans.
  • Garrick McGee, UAB: Blew out Southeastern Louisiana. Gut: 4% McGee finally gets his first win with the Blazers. They have played well over the last few weeks.
  • Mark Hudspeth, Lousiana-Lafayette: Blew out Tulane 41-13. 4-1 on the year. Gut: 10% Most fans don't know much about him so here's a summary: In eight seasons as a head coach at North Alabama and ULL, he's had six winning seasons, winning 10+ games five times. Last season, his first at ULL, he took the Ragin' Cajuns to their first bowl game in 41 years and posted a 9-4 overall record. He's from Mississippi, has spent 3 total years on the UCA staff in the 90s, and spent two years on Dan Mullen's staff at Mississippi State between his gigs at North Alabama and ULL. His overall coaching record is 77-26. Honestly, that's a pretty sharp resume. Doubt he'll excite many Razorback fans, but that's a sharp resume.
  • Mario Cristobal, Florida International: Lost to Arkansas State. Gut: 0.1% This name pops up on a lot of other coaching lists, but with a 1-5 start, it's not likely to stay there. And it's not like FIU has been playing great teams either.
  • Dabo Swinney, Clemson: Defeated Georgia Tech. Gut: 0.1% Why? Why would he leave Clemson? Whenever I see this name pop up on the message boards, it just doesn't make any sense to me. They won the ACC last year and has them back around the top 10 again. I have a hard time seeing him leave for Arkansas.
  • Chris Peterson, Boise State: Blew out Southern Miss. Gut: 0.1% If he showed the slightest bit of interest in leaving, I'd bump it the percentage up, but not feeling it.


  • Jon Gruden, ABC: Getting paid a crap-ton of money to watch and talk about an NFL game tonight.Gut: 0.1% This probably had a better chance in April than it does right now. Arkansas was appealing in April. Why he'd turn down his TV gig to rebuild this ship is beyond me.
  • Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks: Defeated Carolina 16-12. Gut: 1%: May be winning enough to keep his job in Seattle.
  • Kirby Smart, Defensive Coordinator, Alabama: Coming off bye week. Gut: 15% He very well could take a head coaching job next year. The question is whether or not Long will go for a coordinator without head coaching experience. One of the problems I think with hiring a coordinator is it seems less likely they'd look at a job like Arkansas as a career job. I'd feel better about Smart if Saban's coaching tree produced a lot of winners, but it hasn't so far.
  • Manny Diaz, Defensive Coordinator, Texas: Lost to West Virginia. Gut: 4% Has given up 84 points over the last two weeks. He just hasn't had the same success at Texas he had at Mississippi State.
  • Butch Davis, Consultant, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Former head coach at, among others, North Carolina and Miami: He was cleared of any wrongdoing in the agents scandal, but what about the academic scandals that are still being investigated? He's not out of the woods yet. Gut: 12%
  • Jim Leavitt, Linebackers Coach, San Francisco 49ers: Defeated Buffalo 45-3. Gut: 1% Was fired from South Florida for striking a player at halftime then lying about it. I'm sure that's exactly what Long is looking for in his next coach. He did basically build the South Florida program, however.
  • Bear Bryant: Former Head Coach: Kentucky, Texas A&M, Alabama: Winning national titles in heaven.Gut: 1% Is an Arkansas native, but reportedly still dead. Not sure Arkansas can afford the buyout.


Doc Harper is the editor of and is a regular contributor You can email him at and follow him on Twitter@doc_harper.