This coaching search is amazing. After Petrino was fired in April, visions of every top coach in the country danced in Razorback fans' heads. Jon Gruden! Pete Carroll! Sean Payton! Bill Cowher! Nobody was too far out of reach. Then Jeff Long announced the hiring of L and Razorback fans farted in Long's general direction.
The coaching front was pretty quiet over the summer but has been full blast since the Louisiana Monroe game in September. As the football team's biggest question became "In which circle of hell are we?" many of the lower-tier coaches developed a following. It was kind of like Razorback fans became indy music fans and wanted to share the discovery of some cool new coach. Sonny Dykes. Willie Taggert. Mark Hudspeth. Paul Rhoades. Butch Jones. All of them had followers in Arkansas.
But now as the search is finally winding down, we've gone back to silly season. Gruden is back at the top of every message board. Have you heard "Hey Grude"? John Daly is talking about him on the radio. [UPDATE: Jim Harris reported today that Gruden has been offered the Arkansas job. Stay tuned for more updates.] And we've got Mike Gundy on the radar now as well. A lot of people seem to believe an issue with his AD or an issue with T. Boone Pickens will be enough for him to leave his alma mater for Arkansas. Last week, Gary Patterson was the hot name. A few media people even tweeted that Patterson was highly likely to be the guy. A couple of people have publicly stated that the search is actually done (but don't state who the coach is), and just waiting to make it official. And that doesn't begin to discuss the Bo Pelini rumor. This is going to be BANANAS!
Now that Tennessee has officially fired Derek Dooley, it is fun to see Vols fans going through the exact same things Arkansas fans have been going through for months. They think the exact same things we do.
Remember, this isn't just a list of everybody who might be a good fit for Arkansas, it's more a list of people who are mentioned either by folks in the media or frequently seen names on the message boards. There are several other coaches not seen here who may be getting looked at but we haven't heard much about them.
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.
CANDIDATES FROM WITHIN THE CURRENT STAFF
L.: See ya. Gut Feeling: 0% Just collecting some much-needed paychecks over the next few weeks.
Paul Petrino: Later. Gut Feeling: 0% It's been real.
OTHER COLLEGIATE HEAD COACHES
Gary Patterson, TCU: Coming off bye week. Gut: 25% The smoke seems to have thinned a little this week. I don't know what to think about this. On the one hand, he'd stay because he's been there forever, they love him from what we know, he built TCU to the point they just entered the Big 12, and he's turned down several other jobs over the years. On the other hand, he might leave because he's been there forever, dealt with some significant discipline problems this year, and may just want a fresh start.
Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State: Blew out Texas Tech. 7-3 on the year. Gut: 5% To me, the Gundy story has always screamed "raise and extension". It's hard to see why he'd leave his alma mater when he 's brought the program as far as he has. What kind of difficulties is he having with his AD/T Boone that can't be worked out? They're only a year removed from their first BCS appearance. I'd have to know more about those issues, if they're there, before I seriously looked at him.
Charlie Strong, Louisville: Coming off bye week. Gut: 10%. Now that realignment is back on the table, it'll be interesting to see what happens with Louisville. If the Cardinals go to a BCS conference, it will be harder for Strong to leave for anywhere than if they stay in the Big East.
James Franklin, Vanderbilt: Ended the Derek Dooley era at Tennessee. 7-4 on the year. Gut: 20%. They're already bowl eligible again, a feat that should have Franklin back in the conversation. Franklin fell off the radar when the Commodores got off to a slow start, but he's showing why he was such a hot name in the summer.
Jim Mora, Jr. UCLA: Defeated USC. 9-2 on the year. Gut: 10% It'd be kind of weird to replace Bobby Petrino with the guy Petrino replaced in Atlanta. He's a West Coast guy, but he's been very successful this year.
Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia: Lost to Oklahoma despite scoring 49 points. Gut: 1% Like Art Briles at Baylor. I really hope that whoever Jeff Long picks, if they are able to score 49 points in regulation, they will win. You should not score 49 points and lose.
Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech: Lost to Oklahoma State 59-21. Gut: 1% If West Virginia wasn't #5 when the Raiders beat them, Tubbs never would have been brought into the discussion. Since beating TCU in OT, Tech lost their next two games, needed overtime to beat a horrible Kansas team, and were blown out by Oklahoma State. They're not as good as we thought they were. And even though Tuberville's "slap" was grossly over-exaggerated, it's definitely not the type of symbol Jeff Long will find attractive.
Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech: Lost to Utah State. 9-2 on the year. Gut: 10% This loss can't have helped him. Lose to A&M? Okay. Lost to Utah State? Ummm.
Bo Pelini, Nebraska: Defeated Minnesota. 9-2. Gut: 1% Where the hell did this come from?
Willie Taggart, Western Kentucky: Lost to Lousiana-Lafayette. 6-5 for the year. Gut: 0% Joining the 0% club. Can't have a losing Sun Belt record and hope to land a good SEC job. Even if he did beat Kentucky.
Steve Sarkisian, Washington: Defeated Colorado. 7-4 on the season. Gut: 4% Has the Huskies rolling. Best season under Sark.
Gus Malzahn, Arkansas State: Defeated Troy. 8-3 on the season. Now in 1st place in the Sun Belt. Gut: 7% 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.
Dave Doeren, Northern Illinois: Defeated Toledo. 10-1 for the year. Gut: 5% Would easily be ranked if not for a 1 point loss to Iowa in the first week. They're 12th in the nation in points scored and 20th in points allowed. Not bad.
Art Briles, Baylor: Beat Kansas State. 5-5 on the season. Gut: 5% Kudos for knocking off the #1 team in the country. Still scared of him though.
Paul Rhoads, Iowa State: Defeated Kansas. 6-5 for the season. Gut 5% I get that he's made Iowa State much better than they were when he took over, but he hasn't impressed me enough to think he should be near the top of Arkansas' list.
Garrick McGee, UAB: Lost to Memphis 46-9. Ouch. 3-8 on the year. Gut: 0% I think Jeff Long's going to do one of those "let's forget the Petrino era existed" things some administrations do when there is unpleasant transition. Timing has worked out just horribly for McGee. Maybe in the future.
Mark Hudspeth, Lousiana-Lafayette: Defeated Western Kentucky. 6-5 on the year. Gut: 1% Not the right year. He's a good coach though.
Butch Jones, Cincinnati: Lost to Rutgers, 7-3 on the year. Gut: 1% Arkansas needs a coach who doesn't lose to Rutgers.
Mario Cristobal, Florida International: Defeated Florida Atlantic. 3-8 on the year. Gut: 0% Nope. Already removed him from reasonable consideration.
Dabo Swinney, Clemson: Defeated North Carolina State. 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 Petersen, Boise State: Defeated Colorado State. Gut: 0.1% Maybe the Boise fans will get bored after Petersen spoiled them the last few years? Maybe? Wishful thinking?
Jon Gruden, ABC: Making a ton of money talking about a game on TV. Gut: 50% Jim Harris is reporting that he's been offered the job, so it's wait-and-see at this point, apparently.
Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks: Bye week. Gut: 0.1%: Fighting for a playoff spot. If they make it, doubt Carroll leaves for anywhere.
Kirby Smart, Defensive Coordinator, Alabama: Defeated Western Carolina. Gut: 15% Just depends on if Long goes the coordinator route. Probably a better fit at Tennessee now that Dave Hart left Alabama to become the AD in Knoxville.
Manny Diaz, Defensive Coordinator, Texas: Bye week. Gut: 0% He won't be coming. Gave up way too many points this year. May not even keep his current job.
Butch Davis, Consultant, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Former head coach at, among others, North Carolina and Miami: Haven't heard his name much in discussions lately. Gut: 5% It seems like if he was Long's top choice, why don't you go ahead and hire him before the end of the season? May be down the list a bit, if he's even there.
Jim Leavitt, Linebackers Coach, San Francisco 49ers: Play Chicago Monday night. Gut: 0.1% 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 ArkansasExpats.com and is a columnist on CollegeFootballNews.com. You can email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @doc_harper.