Arkansas has been blessed these last few years. This is the first coaching search we’ve experienced in the full-on Age of Social Media, when everyone is on Twitter and every tweeter has a source.
This is especially bad if you’re an Arkansas fan, because our fanbase has the overall temperament of a frightened cat coming off a three-day meth binge trapped inside a haunted house.
Every sound from the Internet’s echo chambers elicits a wide-eyed, arch-backed response. Every tweet must be investigated. Every appearance by Joe Schad must be recorded and decoded. Every message board thread must be sought out (You know it’s time to reassess your choices when you find yourself digging through your favorite site’s trash/rumors file. It’s OK. We’ve all been there.).
And yet somehow we all miss the truth that this cacophony confirms.
NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING.
It is essential that we all understand this if we’re going to survive the next 5-10 days (yep, 5-10).
You know those questions you want to post to the message board or call into radio shows with? Save your time. We’ve got the answer right here—to all of them.
Nobody knows anything.
That’s a quote/concept originally attributed to legendary screenwriter William Goldman. He meant it in reference to the mystery of what makes a movie successful, but it couldn’t fit more perfectly for this coaching search, or for just about any other that’s run well.
The divisive nature of our athletic director multiplies every day, with every rumor. It seems about a third of fans want him fired, a third have absolute faith that he’ll land a home run, and the rest of us fall somewhere in between — starting to worry, but reserving judgment until, you know, the job is actually done.
But here’s one thing we can all agree on regarding Jeff Long: The man can keep a secret. Elections have been rigged and assassinations have been plotted with less secrecy than Long has maintained during this search.
That’s also important to understand and remember. With it in mind, here are a few more tips for surviving the coming days.
No. 1 You don’t have sources
Neither does anybody you know. That guy on Drive-Time? He doesn’t either. Random poster on Hogville? Nope.
In a state the size of Arkansas, it’s not difficult to find one’s self one or two degrees of separation removed from university big wigs and the titans of industry at Tyson, et. al. But they don’t know anything either. Even if they do, they’re not telling. So please, be patient.
No. 2 Bobby isn’t coming back
Collectively, we really, really need to get over this one. It’s not going to happen. Arguing about whether or not he should have been fired in the first place (of course he should have), is at this point akin to talking politics and religion — no one’s opinion on the matter is going to be swayed, so let’s all stop trying. It’s over. Move on.
No. 3 Jeff Long is not about to be fired
Nor should he be. Despite the fact that he hired John L. Smith, he is not an idiot. In fact, assuming most of us are at-or-around average intelligence, he’s probably a good deal smarter than we are. That’s why he’s the athletic director at the University of Arkansas and we’re the fans. You don’t achieve his level of success by failing more than you succeed, so have a little faith.
On a related note:
No. 4 You have no idea what you’re talking about
Neither do I.
Stop. Read that again. Come to grips with its reality and its implications.
None of us have ever conducted a coaching search. Most of us have never hired anyone higher than an entry-level employee. We have little-to-no idea what hiring the face of a major athletic program entails. The most informed among us, at best, have second-hand knowledge (before ArkansasSports360 was shut down, Expats' newest contributor wrote the best piece I've seen for insight into the process).
That doesn’t mean Long shouldn’t be judged based on this hire. He should be. The 2008 process was anything but smooth (but the end result was pretty stellar), and the hiring of John L. was an unmitigated disaster (though I’m not sure what options would’ve appeared better in April). A bad hire this go-around would put Long on thin ice.
Which brings us to…
No. 5 Not every good coach will be a press conference home run
Will Muschamp had never been a head coach when he was hired at Florida. Two years later, he has the Gators sitting at No. 4 in the country, poised for a BCS bowl appearance.
Mark Richt had never been a head coach when he was hired at Georgia. Twelve years later, he’s won two SEC championships and is about to lead the Bulldogs into their sixth conference title game under his watch.
Nick Saban was 0-3 in bowl games and in five seasons at Michigan State had only once finished higher than fifth place in the Big Ten.
THE BIG TEN. NICK F’N SABAN, PEOPLE.
The point is, even if we’re underwhelmed by the hire, let’s all just try to reserve our judgment (at least a little) until we’ve actually watched the new guy on the Razorbacks’ sideline.
Until then, let’s all try to come down off the ledge a bit, get off the message boards and get back to work.
In the meantime, if anybody needs me ,I’ll be biting my nails and cowering in a corner, self-loathing somewhere in File 13.
Brent Holloway is a sports journalist from Smackover, Arkansas, currently marooned in Georgia. He hates coaching searches, is ashamed to admit he’s holding out hope for Chris Petersen, and doesn’t think Gus Malzahn would be a terrible hire. Freak out with him on Twitter @thebholloway.