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A Look Back: Arkansas Coaching History

Before we look to Arkansas’ future, a look at coaches past.

Missouri v Arkansas Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

I'm not really sure why, but I wanted to just go back and research some of our head coaching history and write it out. For me, it's helpful to think about this stuff waiting on our next head coach.

1908-1912 Hugo Bezek

Main reason to be included, he is associated with our current name. The Razorbacks. Bezdek came from Oregon and returned to Oregon after coaching at Arkansas. He is the first Arkansas head football coach to be elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. His career spanned Oregon, Arkansas, Mare Island (The 1918 Rose Bowl was fought between Marines and Army units during World War I), Penn State, and he amassed a 127-58-16 record.

1922-1928 Francis Schmidt

At Tulsa in 1919, Schmidt's team beat the Hogs 63-7 and he was hired away from Tulsa in 1922. He went 41-21-3 at Arkansas and later went on to coach TCU and Ohio State to more success and ended up in the College Football Hall of Fame.

1953-1954 Bowden Wyatt

Another Hall of Famer, as both a player and a coach. He left Arkansas for Tennessee (his alma mater) in 1955. Bowden's most famous contribution to the Hogs would be the Power River Pass Play over Ole Miss in 1954.

1958-1976 Frank Broyles

Arkansas hired Broyles away from Missouri after two uninspiring seasons from Jack Mitchell. Broyles is the guy at Arkansas until the next legendary coach unseats him. His 144-58-5 record includes 207 games coached with 69 more wins than the next closest coach (Houston Nutt with 75) and the 3rd highest win percentage since 1900. He coached 91 Southwest Conference Wins and crazily enough his 70.8 win percentage is the same for both conference and total games. If you get into further decimals, his conference win percentage is actually just a bit higher. Frank, like Houston Nutt didn't have the greatest record in bowl games, Going 4-6. Six Southwest Conference Titles belonged to Frank and 1 National Championship when the Razorbacks were perfect longer than any other team. The 1960s under Frank were really the Heyday for Arkansas Football. The Hogs started off 1960 with a January Bowl win over Frank's alma mater Georgia Tech, and went 83-23-1 through the decade including the 1964 National Championship and 22 straight wins between the 1963 season ending win over Texas Tech until the 1966 Cotton Bowl where LSU denied Arkansas another National Championship. Frank went on to be Athletic Director from 1974 until 2007. The Field is named after him and his statue stood outside the Broyles center (I have no idea actually if it's still there with all of this construction going on currently in 2017). Frank Broyles was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983 (player, coach, commentator, athletic director... you figure it out).

1977-1983 Lou Holtz

When Frank Retired in 1977, Lou Holtz jumped mid-season from the New York Jets and a 3-10 record to get back to the college coaching ranks where he had seen prior success at NC State. If it sounds similar to recent history, you might be able to find similarities in Bobby Petrino's hiring. In each of his first 6 seasons, Holtz posted 7 wins or better and punched Bowl Tickets for the Hogs and their fans. His first season, the Hogs went 11-1 losing only to Texas and ending the season ranked #3 in what some would call a disputed national championship because Notre Dame, Arkansas, and Alabama all had 1 loss. Holtz was ultimately forced to resign in 1983. A 6-5 season in 1983 that was nearly as bad as the 5-5-1 season that Broyles chose to retire himself from head coaching duties was the immediate excuse, but some controversy also existed in Holtz recording political advertisement from his Arkansas coach's office. Holtz would go on to be inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame based on 100 wins at Notre Dame and a National Championship there in 1988.

1984-1989 Ken Hatfield

The winningest Arkansas coach by percentage, of the 12 Arkansas seasons where the Hogs posted 10 wins or more, Hatfield has 3 of them in only 6 seasons. Though Hatfield's 1-5 bowl record isn't much to look at, the 55-17-1 record stands as a very tough mark for any future coaches to match. Hatfield started his head coaching tenure with 3 losing seasons at Air Force, but on the back of two bowl wins and a 10 win season in 1983 (the first 10 win season for the Air Force Academy), Hatfield was brought in by his former coach Frank Broyles to lead the Razorbacks after Holtz was forced to resign. Hatfield played on the 1964 National Championship team at Defensive Back. His 1989 team played in the Cotton Bowl, and Hatfield was the first former player to have played in the Cotton Bowl and then to have gone on to be the head coach for a team in the Cotton Bowl. Despite consecutive conference titles in 1988 and 1989, Hatfield departed the University to take over coaching at Clemson. This is largely attributed to Frank Broyles and his overbearing leadership of the athletic department.

1990-1992 Jack Crowe

The 2nd worst Arkansas football coach in the last 30 years(maybe ever), Jack Crowe was the head coach for exactly 24 football games before being forced to resign when Arkansas failed to even score a touchdown while hosting a Division 1-AA school, The Citadel, ultimately losing 10-3. Jack Crowe had been the offensive coordinator at Arkansas during the 1989 season and had planned to follow Hatfield to Clemson where Crowe had been offensive coordinator from 1986-1988, but Broyles gave Crowe a 2nd chance at being head coach with a previous stop in the 70's at Livingston. Crowe went on to be an offensive coordinator at Baylor for a few years and then head coach again for Jacksonville State for 13 seasons with an 87-57 record. He beat Houston Nutt 49-48 when Nutt was at Ole Miss.

1992 Joe Kines

Joe took over as interim coach after the loss to The Citadel. Brought in as defensive coordinator during the 1991 season, Kines brought in the next head coach Danny Ford to help recover from the fallout of Crowe's firing. Kines began and ended his 10 games with routes over new SEC opponents South Carolina and LSU, but went 1-6-1 in the 8 games between. There was a bright spot when the Hogs beat #4 Tennessee in Knoxville. Arkansas has only beaten Tennessee in Knoxville twice since joining the SEC (Bielema did it in 2015).

1993-1997 Danny Ford

Stop me if you've heard this one before. Offensive Coordinator leaves Clemson to become OC at Arkansas, Head Coach at Arkansas leaves Arkansas to go to Clemson after Clemson Coach resigns amid 2nd round of NCAA recruiting violations, former Clemson OC, Arkansas OC becomes Arkansas Head Coach and gets fired after 24 games only to be replaced by Clemson coach that resigned. Basically, Arkansas and Clemson switched head coaches. While Hatfield had more success at Clemson than Ford had at Arkansas, Neither coach lasted long, Hatfield bounced after a 1993 season where there seemed to be bad feelings on both sides. Outside of a trip to Atlanta in the SEC championship game in his 3rd season, Ford's teams never accomplished much with 3 of the 5 seasons ending at 4-7, but the players Ford recruited would give the next Arkansas coach some early success.

1998-2007 Houston Nutt

Maybe the most controversial figure in Arkansas Sports History, Nutt was recruited by Broyles, benched under Holtz, left to play for Oklahoma State(backup quarterback), was a GA for Jimmy Johnson and Holtz, later an assistant under Crowe, Head Coach at Murray State and Boise State. He came home to Arkansas as head coach in 1998. Nutt immediately reinvigorated the team and fanbase. In his opening press conference he said he wanted a National Championship, and some fans to this day believe a Stoernover in Knoxville was all that derailed that hope in the first season. Nutt teams made 8 Bowl trips, but Nutt wasn't the coach for the 8th one. His Bowl record was 2-5. Three trips to the SEC Championship game and no titles left Arkansas fans feeling like they were almost there. Nutt's crowning achievement, a 10 win season, occurred in 2006. In 2006, Arkansas bounced back from two losing seasons and an opening game blowout loss to USC with 10 straight wins. The 2006 Hogs would flame out with 3 losses to end the season, with no Heisman trophy for Darren McFadden. When Offensive Coordinator Gus Malzahn split at the end of the 2006 season, hopes were still high for the 2007 campaign, but with several key pieces of the 2006 team gone or injured, even Darren McFadden and Felix Jones couldn't keep fans satisfied. Nutt perhaps was one of the first coaches to fall victim to the Saban effect in the SEC. Hopes for the 2007 season were cut short in only week 2 when Saban's first Alabama team was able to hold on to win 41-38 in Tuscaloosa. 8 wins with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones just wasn’t enough. The season taught us a lot of new things that have become legendary in college football. Banners, FOIA requests, stories of big money boosters harassing freshman quarterbacks, Golden Handcuffs, “We got that Wood”. After a startling 3 OT win over #1 LSU, Nutt packed his bags and headed for Oxford only 3 days after the game. He would go on to coach the Rebels for 4 seasons and has since been out of coaching since 2011.

A Look back at the 2007 season from earlier this year.

2007 Reggie Herring

Herring led an amazing defensive squad at North Carolina State and came on to become defensive coordinator in the 2006 season. There was some controversy, at one point, Herring made players wear pink jerseys when they weren't playing up to his standards, but the results were there in the 2006 season, at least enough for the Hogs to rip off 10 straight wins. Herring was the interim coach during the debacle that was the 2008 Cotton Bowl which saw the Missouri Tigers chew through a largely disinterested Razorback team and coaching staff. He's since gone on to coach in the NFL and has a Super Bowl Ring from the 2016 Denver Broncos.

2008-2012 Robert Patrick Petrino

Bobby.... Bobby. Bobby. Bobby. While the Razorbacks were having a wildly interesting 2007 season, Petrino's first year in the NFL was derailed in the Spring when the Atlanta Falcon's Franchise Quarterback Michael Vick was embroiled in a dog fighting scandal. Petrino coached the team to a 3-10 record before Lou Holtzing it to Arkansas. The offense was there pretty quickly. Previously maligned Arkansas Quarterback Casey Dick got a season in the finely-tuned Mustang that was the Bobby Petrino offense holding the reigns until Michigan transfer Ryan "Scantron" Mallett got to take over in 2009. Fans were ecstatic to see the ball soaring through the air after 10 years of 3 yards in a cloud of dust under Houston Nutt. The first season ended with a win over LSU in the Miracle on Markham Part 2, and all were happy in Hogville. The wins kept coming and the Hogs won 10 games Petrino's 3rd year and 11 his 4th year. 2012 was going to be the year. And then April 1st, 2012, Petrino wrecked a motorcycle exposing an affair that shook the football program to its core leaving Petrino jobless, the team coachless, and Arkansas fans as divided as they had been in 2007. Petrino’s effect is still felt among the fan base. The coach that made his mark in Louisville before the NFL and Arkansas has now made his way back there and coached a Quarterback to a Heisman trophy in 2016. The high-flying offense is still there to catch the eyes of Razorback fans, but his teams have yet to win anything more meaningful than the Music City Bowl.

2012 John L. Smith

Did you guys read earlier where I wrote about Crowe and Kines and Herring? Taking current position coaches and making them head coaches has not been very successful for the Hogs. John L. Smith had a resume that included a winning record at Idaho and Louisville and a winning season (and 3 losing) at Michigan State. It seemed like it would be okay to let him be the ceremonial head of the team and let the coordinators and position coaches do their work for the 2012 season. I mean he had coached special teams, and look at the way he coached Joe Adams on that highlight reel punt return against Tennessee. The football team started shaky and then let Louisiana Monroe beat them and then the whole season was over. Arkansas went from pre-season ranking with national championship hopes to 4-8 and losing 104-7 combined to Alabama and South Carolina. John L. went into a press conference following the Alabama loss and told the reporters to “Smile”. He also had a debacle at a touchdown club talk calling the program a “state of Alabama program”. Reports came out after the season that the coaches were not very dialed in for the season and players were urged to focus on getting what they could for NFL scouts to see on film.

2013-2017 Bret Bielema

68-24, 4 seasons with 10 wins or more, 3 Big10/B1G titles, Loads of NFL talent flowing from his program, and press conferences that entertained. Bret Bielema wanted to come to Arkansas. Bret Bielema wanted to build a program with his own two hands and stand on the mountain top. No coach had ever come to Arkansas with this pedigree. No coach had ever promised to Out-Alabama Alabama. This was the slam dunk hire that made everyone in the sphere of Arkansas influence say Jeff Long is the greatest athletic director ever. First season... actually worse than the John L. Smith one. Second Season... shutouts of LSU and Ole Miss? Beating Texas "borderline erotic" that's the stuff Arkansas needs here we go now. Third Season Lose to Toledo? Lose to Texas Tech? Lose to Texas A&M on a trip? oh wait we beat Tennessee, Ole Miss, and LSU on the road and finished 3rd in the SEC West, that's what we're talking about. 4th season, that's weird we win 1 week and then lose the next week for 10 weeks and then we really blew a lead to a 3-8 Mizzou team and then we lost our bowl game the same way? Something's not right here. 5th season dumpster fire.