The process for finding the next Arkansas head coach has been an interesting one, at least from the outside looking in. It's gotten even more so with the latest name being attached to the job.
According to former Tennessee assistant Doug Matthews on Nashville radio yesterday, Arkansas officials have spoken to his former boss Phillip Fulmer about the vacant head coaching job. He doesn't know how serious they got, but there have been discussions between them:
"I know Phillip has had conversations with them," Matthews told the radio show. "And when I say with them, all that is going to take place behind the scenes.
"But everything I’m hearing from Arkansas is the spring game, I think, is this Saturday. ‘Let’s get through spring. Let’s see where we are.’ But I think they’ll either go with a guy that they’ve got on the staff or they’ll bring in someone to be — caretaker’s the wrong word — but bring someone in who has been through it all before.
"If there is a place for Phillip, that will be the place."
Fulmer's name has come up periodically for jobs since Tennessee pushed him out, but Arkansas is the biggest one to my knowledge. I'm not sure how a such a hire would fit in with a sound strategy, though.
Fulmer won't come in and keep the seat warm for someone else for eight months. He didn't want to be done with coaching after 2008, so I can't see him going to Arkansas to be an interim figurehead. If he does end up coaching again, he's going to want to do it somewhere he can be for a while.
However at 62 years old, Fulmer is not someone you bet on having around for the next decade. He's a shorter term stopgap for a place like Arkansas. However, why plan on having a guy like Fulmer around just five or so years (give or take) when you can hire someone younger who has a longer potential time horizon? Presumably the strategy would include Fulmer keeping the current staff intact for a while longer, but when has anyone ever hired a head coach in order to keep a group of assistants around? Besides, if they just want to keep the staff, it makes far more sense to install an interim guy for a few months and throw a pile of money at Garrick McGee next December. After all, what if Fulmer doesn't work well with those guys?
The Arkansas coaching search, at least in the public arena, has been tumultuous. Everyone's initial thoughts went straight to Gus Malzahn and McGee, with the latter even having issued a non-denial no comment already. The topic of an interim coach was around too, with the early favorite being spring practice boss Taver Johnson and a more recent one being running backs coach Tim Horton. Then we went through the NFL retread phase, with Steve Mariucci and Josh McDaniels being floated as potential, if unlikely, candidates. We've even had John Daly endorse Jon Gruden for the job, thereby checking off the mandatory "Jon Gruden mentioned as candidate" box on the coaching search checklist. The names of Skip Holtz and Tommy Tuberville have come up in order to fulfill the "family connection" and "conference connection" requirements as well.
Now that Fulmer is apparently in the mix, this thing has surpassed my every expectation. The combination of him and Horton even opens up a new world of doughnut joke opportunities. All we need now is a FlightAware route from Arkansas to Tennessee and we're set.
Fulmer is denying direct contact with Arkansas, for whatever that's worth.