LITTLE ROCK — Bill Parcells, Jimmy Johnson, Ken Hatfield and Sean Payton are not being considered as interim head coaches of the Arkansas football team.
Neither are any and all other outsiders who have been floated as possible stop-gap coaches of the Razorbacks.
The night that athletic director Jeff Long fired Bobby Petrino, he said that if he decided to go the interim route, assistant coaches Paul Haynes, Taver Johnson and Paul Petrino were the possibilities and that he would not make a decision until after the Red-White game on Saturday. He is not going to go outside the staff to hire somebody for a few months simply to appease fans who are fretting about recruiting.
When it comes to recruiting, Arkansas is not Alabama or Texas, loading up on four- and five-star athletes. Already, those schools have more than a dozen commitments each for 2013. By May 1, they may have 20 each.
Not Arkansas. Normally, by the end of July, the Razorbacks might have 8-10 commitments for the following February. This year, there may be even fewer unless there is an overload of in-state athletes.
Anyone discouraged by such a situation should note the turnaround in Columbus, Ohio. The Ohio State recruiting class was so-so until Urban Meyer was hired in late November. In February, the class was ranked No. 6 by ESPN.
The right coach can sway 17- and 18-year-olds.
Recruiting services make mistakes, but it’s not as if Petrino had signed a top 10 recruiting class year after year. The last four years, the group has been ranked in the bottom half of the Southeastern Conference. His departure might cost Arkansas a receiver or two. That’s about it.
From now through May 31, college staffs have four weeks to evaluate potential recruits. Arkansas’ assistants will hit the road after the spring game and, if Long goes the interim route, the person named head coach cannot participate. It would be the same if Petrino was still in charge.
In recent years, the assistants have recruited four straight weeks and then had a week off.
June 1 through July 31 is a quiet period — athletes can visit the campus, but the coaches can’t go to the athletes. It is also a time for on-campus football camps and the current staff can run those camps. When Petrino was around, he was there every day, overseeing, riding around in a golf cart and touching base with the coveted ones.
Athletes interested in Arkansas will ask about the next coach. With sincerity, the assistants can respond that Long will make a good hire, somebody who has been successful and who will carry on with integrity. If the athletes have been paying attention, they will know that is the truth.
Long’s hire of Petrino’s successor is for the long haul and his immediate choices are limited. Any coach who is unemployed is unemployed for a reason, and former NFL coaches who have the itch usually want to return to the NFL.
Character is a major issue, so what would it say about a coach who is willing to bail on his current job after getting through spring practice. For example, Garrick McGee should be beholden to Alabama-Birmingham for giving him his first opportunity to be a head coach. On top of that, McGee convinced others to pull up stakes and join him at UAB.
The suspicion is that an emissary for more than one well-known coach has contacted Long about the opening. Such a go-between would say that his man is interested, but that he is not about to leave his school hanging four months prior to the season. But, come November …
The money paid Petrino and construction of the football-only facility says Long is fully committed. Every coach desires such a situation.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is email@example.com.