Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek was going to hear “boo birds” in whichever direction he turned to hire a new coach.
Many wanted the flashy Lane Kiffin at Florida Atlantic, but if he was being introduced today there would be a segment of the Arkansas fan base which would have harped on his “baggage” and warned of impending doom via improprieties of the NCAA or social in nature.
Arkansas native Eliah Drinkwitz, 36, at Appalachian State would’ve been criticized for his youth and inexperience. There wasn’t a coach listed who didn’t have warts.
When Springdale native and former Hog Butch Davis, 68, at Florida International was mentioned he was deemed too old by some.
There was no perfect candidate that was viable. Period.
So, Yurachek hired the guy who REALLY wanted to be here. He wasn’t motivated by money, or using the gig as a stepping stone. He wanted to be a head coach, and wanted that job to be in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
And that is why while hiring veteran offensive line coach Sam Pittman, who coached the offensive line for three years for the Hogs, is not a sexy hire but a great hire for this program.
And before you object, I know he has no head-coaching experience.
So what? Chad Morris had three years of head-coaching experience before he came to Arkansas and we all know how that worked out.
Pittman has worked for some great head coaches including Northern Illinois’ Joe Novak and Davis at North Carolina.
Pittman most recently worked under a former assistant with no previous head-coaching experience in Kirby Smart at Georgia.
He is also close friends with former NFL head coach Rex Ryan, who Pittman served with on the University of Cincinnati staff in 1995 along with John Harbaugh, who currently coaches the Baltimore Ravens.
The point is Pittman, 58, with 25 years of assistant coaching experience at the Division I level has seen how good coaches operate successful programs.
He’s taken notes, seen what works well and what doesn’t. He’s seen how head coaches manage assistant coaches and how staffs work together. All of that knowledge should be helpful as Pittman embarks on a dream job.
In that time Pittman developed a reputation as an excellent recruiter and one of the best offensive line coaches in the country.
Georgia was paying him around a million dollars to coach the offensive line. That’s how valuable that skill is.
You win and lose games in the trenches.
As Arkansas fans can attest from the three years he served as the o-line coach at Arkansas, Pittman recruits stellar linemen and develops them even more. That’s what Arkansas will have again.
The other factor with Pittman is he will hire outstanding coordinators with the contacts he has over his career. Randy Shannon and Charlie Strong, both who have ties to Arkansas and have been head coaches, have already been mentioned as defensive coordinator prospects.
If not one of those two, someone with that pedigree. Veteran guys who may have been a head coach like both of them have.
That ensures that Pittman has a brain trust around him which has made big in-game decisions and matched wits against some of the elite.
Some wonder how he will handle a 4th-and-2 play with the game on the line at an SEC venue or making halftime adjustments
We won’t know until it happens, but a good staff will help Pittman with the transition of being ‘the guy’ and making that call, and he will not be a lone when it comes to those decisions.
Hiring a first-time coach could be a risk, but no know more than a coach with baggage or one who has only been a head coach at a mid-major for one season.
Don’t be surprised if Pittman fares better than Drinnkwitz at Missouri and Kiffin at Ole Miss.