Wommack Out

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas defensive coordinator Dave Wommack knew he was facing a challenging task this summer when he stared at a two-deep depth chart loaded with youth and inexperience.

The 48-year-old also had a pretty good idea that the Razorbacks' disappointing results would cost him his job.

LB SiderThat's why Wommack wasn't surprised when Arkansas coach Houston Nutt decided to fire him Tuesday, four days after the Hogs' season-ending, 43-14 loss to No. 14 LSU. Nutt's decision, which was announced Wednesday, ended days of speculation that swirled about Wommack's future after Arkansas failed to qualify for a bowl game for the first time since 1997.

"I'd be the first to tell you, we played poor defense for the most part," Wommack said. "I knew that and understood that. I'm disappointed more than anybody is around here from that standpoint. But you do the best with what you have. You try to motivate them. You try to bring them up. But it wasn't good enough.

"I can look at myself in the mirror and know that I worked my butt off and tried to work through the adversity and all those things. But it's difficult."

Nutt didn't return messages and wasn't available for comment Wednesday, but said through a statement released by the university he was "extremely grateful" for Wommack's loyalty to the Razorbacks. Nutt said he appreciated Wommack's dedication to the players and his "tireless efforts to enhance" the program.

"All of those factors as well as many personal reasons make this one of the toughest decisions I have made as a head coach," Nutt said in the statement. "However, I feel the time is appropriate to make a change at defensive coordinator.

"I sincerely wish Dave and his family the best in their future endeavors on and off the field."

Nutt announced that Arkansas' search for a new defensive coordinator would begin immediately.

Wommack was terminated after the Razorbacks finished 10th in the Southeastern Conference and 75th in the nation in total defense (397.2 yards). It was the second-worst showing in school history behind then-coach Jack Crowe's 1990 team, which surrendered 402.3 yards a game.

Arkansas struggled to replace eight starters, which included veterans like linebacker Caleb Miller, safety Tony Bua and cornerback Ahmad Carroll. The area hit hardest by departures was the secondary, where seven key contributors were missing.

Wommack felt like he was taking over a "new program" this season.

"Sometimes you felt like you were going to a gunfight without all the bullets," Wommack said. "I don't want that to sound like an excuse because it isn't. It's just that some of these young guys that are going to be good players are so green that they didn't have the opportunity to develop."

Wommack had a feeling his job was in jeopardy well before the season finale, in which the Hogs surrendered 468 yards. In fact, Wommack didn't believe an Arkansas win against LSU -- which would've sent the Hogs to their seventh consecutive bowl game -- would have helped him retain his position.

Nutt declined to talk about his coaching staff during Sunday's season-ending press conference, hoping to wait until his annual evaluation with athletic director Frank Broyles. The two met Tuesday to discuss the disappointing season. Broyles said any decision regarding the assistant coaches was "completely (Nutt's) call."

Nutt fired Wommack during a one-on-one meeting later that afternoon.

Wommack believed it was an "awful difficult" decision for Nutt.

"I don't know if I should even say this or not," Wommack said. "But in some ways it was almost a relief (Tuesday) when I found out. It was disappointing, don't get me wrong. I've always grown up loving Arkansas and I'll always follow this program. I think it is a special, unique place. There's great facilities and great people here.

"It's hard. I'm human. I've got a conscience and all that other stuff. I wish it would've worked out better, but it didn't."

Wommack came to Arkansas in 2001 after a seven-year career at Southern Mississippi. He worked as the Golden Eagles' secondary coach (1994-98) and was promoted to defensive coordinator in 1999. Southern Miss was eighth (1999) and second (2000) in total defense under Wommack.

He was hired as a secondary coach at Arkansas under defensive coordinator John Thompson, who left the next season for the same position at Florida. Wommack was elevated to defensive coordinator and retained the job for three seasons.

Now, Wommack hopes the rest of Arkansas' coaching staff remains intact.

"You sit in my chair or any coordinator's chair, there's more likelihood of that happening than one of the other assistants," Wommack said. "I hope everybody else is able to keep their job. I don't know what that situation is. I really don't. There's no reason for Houston to discuss that with me.

"I care about those guys and hope everything works out for them."

Defensive coaches Chris Vaughn (linebackers), Tracy Rocker (defensive line) and Bobby Allen (defensive backs) were on the road recruiting Tuesday. Vaughn and Allen didn't return messages. Rocker couldn't be reached for comment.

"You hope they're done (firing coaches) because you don't want this to be a distraction," said Arkansas safety Vickiel Vaughn. "But you never know what their plans or their intentions are.

"You've just got to go with the punches and deal with everything as they come."

Wommack, who turned down a college and NFL position last winter, plans to take a couple weeks to ponder his future. Tuesday was the first time Wommack had been fired on his own during his 24-year coaching career. He was part of the UNLV staff that was fired at the end of the 1993 season.

But Wommack understood the decision and had no bitter feelings toward Nutt or the administration and said it is part of the business.

"You work your whole life to have an opportunity to coach at an SEC school," Wommack said. "But you understand when you get in this profession that these days can come."

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