Who's On Long's Short List?

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas chancellor John White gave Jeff Long an ultimatum: He wants the Razorbacks new athletic director to have the school's next football coach in place by Sunday.

"He got off the floor and said, ‘I'm glad you didn't specify which Sunday,'" White said with a laugh Monday night.

In reality, White said Long, who doesn't officially begin as Arkansas' athletic director until Jan. 1, will conduct the search for the new coach and will have as much time as needed to secure a replacement for Houston Nutt. The Little Rock native resigned Monday.

White said the program's criteria for its new leader is simple — he wants someone that will build on the program's solid foundation.

Nutt took over a struggling program that had two winning seasons in its previous eight. He walked away from the position with eight winning seasons and two SEC division titles in 10 years.

White said he believes there will be plenty of interest in the job despite the off-the-field drama that has plagued the program.

"I hate to draw any kind of parallels, but I'm sure there were individuals in Florida that wondered the same thing when (Ron) Zook left there," said White, in reference to Florida's decision to fire Zook amid growing discontent and hire Urban Meyer. "They were able to secure someone to come in. These turbulant times are not just uniquely Arkansas'. It's going on all around the nation."

Long attended Monday's press conference, but was not made available for comment. White also said that Long would not be offering many details of Arkansas' search. He is hoping it can be conducted in secrecy much like his athletic director search.

White said the Razorbacks have not hired a search firm to aid in the process. Arkansas used a search firm to find basketball coach John Pelphrey last spring, turning to the outside group after Dana Altman resigned after just one day at the position.

"Jeff is going to be handling the search," White said. "I'll leave it to him to make a decision about what assistance he might want."

White said it would be "nice" if the next coach, much like Nutt, has Arkansas ties. But he stressed it will not be a pre-requisite. He also added that Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring, who has agreed to be the program's interim coach for the bowl game, would be considered if interested in the full-time job.

Whoever Arkansas chooses, White said it will be good for Arkansas.

"The job has changed, the pressure has changed immensely the past few years," White said. "I feel very confident that we'll be able to secure a very strong coach at the University of Arkansas."



Who's Next In Line?

Here is a list of possible candidates for the Arkansas football coach vacancy:

• Tommy Tuberville (Auburn head coach) — If the Hogs dare to dream big, don't be surprised if the Arkansas native is a possibility. Auburn's coach was a candidate in 1998 when he was at Ole Miss. Tuberville landed at Auburn and has led the Tigers to a 71-29 record and one SEC title in his tenure. But if Tuberville is interested, is Arkansas willing to pay up? The long-time coach has a $6 million buyout clause. That's a lot of money.

• Will Muschamp (Auburn defensive coordinator) — If not Tuberville, why not one of his assistants? Muschamp's defense did a masterful job of stopping Arkansas in October. Is there any chance it was a job interview? Muschamp has been on Tuberville's staff the past two seasons. He also had a four-year stint at LSU under Nick Saban.

• Brent Venables (Oklahoma defensive coordinator) — Venables falls in the same category as Muschamp, but consider this: New Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long has Oklahoma ties. Long was an associate athletic director at Oklahoma for 2 1/2 years before leaving for Pittsburgh. Venables has been at Oklahoma since 1999 and was a finalist for the Broyles Award last season.

• Bo Pelini (LSU defensive coordinator) — Another coach with Oklahoma ties, the LSU defensive coordinator's name has been a hot commodity on the assistant circuit. Pelini has been in charge of LSU's touted defense the past two seasons and is considered a head-coach-in-the-making. Pelini also is a candidate for the Nebraska opening.

• Gus Malzahn (Tulsa offensive coordinator) — Malzahn could be a fan favorite for the position after his successful tenure at Springdale High. After one season at Arkansas, Malzahn is guiding the nation's top offense at Tulsa. Is two years as a college assistant enough to become a head coach? And if Arkansas plans to heal a fan base split largely because of his high-profile departure, is Malzahn the answer?

• Brian Kelly (Cincinnati head coach) — Kelly has orchestrated the Bearcats' dramatic rise from college football afterthought to the top 25 in his first year at the helm. He has had success at every stop as a coach whether it was Central Michigan or Grand Valley State. Kelly, who also been mentioned for other jobs like Michigan and Nebraska.

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