Long Breaks Silence On Coaching Search

FAYETTEVILLE -- Incoming Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long broke his silence Wednesday regarding his search to find Houston Nutt's replacement.

Long spoke in mostly general terms during an impromptu news conference held during halftime of Wednesday night's basketball game between Arkansas and Missouri in Bud Walton Arena.

"I would say coaches in the SEC have expressed an interest in our job, yes," Long said during the 12-minute news conference in front of a room full of reporters.

While Long didn't mention any candidates by name, Oakland Raiders coach Lane Kiffin and Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville appear to be at the top of his list to be Arkansas' next football coach.

Tuberville reportedly agreed in principle to a contract extension with Auburn earlier this week, but there are some contractual issues that need to be resolved before a deal can be finalized.

Speculation about Tuberville's future intensified Wednesday when he didn't meet with Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs as expected.

A source close to Tuberville told The Morning News on Wednesday afternoon that the Auburn coach remains a candidate to replace Nutt at Arkansas.

Long avoided directly answering a question about whether any SEC West coaches, presumably Tuberville, have expressed an interest in Arkansas' coaching vacancy.

"I won't narrow it that far, but I will say that many of the reports about an SEC West coach are extremely premature and actually aren't even premature," Long said. "They're fantasy."

Tuberville, a Camden native, is expected to spend the next few days duck hunting in Stuttgart. He was a finalist to coach the Razorbacks in 1997, but Nutt got the job instead.

Tuberville will make an average of $3.1 million over the remaining four years of the contract he signed following the 2004 season, according to The Mobile Press-Register. His contract also includes a $6 million buyout.

Long said he'd be willing to work on a buyout if one existed with a potential candidate.

"We haven't gotten to that point in any conversations," Long said. "And we'll deal with that when we get there, if there is an issue there to be dealt with."

Long said he's already interviewed "lots" of candidates on the phone, and had several face-to-face meetings since Nutt turned in his resignation Monday morning.

Nutt was introduced Wednesday afternoon as Ole Miss' coach, replacing Ed Orgeron. Long said he has not offered the Arkansas job to any coaches yet.

Kiffin, meanwhile, continues to be mentioned as a potential candidate to replace Nutt, even though Kiffin signed a three-year contract to coach the Raiders in January.

"There (are) NFL coaches that are interested (in the job) and that I have an interest in that we'll look at, yes," Long said. "But I think NFL coaches that have had some college experience is very important."

Kiffin fits that criteria. He was the offensive coordinator at the University of Southern California when the Trojans beat the Razorbacks 70-17 in 2005 and 50-14 a year ago in Fayetteville.

Kiffin didn't want to discuss the Arkansas opening when it was brought up by a reporter following the Raiders' practice on Wednesday.

"That's news to me," said Kiffin, the son of former Arkansas defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.

Kiffin's job security has been questioned as Oakland has fallen to 3-8 on the season.

But a source familiar with the situation told The Morning News on Tuesday that Kiffin has wanted to be a head coach in college, and would be a good fit for the Razorbacks.

Texas Tech coach Mike Leach has also been mentioned as a possible candidate.

Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring, who will serve as the Razorbacks' interim head coach for the bowl game, expressed interest Wednesday in replacing Nutt on a full-time basis.

But Herring said he didn't want to be considered a candidate unless Long decides to look at coordinators for the head coaching position.

"Jeff Long knows where I am," Herring said. "He knows where my office is and I'll just say it publicly, if he's going to start interviewing coordinators, nobody can touch me, given the opportunity."



Long said he planned to speak with Herring about the job opening.

"I have not spoken to him yet," Long said. "I will talk to Reggie about the job at the appropriate time, yes?"

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