Search Changes Direction

FAYETTEVILLE -- Tommy Bowden won't be Arkansas' next football coach after all.

And the identity of Houston Nutt's replacement remains a mystery more than a week after incoming athletic director Jeff Long began his search. Bowden decided Tuesday morning to stay at Clemson despite seriously considering leaving to accept a deal worth around $2.5 million annually at Arkansas. Negotiations with Arkansas hit a snag Monday night, and Bowden came to the decision early Tuesday that he couldn't leave Clemson after nine years. Bowden has agreed to a four-year contract extension with the Tigers, ending a whirlwind attempt by Long to hire his longtime friend for Arkansas' coaching vacancy. Terms of the extension were not released. "I was not offered the job at Arkansas. I've always felt very confident about the negotiation process here," Bowden said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon to announce his extension. "... I felt confident all along that this would get done." Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips, a former Arkansas defensive lineman, said Long contacted him last week to seek permission to speak with Bowden. Long met with Bowden, and their talks got serious enough that members of Arkansas' Board of Trustees were asked Monday for their opinions about the possible hire. The board of the Razorback Foundation was also asked to conduct a conference call at 7 p.m. Monday to agree to supplement Bowden's salary. But the conference call was postponed twice before being rescheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday. But the morning conference call was called off after Bowden informed Arkansas that he would be staying at Clemson. "I've always felt very confident that I'd finish my career here," Bowden said. "And I felt like the administration felt the same way." Bowden, the son of legendary Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, confirmed that financial terms were discussed with Long. But his decision to remain at Clemson forces Long to look in another direction to find a replacement for Nutt, who resigned last Monday after 10 seasons at Arkansas. Ole Miss quickly hired him for their coaching vacancy. Stanley Reed, chairman of Arkansas' Board of Trustees, declined to comment Tuesday on how the coaching search would proceed in the wake of Bowden's decision. Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, who was mentioned early on as a leading candidate for the Arkansas job, agreed to a two-year contract extension on Tuesday. The extension includes a raise of $200,000 a year and it will push Tuberville's contract through the 2013 season, The Birmingham News reported Tuesday. The deal will also end speculation that Tuberville wants to leave Auburn. Long could turn his focus to either Michigan defensive coordinator Ron English or Tulsa co-offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who each have interviewed for the Arkansas job, according to ESPN. Rumors that Malzahn, the former Springdale High coach, had resigned from Tulsa to coach the Razorbacks spread on the Internet and on sports radio Tuesday afternoon. "I've not resigned at TU," Malzahn told The Tulsa World late Monday night. "I'm happy to be the offensive coordinator at TU and excited about the future." Oakland Raiders coach Lane Kiffin could re-emerge as a candidate, even though he twice denied last week that he was interested in leaving for Arkansas. Atlanta Falcons coach Bobby Petrino, the former University of Louisville coach, has also been mentioned as a possibility. But Petrino is believed to have a contract that could make it tough for him to leave the Falcons this season. Long could also look at big-time coordinators or mid-major coaches like East Carolina's Skip Holtz, the son of former Arkansas coach Lou Holtz. Long has remained quiet during much of the search, which has lasted 10 days. He has not publicly spoken about the progress of his search since an impromptu news conference on November 28. Harry King of Stephens Media contributed to this report.

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