State of the Hogs: Coaching Search

State of the Hogs is a regular feature at Publisher Clay Henry takes a look at what's going on in the Razorback Nation.

This is about reality, this football coaching search at the University of Arkansas. It's about what we are in the Razorback Nation, but can't admit it. We are in a tough league, the best league in college football, the SEC.

We are in a small state with great resources as far as big business. We have money. We don't have a lot of football players. We are small in numbers as far as football talent. And, we must compete against the biggest of the bigs. We have the resources to hire a top coach. We put up in excess of $2 million in salary several times this past week and were prepared to buy out any number of coaches. So it's not money.

I stand by my long standing thoughts. It is not easy here and those outside recognize that better than those inside.

We must find someone who wants to test himself against the bigs of the bigs. We must find someone who wants that opportunity. It can't be about the money, but we must be prepared to pay the money.

Obviously, we are prepared to pay the going rate. Several coaches that were involved in the last week had million dollar buyouts. We were prepared to cover that and give them a raise, too.

None of the coaches who have flirted then turned away have been swayed by the banners over the stadium, so-called media attacks or any other problems caused by the fan base at Arkansas. They haven't run from so-called meddling from the board or administration.

As far as fans and those that want to stir the pot from outside, that is going to be everywhere. Coaches know that. I'm convinced of that after talking to folks at LSU, Auburn, Georgia, Florida State, Alabama, Tennessee and most everywhere else I've been this year.

Fans are fans. They are unrealistic at most places. They want to win a championship right now. They accept nothing less. That's not the problem. It's a problem when they don't want that.

The problem at Arkansas is that it is going to be a difficult situation to win in the SEC on a yearly basis. We should understand that, but we probably don't. I can assure you that every other coach at the Division I level understands that it's a tough job.

Yes, coaches want to be well paid for their efforts no matter where they go. But the number one thing they ask and hear from the inner circle within their staff is very simple: Can I win enough at Arkansas? Will I be able to compete? Is the playing field level? How hard will it be to win an SEC championship or a BCS berth.

They understand the fans want to win at a high level, but that's the case everywhere. What is the reality of the situation? Does it match perception? Is it a great job at Arkansas? Can you compete on even footing in the SEC?

I think we see the answers in the way the coaches at solid programs have addressed the situation these past two weeks. The answer is that it's a very tough job in a very tough conference.

That doesn't mean we cut and run. I think we all want the toughest challenge. We don't want to be like English soccer and drop back to a lower division, an easier conference. And, we don't need new fans.

I hear some blaming fans. Others blame media. Others blame the Board of Trustees for being too involved in the process and the future.

I don't really see those as reality. I see it that it's a tough job and those in cozy situations don't want to take that step. The SEC has changed things here, from my viewpoint. It's not like it was in the old SWC days.

There is a man who wants this job and it won't be about paying a big buyout and a big salary. Oh, he'll be well paid. But that won't be the reason he comes. He'll want the challenge. He'll want a job that some say is tough.

But, it's likely that it won't be someone that already has a cozy situation. It'll be someone willing to take a step up and accept what is a very tough challenge.

I do not mind that some turned it down. I don't mind that they were asked, either.

We'll get through this. We'll be on to playing Missouri soon. Then, it will be recruiting. Then, it will be spring football practices. Then, it will be playing Texas, Florida, Alabama, Auburn, LSU and all of those others. Ah, yes, that's what this is all about. The Hogs are playing with the big boys and there isn't a coach in this country who doesn't understand.

I'm often asked what the late Orville Henry would be writing these days. I am not positive, but he might remind what he said the day Arkansas opted for the SEC. He said it would be like playing Texas every week.

That sounds like a tall order. I think those outside of our state recognize the challenge. Someone will want it. John White and Jeff Long have to keep looking. And, we have to be patient.

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