Coaching Search Continues For Arkansas

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long's search for a new football coach is being aided by the most renowned headhunter in the country.

Chuck Neinas, who operates Neinas Sports Services, has been working as a consultant to Long during the Razorbacks' search for Houston Nutt's replacement. Chancellor John White confirmed Neinas' involvement Sunday, but stressed that the consulting firm has been involved in the process since Nutt resigned on Nov. 26.

"He has been assisting Jeff from the beginning of the search," White said in an e-mail to The Morning News. "Chuck helped Jeff at (Pittsburgh), so their relationship pre-dates Jeff's arrival at Arkansas."

White said after Nutt's resignation the Razorbacks had no plans to enlist a search firm, but, nevertheless, Neinas has clout in college sports. He served as executive director of the NCAA from 1961-71, was commissioner of the Big Eight from 1971-80 and executive director of the College Football Association from 1980-97. More recently, Neinas is known for his success in aiding college athletic directors in coaching searches around the country.

His past clients have included several Southeastern Conference schools like Florida (who got Urban Meyer), LSU (Les Miles), Georgia (Mark Richt) and Alabama (Nick Saban). Neinas also has played roles in coaching searches at Miami and North Carolina the past several years.

Neinas earns plenty for his work. According to a USA Today story last year, schools pay $30,000-$40,000 plus expenses for his services.

White said he didn't know how much Arkansas was paying for Neinas when asked Sunday afternoon. He said: "Jeff is handling it."

Long couldn't be reached for comment, but some of the coaches expected to be on his wish list include Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, Atlanta Falcons coach Bobby Petrino, Oakland Raiders coach Lane Kiffin and Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables.

So far, Long is known to have been in contact with Clemson coach Tommy Bowden, Wake Forest's Jim Grobe, Michigan defensive coordinator Ron English and Tulsa offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.

Sources close to the situation have indicated that Muschamp also has spoken with Long about the position, although the depth of the discussions are not known. The 36-year-old played at Georgia and also was Nick Saban's defensive coordinator at LSU from 2001-04.

Muschamp, who is in second season at Auburn, was linked to the Southern Miss and Georgia Tech jobs. Georgia Tech named Paul Johnson its coach, while Muschamp withdrew his name at Southern Miss.

Petrino, 46, and Kiffin, 32, are in their first seasons as NFL coaches, but have a history in the college game. Petrino was Louisville's head coach from 2003-06. Kiffin was an assistant on Southern California coach Pete Carroll's staff from 2001-06.

Long said last Thursday the Razorbacks will not rush to get a new coach in place even though the search is entering its third week.

"I don't want to put a time constraint on it," Long said. "It's difficult to meet with coaches at different times and they're preparing for bowl games. They're finishing seasons if they're in the NFL. So it's hard to put a time frame on it. Obviously, we want to do it sooner than later."

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