CFB writers Bruce Feldman, Ralph Russo discuss how 'tricky' Arkansas hire could lead to domino effect
There appears to be a fairly consistent list of names around college football to be the next coach at Arkansas, but even insiders don’t appear to have a grasp of which way the Razorbacks will go. Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports and The Athletic and Ralph Russo of the Associated Press discussed the “tricky” nature of the job mainly because of the school’s previous two hires, and their career trajectory.
Feldman noted how Chad Morris was not really a proven head coach, while Bret Bielema was, so it’s largely unknown which direction the administration might go. Felman, on the AP Top 25 College Football Podcast, noted the “intriguing” part of the hire could be Arkansas native and Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, who could have left two years ago before he signed a seven-year $49 million deal.
“Once you’ve been a hot seat at a place like that, where there’s sky high expectations, crazy big money boosters, and Nick Saban’s at the arch-rival, that’s a recipe for trouble,” Feldman said. “Right now, it’s not like they’ve had a bad year, they’re in the top 15, but they still got to play Georgia and Alabama, and so they could be 8-4.”
Feldman wondered if Malzahn looks at the Arkansas job now as a way to restart his coaching clock and go home instead of being on the hot seat again next year if he doesn’t win these two heavyweight games.
“The economics of this is going to be interesting to see if it goes that route because if Auburn wants to fire him, they’d owe him about $27 million, if Gus leaves, he’d owe them about $7 million, so do they not meet in the middle,” Feldman said. “Will Auburn agree OK, you give us 3 or 4 million and we go find somebody else. I think that would be incumbent upon Auburn to be like there’s somebody else we feel really good about.”
Russo noted that change in athletics directors from Jeff Long to Hunter Yurachek immediately before the Morris hiring, and how Malzahn realizes that it’s harder to win at Arkansas.
“Now you can say it’s really hard to win at Auburn,” Russo said. “Because Alabama’s your rival and you play Georgia every year. But Gus has won those games occasionally. He has gone to a national championship game, he has won that division a couple of times. … But Arkansas I don’t know can even compete against Alabama anymore. The reality at Arkansas is it’s gotten worse in terms of all the churn, the job is now going to be even harder to turn it around. But there’s also the question is, if Arkansas is really running well, does it beat Alabama anyway?”