Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

SPORTS >>Head Hogs should pick assistants

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

FAYETTEVILLE – Lord knows the University of Arkansas football program doesn’t need another shotgun wedding with a head coach and a powers-that-be pushed assistant brimming with ideas foreign to the head coach’s core.

Ask the last three to start a Razorback season as head coach how those shotgun weddings went.

If college football had a TV version of Divorce Court, they would have been on it.

Jack Crowe lasted one game in 1992 with a new coordinator bringing a new offense not of Crowe’s choosing. Danny Ford lasted just that 1997 4-7 season with a new coordinator bringing a new offense Ford never sought.

First with and then without his shotgun marriage partner, Houston Nutt combined the most victories for two straight years since before Arkansas joined the SEC.

Didn’t matter. Even going 10-4 and 8-4 and a combined 11-6 in the SEC with a SEC West championship one year and closing the next winning at then No. 1 ranked LSU, Nutt caught more hell than Crowe and Ford combined.

With Arkansas readying to play Missouri in the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day, Nutt has been gone since Nov. 26, taking over SEC West rival Ole Miss, a team his Hogs beat 7 out of 10. Those coordinators, Greg Davis, later a Broyles Award finalist as Mack Brown’s offensive coordinator at Texas, Kay Stephenson and Gus Malzahn no doubt have their own side of the Arkansas story, though none ever told it publicly.

However, the fallout from the Nutt-Malzahn breakup can be attributed in part to all that furniture moved out of the athletics director’s top floor office and second floor coaches’ offices of the Broyles Complex late last week.

So you can see why new coach Bobby Petrino and new athletics director Jeff Long wouldn’t be open to outside influence about what assistants should be hired.

By all means, logic present and records past mandate the choices they hire truly be their choices.

That said, somebody still should have prevailed on them before they let Louis Campbell slip away. Arkansas’ understated but super deluxe sometimes secondary coach, sometimes administrative troubleshooter and current interim defensive coordinator for interim head coach Reggie Herring, leaves after theCotton Bowl game to coach the Ole Miss secondary for Nutt.

Too bad, in this time of overwhelming change, Arkansas needed a longtime Arkansan on the Razorback staff.

Tim Horton, the running backs coach Petrino retained from the Nutt staff, is a sound choice as a good coach and current recruiting link to the 2008 prospects and Arkansas born former Razorback from one of the Razorbacks’ foremost families with Razorback Foundation vice president Harold Horton for a father. But Tim, hired away from the Air Force Academy, has only been back in Arkansas since last July.

How much more it would help additionally to have a solid, old pro without any agenda but helping Arkansas, always Hamburg native Louis Campbell’s trademark since he returned to his alma mater to coach in 1990.

If Petrino couldn’t find a spot for him on his staff – and that’s understandable – then it’s too bad Long couldn’t have made Campbell an administrative offer Louis couldn’t refuse even with this interim coordinating whetting his appetite for a permanent coaching return. Campbell is that valuable, anybody in the Broyles Complex will tell you.

Oh, well, at least they have him and Herring and a staff that even with the vast majority departing Jan. 2 to make way for the Petrino regime, has stayed loyal to these Razorbacks they still coach.

No matter whose colors they wear next in 2008, expect each coach to represent Arkansas well in Dallas through the Cotton Bowl New Year’s Day.