Arkansas’ Coaching Hot Board

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Liberty head football coach Hugh Freeze arrives to coach from a wheelchair in the coaches’ box against Syracuse in an NCAA college football game in Lynchburg, Va., Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Bell)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas is once again in the market for a head football coach.

At this point, almost certainly any replacement for Chad Morris is still involved with his current team.

Here’s a first look at seven possible names listed in alphabetical order.

Hugh Freeze, Liberty Head Coach

Freeze has experience both at Arkansas State and in the SEC at Ole Miss. He is currently in his first season at Liberty. He was successful at Ole Miss until running into issues with the NCAA. He was 10-2 his lone season at Arkansas State in 2011. Going into play this week, Liberty was 5-3. His first coaching job in college was at Lambuth where he went 20-5 in two seasons in two seasons including 12-1 in 2009. He had to vacate 27 victories at Ole Miss due to NCAA penalties. He proved he could beat Alabama while at Ole Miss, but did struggle mightily with Bret Bielema at Arkansas. Freeze turned 50 on Sept. 27.

Bryan Harsin, Boise State Head Coach

Having a lot of success at his alma mater so Harsin isn’t likely to leave. However, his salary is in the range of $1.750 million per season which Arkansas would be able to easily top. His buyout is reportedly in the $8 million range though. Harsin was 8-5 in his one season at Arkansas State in 2013. He left for Boise state and is in his sixth season there. They are 7-1 currently on the season. His record at Boise State is 59-16. That includes 12-2 in 2014, 10-3 2016, 11-3 2017 and 10-3 in 2018. The lone season he doesn’t have double-digit wins is in 2015 when he went 9-4. Harsin turned 43 on Nov. 1.

Josh Heupel, UCF Head Coach

The former OU quarterback is in his second season at UCF. He came to the school from Missouri, where he was offensive coordinator, to replace Scott Frost who left for Nebraska. UCF was 12-1 in 2018 and is currently at 7-2 on the season. Heupel thus had a mark of 19-3 heading into this weekend’s action. He is making $2.3 million at UCF with a buyout reportedly in range of $4.862 million. Heupel turned 41 on March 22.

Skip Holtz, Louisiana Tech Head Coach

Son of former Razorback coach Lou Holtz. Holtz is reportedly only making $700,000 at Louisiana Tech with a buyout in the range of $2,508,333. Holtz, who turned 55 on March 12, has been head coach at Connecticut, East Carolina and South Florida in addition to Louisiana Tech. At UConn from 1994-98, Holtz was 34-23 including 10-3 in 1998. In 2005 he became the head coach at East Carolina and was there through the 2009 season. Holtz was 38-27 at East Carolina including 9-5 in both 2008 and 2009. He then went to South Florida in 2010 where he coached for three years. He didn’t find success at USF going 16-21 in three years with 8-5 in 2010 his only winning record. He landed at Tech in 2013 where he is 53-34 including 7-1 going into this weekend. He won nine games in each of 2014-16.

Chris Klieman, Kansas State Head Coach

For some reason, Kansas State fans weren’t exactly excited when Klieman was hired away from North Dakota State. All he has done in his first season to this point is beat Oklahoma, TCU, Mississippi State and Kansas. Much ado has been made about Les Miles’ first season at Kansas, but Klieman and the Wildcats beat the Jayhawks 38-10 last weekend. All he did in five years at North Dakota State from 2014-18 was go 69-6 winning four Division I FCS national championships in five years. Klieman, who turned 52 on Sept. 27, is making $2.3 million at Kansas State with a buyout in $6 million range. Klieman was 3-7 at Loras in 2005 in his first head coaching job. His team has shown it can play defense in the Big 12 where that side of the ball isn’t a strong emphasis at most of the league’s schools.

Mike Leach, Washington State Head Coach

Leach has won at difficult places as a head coach. He was 84-43 at Texas Tech from 2000-2009 and then is 53-44 at Washington State from 2012 to now. His team is currently 4-4 on the season. Leach doesn’t come without controversy though and might have have been easier to sold to Arkansas in 2017 when he went 9-4 or 2018 when his squad was 11-2. Leach is 137-87 combined at Texas Tech and Washington State. He is making $3.75 million per season at Washington State with a buy in range of $4.9 million. He turned 58 on March 9.

Mike Norvell, Memphis Head Coach

The former wide receiver at UCA was mentioned strongly for the Arkansas job in 2017 when Morris was hired. Norvell has his team 8-1 this season including a big win in Memphis last Saturday night over previously unbeaten SMU. Memphis was 8-5 in 2016, 10-3 in 2017 and then 8-6 last fall. Norvell is making $2,660,000 per season at Memphis and has a buyout of $6.748 million. He is the youngest of this group of candidates as he turned 38 on Oct. 11. Norvell will be mentioned strongly as well if either of the Mississippi schools makes a coaching change following the season and even could emerge as a darkhorse at Florida State.

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