Arkansas’ Coaching Search Hot Board (Updated 11-12)

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Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn watches from the sideline during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Kent State, Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas’ search for a head football coach is fully underway.

Hunter Yurachek met with the media on Monday to discuss the firing of Chad Morris and the search that is now ongoing.

Here’s a look at some possible names (Alphabetical Order). The former Arkansas coaches and/or players who are being possibly linked to job outside of Malzahn will be in another story.

Group 1

Matt Campbell, Iowa State Head Coach

A coach who is going to have options. He is 59-38 as a head coach including 35-15 at Toledo from 2011-15 before coming to Iowa State. He is 5-4 this season, but led team to eight wins each of the previous two. Among his wins at Toledo was a 16-12 victory over Bret Bielema’s best Arkansas team in 2015 at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. Campbell will turn 40 on Nov. 29. Campbell is making $3.6 million at Iowa State, but like most on this list has a large buyout.

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. The Wildcats are 6-3 following a close loss in Texas this past weekend. 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 53-45 at Washington State from 2012 to now. His team is currently 4-5 on the season. Leach doesn’t come without controversy though and might have have been easier to sell to Arkansas fans in 2017 when he went 9-4 or 2018 when his squad was 11-2. Leach is 137-88 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.

Gus Malzahn, Auburn Head Coach

The former offensive coordinator at Arkansas who worked his way up from the high school ranks seems to always come up in discussions when the Hogs have an opening. He is 69-32 as a head coach including 60-29 at Auburn. They are 7-2 this season, but do have tough games, though at home, remaining against Georgia and Alabama. He was 9-3 in one season at Arkansas State in 2012. Despite his very good record at Auburn many would like to see a change there. If he was close to 60-29 at Arkansas they would be building statues for him. That is the difference in pressure coaching at Auburn and Arkansas. Malzahn turned 54 on Oct. 28. He was courted strongly by Arkansas two year’s ago when the Razorbacks hired Chad Morris. Malzahn is making approximately $6.8 million per season at Auburn and has a massive buyout. If he loses to Alabama and Georgia do the Tigers move on?

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 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 candidate at Florida State and any other school that has an opening.

Group 2

Bill Clark, UAB Head Coach

Owns a record of 42-21 at UAB and Jacksonville State. Was 11-4 in 2013 at Jacksonville State and is 31-17 at UAB. He turned 51 on June 28. He is making $1.450 million at UAB and has around a $7 million buyout. His team was 11-3 last season in just the second year back following the program being restored. They are 6-3 this season.

Eliah Drinkwitz, Appalachian State Head Coach

He turned 36 on April 12 and has strong ties to the state. He attended Arkansas Tech. He has coached in high school at Alma and Springdale. He was an assistant coach at Arkansas State. This is his first season as a head coach, but he’s 8-1 with wins over South Carolina and North Carolina. His salary is $750,000 and he has very manageable buyout that is in the $1.74 million range. He has coached under Malzahn at both Springdale High School and Arkansas State. He was quality control on offense at Auburn when Malzahn was an assistant under Gene Chizik.

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. Liberty is 6-4 this season. 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 8-1 currently on the season. His record at Boise State is 60-16. 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. He probably should be in the first group he’s a very good coach.

Skip Holtz, Lousiana 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 54-34 including 8-1 going into this weekend. He won nine games in each of 2014-16.

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 7-3 on the season. His team has suffered multiple injuries at quarterback. Heupel thus has a mark of 19-4 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.

Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic Head Coach

The son of former Arkansas defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. He was 5-15 coaching the Oakland Raiders in 2007 and four games in 2008. In 2009, he was 7-6 as head coach at Tennessee. He was 28-15 at USC from 2010 and five games into 2013. Kiffin was 10-2 in 2011 with the Trojans. He has been at FAU from 2017 to present. He was 11-3 in 2017, slipped to 5-7 in 2018, but has rebounded to go 7-3 this season including a win over Western Kentucky which beat the Hogs this past Saturday. Kiffin makes $1.432 million at FAU and his buyout is in $4 million range. He turned 44 on May 9.

Billy Napier, Louisiana Head Coach

The 40-year old Napier is from Georgia and has extensive ties to Nick Saban at Alabama. He recruited the state of Arkansas for the Tide as well as coaching wide receivers. He also has been an assistant at Clemson, Arizona State, South Carolina State and Colorado State. He is in his second year as head coach at Louisiana. His record is 14-9 including 7-2 this season. He is making $875,000 and has a buyout in the $3 million range. He will likely get a chance to be a head coach in the SEC whether that is at Arkansas, Ole Miss, Mississippi State or somewhere else.

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