Arkansas’ Coaching Search Starting to Take Shape

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TEMPE, ARIZONA – OCTOBER 12: Head coach Mike Leach of the Washington State Cougars watches from the sidelines during the second half of the NCAAF game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium on October 12, 2019 in Tempe, Arizona. The Sun Devils defeated the Cougars 38-34. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas’ search for a head football coach continues and some familiar names are near the top according to sources.

Among the candidates appearing to be near the top of the wishlist are, in no particular order, Florida Atlantic’s Lane Kiffin, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, Washington State’s Mike Leach, Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell and Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuente.

Each would bring something to the table including being proven head coaches. Kiffin has been a head coach at Tennessee, USC and in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders in addition to FAU. He has a collegiate coaching record of 58-34 and was 5-15 in the NFL.

Malzahn has been a head coach at Arkansas State and Auburn. He spent one season as offensive coordinator at Arkansas. While Malzahn has a big buyout and just signed an extension two year’s ago (when Arkansas hired Chad Morris) speculation is he might be interested in the Hogs if the Tigers lose to Alabama in the final game of the regular season. Will Auburn keep him if his team is 8-4? If the answer is no then he could be a serious candidate at Arkansas. His record in college as head coach is 69-33 including 60-30 at Auburn.

Leach has compiled a record of 138-88 in stops at Texas Tech and Washington State. He was 84-43 at Texas Tech and is 54-45 in his time at Washington State. They are 5-5 this season.

Fickell is 30-18 as a head coach. He was 6-7 in one season as head coach at Ohio State. He was supposed to be the interim coach for five games, but then Jim Tressel resigned and he got the job. However, after the disappointing season, the Buckeyes chose Urban Meyer. He’s 24-11 with the Bearcats including 9-1 this season. Cincinnati struggled to a 4-8 mark in 2017 his first year there, but rebounded to go 11-2 in 2018.

Fuente is a former prep quarterback at Tulsa (Okla.) Union. He built Memphis and was 26-23 in four years there. His final two teams in Memphis were 10-3 in 2014 and then 9-3 in 2015. In four years at Virginia Tech, Fuente is 32-18 including 7-3 this season. His first team in 2016 went 10-4 and then followed that up with a mark of 9-4 in 2017. His team fell to 6-7 in 2018.

Other candidates can emerge too. Arkansas is searching for a replacement for Chad Morris who was fired on Nov. 10.

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