FAYETTEVILLE — When Sam Pittman was hired by Hunter Yurachek on Dec. 8 to be the new head football coach at the University of Arkansas he faced some obstacles.
Pittman wanted a job many others privately declined interest in. Arkansas was coming off back-to-back 2-10 seasons, 0-16 in the SEC, and had one conference win in three years. Many coaches saw that when considering the job, but Pittman saw it as a chance to get his dream job.
Pittman was always fond of saying you have to believe you have the best job in the country or how can you go out to sell it to recruits? He considered Arkansas the best job and one he had dreamed of having.
But since taking over, he has faced one obstacle after another and none of his own doing or fault. The COVID-19 shutdown hit the program just a few days before spring drills were set to begin. The players got sent home so no spring drills.
Not only no spring drills, but the players weren’t even on campus to be around the program. Sure other programs faced the same obstacles, but not all of them had a new coaching staff.
Pittman and his staff got two Junior Days in before on- and off-campus recruiting was shut down and remains in that status at least through Aug. 31. That meant no official visitors to campus, no more Junior Days or unofficial visits, no spring evaluation period for assistants to go on road and the summer football camps were scratched.
Once again, other coaches are going through the same things that Pittman is, but having won eight games in three seasons the program needed some good things to happen. Arkansas has used the camps in the past to uncover some key recruits.
And, despite all the obstacles from COVID-19, Pittman has actually handled it in a first-class manner. Instead of self pity, he has rolled up his sleeves and continued to work hard. He has turned what appeared to be a huge negative in recruiting into a pretty positive situation.
It has been said by many coaches at Arkansas if you can get them on campus it gives you a shot. Pittman and his staff have managed some talented recruits without even getting them on campus.
Pittman and his staff now have the players back on campus going through some voluntary workouts with Jamil Walker. The COVID-19 is still hanging over college athletics, but Pittman is proceeding with a good attitude and the idea that college football will take place. He refuses to speculate or buy into negativity.
“I learned a long time ago the media is very important,” Pittman said. “But it can also make your team or break your team if you pay a lot of attention to it. And so we’re going off of facts of what we know. I’m in a head coaches’ meeting every Thursday morning at 7:30. I’m going off of fact from the SEC commissioner, and so all speculation.
“I mean we could speculate for a month. Some of it would be right, some of it would be wrong. I’m just going off the facts of what the SEC commissioner is telling us and we’re going as planned to have a season for Sept. 5. Honestly, I don’t know how you could possibly prepare a team if you look at it any other way than that.”
Pittman has handled each situation that has appeared since he took over and now it seems with his steady, positive attitude it seems as if the concern over eight wins in three years is very secondary now. He has handled other problems that have happened, and will likely handle the improved product aspect of the team when football is played.