Arkansas ends laughter, angst with hire

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo! Sports

Here are some of the words and phrases used in media accounts, blogs and fan message boards to describe the Arkansas football coaching search prior to Tuesday afternoon.

"A complete tragedy." "Outrage." "Humiliating." "Embarrassing." An "utter disaster." "Can't find anybody good." And a personal favorite, "Good Lord, just shoot us."

Here are some of the words and phrases used after the Razorbacks landed Atlanta Falcons coach Bobby Petrino, last seen in the college ranks turning Louisville, of all places, into a top 5 team in a BCS bowl.

"A home run." "Incredible." "A major coup." "Great Hire." "Wildest dreams come true." "Earthshaking." And a personal favorite, "Bobby 'Freakin' Petrino, that's what I'm talking about!"

It was that quick.

The process of finding a major college football coach has never been easy, never been simple, never been clean, swift or simple. It's a major transaction, almost always fraught with twists and turns, rejections and resurrections, stalemates and surprises.

Every year, at every school the story is more often than not exactly the same – nothing goes right until it does.

And yet every year, at every school the expectations are that an old coach will leave one day and a new coaching savior will walk across the campus pond the next. And when that doesn't happen, especially in our instant gratification, media saturated, Skip Bayless screaming world, all hell is sure to break loose.

So when Arkansas went 15 days without replacing Houston Nutt (who quit on them) and were turned down in the process by a few candidates, apparently everyone from the university president to the stadium janitor should've been water boarded for it.

At least until they landed a candidate better than anyone they could have imagined.

It's the same story that is playing out at Michigan, which has supposedly humiliated itself by not instantly replacing Lloyd Carr with some combination of Lombardi, Schembechler and Belichick.

For some reason everyone seems to think you can just snap your fingers and be done with it – which is only true if you’re grabbing an unproven assistant (Nebraska) or work a secret deal with a hot-seat coach (Mississippi).

Otherwise the entire breathless consternation over who's next is a worthless, if entertaining, pursuit. It might be fun to speculate, but to overreact and predict doom, gloom and disaster is to ignore both history and reality.

It's not that every coaching search is handled perfectly – Michigan's hasn't been – but it doesn't matter what happens with your first choice, just your final one.

Does anyone really think the Wolverines, the winningest program of all time, won't attract a quality coach? Does anyone really consider Les Miles to be a) some coaching genius, b) the only person capable of winning in Ann Arbor or, more to the point, c) a and b?

Pete Carroll was the fourth choice at Southern California, an NFL retread with virtually no collegiate experience. You know any Trojan fans who want to trade him for the other three guys?

Last year Alabama whiffed a couple times, including a high-profile snub by West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez that led to a round of wailing about how the Crimson Tide was now just any old place, a faded power that couldn't even lure someone out of Morgantown.

Then they got Nick Saban from the Miami Dolphins and 6-6 record not withstanding haven't stopped smiling.

How about Ohio State, which after the 2000 season was spurned by some candidates and wound up with the coach of I-AA Youngstown State. Jim Tressel has the Buckeyes in their third BCS title game.

If you think Tressel's hiring was instantaneous or saved the Buckeyes during the supposedly all important December recruiting period, just recall his now famous introductory prediction about fans being proud of his team "in 310 days in Ann Arbor, Michigan."

That's 310, not 365. Tressel was hired on Jan. 18, 2001, about two weeks before national signing day.

The thing is, no matter the emotions and initial reviews on hiring day, no one knows who is or isn't going to work. The most logical hires often fail and the most unexpected ones succeed. A seamless transition is no better a predictor than a long drawn out one.

In the end, winning the media conference doesn't ensure winning anything else.

You just never know. Even if everyone says they do.

On Tuesday morning, Arkansas was a national laughingstock, a self-destructive place that ran a fairly decent coach out and would spend years wishing they could ever get someone as good.

On Tuesday afternoon, they got Bobby Petrino and they were geniuses, the calm after the coaching search storm.

Sure to be forgotten by everyone this time next year.

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