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April 19, 2012
There is a formula to improving Arkansas' chances to continue winning big post-Petrino, and it means hiring a head coach from within the program.
Fans want a big name, and who can blame them, but the important thing is that the most exciting day in the fans' experience with the new coach is not his announcement ceremony.
Taking a look at the final Associated Press Top 10 from last season, the schools in bold hired the current head coach from within the program or as USC did brought back a coach who was with the program for years under the previous head coach.
3. Oklahoma State
6. Southern California
8. Boise State
9. South Carolina
Each of those teams were winning before the new coach got there, and aside from Alabama, Oklahoma State, Arkansas and South Carolina, they were all winning big. Oklahoma State, Oregon, USC, Stanford, Boise State and Wisconsin all made head coaching hires by promoting from within. Technically, USC hired Lane Kiffin from Tennessee, but Kiffen spent six seasons under Pete Carroll with the Trojans. That is six of the top 10 teams, and Arkansas could be next.
In every corner of the state and beyond, some Razorback fan has an example of previous success stories or disasters that Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long should look at when considering who should be Arkansas' next head coach. Long needs to look at the information below, and he probably already has.
Oregon - Chip Kelly was offensive coordinator at Oregon under Mike Bellotti and stepped up as head coach in 2009 when Bellotti stepped down. Bellotti was no stranger to 10- and 11-win seasons with the Ducks, but he never hit 12 wins like Kelly has the past two years.
Wisconsin - Bret Bielema stepped up from defensive coordinator to head coach at Wisconsin after Barry Alvarez stepped down and not only kept things rolling for the Badgers but has taken the program to another level. Bielema has already put together seasons of 12-1, 10-3, 11-2 and 11-3 at Wisconsin.
Southern California - USC had not been USC for a long time until Pete Carroll arrived in 2001. He was one of the greatest college coaches of all-time but left the program in a tough spot with the NCAA. Kiffin was not a hire from within, but in some regard he was because he coached under Carroll for the first six seasons and is running the same system there now with some of the same coaches who were there under Carroll at one time. In spite of all the sanctions and obstacles, the Trojans were 10-2 last season under Kiffin.
Oklahoma State - Les Miles left Oklahoma State for LSU in 2005. Miles won in Stillwater in his four years there, most notably an 8-5 and 9-4 finish in 2002 and 2003. When he left, the Cowboys turned to offensive coordinator Mike Gundy to take the reins. It took three seasons before Gundy got things rolling, but his last four years have been 9-4, 9-4, 11-2 and 12-1.
Stanford - Many may point to Stanford's success the last two years as having the best quarterback prospect in the country in Andrew Luck, but Jim Harbaugh built Stanford from 4-8, to 5-7, to 8-5 to 12-1 in consecutive seasons there before taking the head coaching job with the San Francisco 49ers in 2011. David Shaw stepped in as head coach from his offensive coordinator role and led the Cardinal to 11-2 this past season, with a narrow BCS bowl game loss to Oklahoma State.
Boise State - Dan Hawkins put Boise State football on the map when in 2002 he started a string of seasons that went 12-1, 13-1, 11-1 and 9-4 before leaving in 2006 to become head coach at Colorado. Guess who stepped in for him? -Boise offensive coordinator Chris Petersen. All Petersen did was take the Broncos to 13-0 his first season, then 10-3, then 12-1, 14-0 and 12-1 last season.
The Top 25 is littered with other examples.
Clemson - Dabo Swinney struggled out of the gate moving up from offensive coordinator to head coach when he replaced Tommy Bowden, but his Tigers were 10-4 last season following Bowden, who hit nine wins several times but never got over the hump.
Nebraska - Bo Pelini has Nebraska football back in the conversation. Pelini was defensive coordinator in 2003 under Frank Solich, who did well with 12-1, 10-2 and 11-2 seasons but was fired after going 9-3 in 2003. The Cornhuskers went outside the program for big-name hire Bill Callahan. Callahan went 5-6, 8-4, 9-5 and 5-7 before being fired. The Huskers reversed field and went back with Pelini who many lobbied for to get the job in the first place. Pelini has gone 9-4, 10-4, 10-4 and 9-4 in four years with the Cornhuskers.
Florida State - Jimbo Fisher was promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach at FSU when Bobby Bowden stepped down. Bowden is a legend but the last few years were just 'okay' by Seminole standards. Fisher has gone 10-4 and 9-4 in his first two seasons as a head coach.
There are plenty of bad examples, too. Jack Crowe certainly didn't impress in his 2.1 seasons as Arkansas' head coach following a great run by Ken Hatfield as he stepped up from the offensive coordinator role. Crowe had two bad years and was fired one game into the 1992 season after the worst loss in school history to The Citadel.
If Arkansas wants to continue winning, the safest bet is hiring from within. Want to keep winning the Petrino way? Then the Razorbacks need to hire a Petrino, and that means either brother Paul Petrino or like-minded disciple, current UAB head coach and former UA offensive coordinator Garrick McGee.
Hiring the head coach from within the program may not be the popular move among all fans, but it may provide the best odds for continued success.