Talk of next year begins prior to the end of the Hogs’ season


A day after Arkansas Razorbacks athletics director Hunter Yurachek publicly quelled speculation about football head coach Sam Pittman’s job status, Pittman all but let the cat out of the bag on what sounded like a new name, image, and likeness initiative that the fourth-year head coach believes will allow the Razorbacks to become competitive in recruiting a higher caliber athlete to join the football program.

Pittman somewhat sheepishly and regretfully said he may have spoken out of turn in his weekly in-season media conference, and he did not offer up any other details, but as little as he said, the slip-up should have at least piqued fans’ interest.

That’s something the Hogs did not do last Saturday despite posting a 44-20 victory over Florida International that moved the Razorbacks to 4-7 on the season and 1-6 in SEC going into their 3 p.m. Friday season finale with the Missouri Tigers (9-2, 5-2 SEC). The game will be televised by CBS.

A generous guesstimate is that Razorback Stadium was two-thirds or less full last Saturday. There should be a better crowd for Friday’s game even if more than a few will be Mizzou fans traveling south of their border to watch their 10th-ranked Tigers play. Evidently there is talk among Missouri fans of striping out Razorback Stadium in black and gold.

Hopefully enough Hog fans will attend and that won’t be possible, but while Missouri fans are burning hot thanks to their fine season, Arkansas supporters are at best lukewarm about Pittman’s return.

I’m personally glad Arkansas has decided to retain Pittman and has publicized the decision. 

After riding a seesaw of coaching changes and buyouts for the last decade and a half, the Razorback football program can use some stability. 

Last Sunday was a goose chase when unsubstantiated reports arose from the ether of social media declaring Pittman would be fired before the end of the season. Even when you hear otherwise from well-placed sources, reports like that need to be followed up. 

The UA sports information department put the story to bed that evening with an e-mail, announcing Pittman’s media appearances for the week.

Yurachek’s move Sunday to announce Pittman would be retained was much appreciated information.

This was not the kind of year anyone anticipated, but absorbing one terrible season and the lessons learned may wind up being more prudent than paying Pittman millions of dollars to go away.

Pittman will either win enough next year to retain his job, or the plug will be pulled with one year shaved off the buyout.

Either way that is a win for the Razorbacks. 

It would be better for the program if Pittman’s Razorbacks win enough in future seasons to call his own shot on his retirement, something few college coaches get to do.

As for this Friday against Missouri, I hope for a Razorback victory like every week. I don’t hold out a lot of hope because the Tigers have mauled opponents all year with a stout defensive front, while the Hogs have been whipped on the line of scrimmage week after week in SEC play.

But, maybe the Hogs will surprise me? This entire season has flown in the face of my expectations almost on a weekly basis.