Coaching search at Arkansas more complicated


FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said other programs looking for football coaches could complicate his search two months ago, when the Razorbacks were the only major school openly on the market for a new leader.

Now that college football’s coaching carousel is in full swing, some of those complications for the Razorbacks may be coming from another SEC program.

The website Volquest.com, which is part of the Rivals.com network, reported Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart met with Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy about the Volunteers’ vacancy on Sunday. He also is believed to be on Arkansas’ list of candidates and the Tulsa World, citing a source close to Gundy, reported the Razorbacks may be in discussions with the coach as well Sunday.

While a meeting between Arkansas and Gundy could not be confirmed, the coach declined to comment on the reports during a teleconference Sunday night.

“I would never talk about any other jobs or any confirmation of anything that’s gone on,” Gundy told reporters on the conference call.

Gundy is 66-35 in eight seasons with the Cowboys and one year removed from a new contract, which he earned after guiding Oklahoma State to a 12-1 record and Fiesta Bowl win last season. His current deal currently pays him an average of $3.75 million annually through 2019. The contract also includes a $3 million buyout.

Oklahoma State finished 7-5 in 2012 and accepted an invitation to play in the Heart of Dallas Bowl against Purdue. Gundy was asked a few times about the reports Sunday and said, at one point, he spent the day “around the house.”

“I would prefer not to talk about anything other than Oklahoma State and the bowl game,” Gundy said.

Other big-name candidates linked in connection to the Arkansas job the past few weeks include Boise State’s Chris Petersen and TCU’s Gary Patterson. Long has said he wouldn’t approach coaches about the position until their seasons ended. Both wrapped up the regular season with their respective programs Saturday.

It’s not known if Long — who told Arkansas players last week he would have a coach in place as early as Wednesday — has spoken with either Petersen or Patterson. But one other coach believed to be on Arkansas’ radar did end any speculation about hunting for other jobs Sunday night.

Vanderbilt announced it had agreed to a contract extension with second-year coach James Franklin a week after the Commodores wrapped up one of the best regular seasons in school history. The second-year coach led Vanderbilt to an 8-4 mark and was rewarded with a new contract. The salary figures were not disclosed.

Franklin is the second coach rumored to be in the Arkansas mix to receive a contract extension in the past week. LSU coach Les Miles earned his less than a one day after his name emerged in the Razorbacks’ search last Wednesday.

Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams told reporters “everyone in America” had spoken to him about Franklin, but said the two sides had been working on the new deal for two weeks. Franklin said he would be at Vanderbilt “for the long haul.”

Vanderbilt will play North Carolina State in the Music City Bowl.

Petrino To Idaho

Arkansas continues its search for a new coach, but one Razorbacks assistant has secured a new job.

Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino was formally announced as Idaho’s head coach during a press conference Monday, according to multiple reports. Petrino reportedly was one of five candidates to interview for the position and earned the opportunity, which will be his first chance to lead a program.

Petrino, who is the younger brother of former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, spent three seasons with the Razorbacks as offensive coordinator (2008-09, 2012). He worked with his brother – Arkansas’ play-caller – for two years. Petrino was in charge of the Arkansas offense in 2012 after his brother was fired last April.

“It was just tough,” Petrino said of Arkansas’ offensive struggles in 2012. “It was kind of like we were snake-bit in a lot of games. A lot of games we just went up and down the field and just hurt ourselves.”

Petrino did not respond to a text message seeking comment Sunday. But he is returning to a familiar place at Idaho, who fired coach Robb Akey in October. The Montana native was an assistant on John L. Smith’s staff at Idaho from 1992-94.