The timing is not perfect for beginning a search for a new head football coach. Or is it? Petrino built Arkansas into a national championship contender. The program finished last season ranked No. 5, losing to only LSU and Alabama on the road. The season before, Petrino led the Hogs to a Sugar Bowl berth, the school's first Bowl Championship Series game.
Talk about being in "Hog Heaven." The 2012 Razorbacks will be led by Heisman hopefuls, quarterback Tyler Wilson and running-back Knile Davis. It also returns several starters and offense and defense. And Arkansas plays Alabama and LSU at home.
The university is also building a new $40 million dollar practice facility. It will open up in the spring of 2013.
"Certainly, the success that our young people have had on the field is a great factor in that," said Long. "I think the additions we have made to our football program, upgrading video technology, upgrading the football stadium, and our football complex we are building now, all make the job more attractive."
Jeff Long is limited by time. Arkansas' spring drills end April 21 with the annual Red-White game. Long's not sold on a drawn-out search.
"It's a difficult time of year to be searching for a head football coach," said Long. "We can command a high level football coach and we are not going to compromise that. I need some time to play out the search and see where we stand."
New defensive coordinator Paul Haynes, and interim head coach and linebackers coach Taver Johnson, both could gain control on an interim basis. Haynes coached in the Cotton Bowl. Johnson joined the staff after the season. Both left Ohio State University, where they led the Buckeyes defense ranked among the nation's best.
Garrick McGee (Head Coach University of Alabama-Birmingham): McGee took over the UAB program in January, after spending the past four seasons as quarterbacks coach/offensive coordinator under Petrino at Arkansas. McGee is a player's coach. He can also recruit, especially in neighboring Oklahoma.
Skip Holtz (Head Coach of South Florida): Holtz has won everywhere he has coached, including Connecticut, East Carolina and South Florida. Holtz is the son of Lou Holtz, who coached the Arkansas Razorbacks in the late 1970's and early 1980's. Holtz graduated high school in Fayetteville.
Gus Malzahn (Head Coach of Arkansas State): Malzahn has yet to coach a game at Arkansas State, after spending the past three seasons as Auburn's offensive coordinator. He groomed Heisman Trophy Winner Cam Newton. Malzahn's college coaching career began at Arkansas in 2006 when he was named offensive coordinator. He led Springdale High School to an undefeated season in 2005.
Somebody off the radar: Long hired Petrino from the Atlanta Falcons in 2007. He did it before the NFL season even ended. Arkansas has plenty of cash to throw at a potential big name in the coaching carousel.