FAYETTEVILLE – University of Arkansas Chancellor Joe Steinmetz and the 7-member advisory search committee formed to assist him finding and naming the Razorbacks’ next athletic director will have a professional search firm assisting them while Arkansas Interim Athletic Director Julie Cromer Peoples will have a professional search firm assisting her as the Razorbacks seek a new head football coach, the UA announced Tuesday.
The Razorbacks fired Athletic Director Jeff Long, the Razorbacks’ AD since 2008, on Nov. 15 and last Friday fired 5-year Arkansas Head Football Coach Bret Bielema.
Consultants from the the executive search firm Korn Ferry will assist in the athletics director’s search while the executive search firm DHR International will assist Cromer Peoples with the football coaching search.
“The search for an athletics director is progressing quickly and there are a number of talented individuals we are considering,” Steinmetz said via Tuesday’s UA press release. “The input from the advisory committee has been invaluable. They truly represent the passion our state has for the Razorbacks and understand the importance of this position. The consultants will help us complete the evaluation process. We understand speed is of the essence and are working to name a new leader as quickly as possible.”
While Cromer Peoples, in her fourth year as Arkansas’ Senior Associate Athletic Director, has operated with full authority to begin the coaching search since last Friday night, the UA obviously prefers having a permanent athletic director in place before offering the job to the Razorbacks’ next head football coach.
Meanwhile, with SEC schools Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Tennessee also among the schools seeking a new head football coach, the UA also feels compelled to be in early earnest on its head football coaching quest.
““This past weekend we engaged with DHR International to work with us on our head football coach search,” Cromer Peoples said via the press release. “DHR International has an excellent reputation in our business and has already provided tremendous assistance to us in this process. With the number of vacant coaching positions in our league and around the nation, it is important that we move forward expeditiously and efficiently in finding the next head football coach for the Arkansas Razorbacks.”
Steinmetz said private funds, not UA funds will be used to pay both search firms. The Razorback Foundation, the athletic department’s major fund-raising vehicle, is expected to contribute heavily in the coaching search funding.
Auburn Coach Gus Malzhan, the Fort Smith native and former 3-schools Arkansas state champion high school coach and the Razorbacks’ offensive coordinator in 2006, Memphis Coach Mike Norvell, a graduate of the University of Central Arkansas, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, familiar with Arkansas’ Texas and Louisiana recruiting areas as the former defensive coordinator at Oklahoma, and SMU Coach Chad Morris have been reported to be the ones that Cromer Peoples and the UA most consider for the head coaching position.
However, given then ultra-successful Wisconsin Coach Bielema was on no media radar when he unexpectedly left the Rose Bowl bound Big Ten champion Badgers to come to Arkansas in December, 2012, it easily could be none of the above when the Razorbacks eventually name their coach, especially if a yet unnamed athletic director has by then arrived to be in on making the decision.
Chances of hiring Malzhan, Norvell and Venables during this week appear slim. On Saturday Malzhan’s SEC West champion Tigers play SEC East champion Georgia for the SEC championship in Atlanta with the victor certain to advance to the 4-team playoff determining the national champion.
Also on Saturday, Venables coordinates a Clemson defense for the 11-1 defending national champion Tigers against 11-1 Miami in the ACC Championship game in Charlotte, N.C. with that winner advancing to the 4-team playoff.
Norvell’s Tigers play unbeaten University of Central Florida for the American Athletic Conference championship in Orlando, Fla.
Morris’ SMU Mustangs have concluded their season at 7-5.
Names bandied about as possible Arkansas AD candidates include Scott Varady, a UA grad since the executive director of the Razorback Foundation after 19 years as an attorney working on many athletic department matters as part of the UA System’s General Counsel office, Kevin Scanlon, the All-Southwest Conference quarterback for Lou Holtz’s Southwest Conference co-champion Razorbacks and a longtime Stephens Inc. executive with experience as a sports agent and assisting the UA on the football coaches’ TV shows, and Cromer Peoples.
Tommy Tuberville, the former Ole Miss, Auburn, Texas Tech and University of Cincinnati coach, also is a possible AD candidate.
Tuberville has no past experience with the Razorbacks other than coaching against them but is an Arkansas native from Camden and was strongly supported by former Arkansas 1968-70 star quarterback Bill Montgomery on Arkansas’ 1998 search committee which eventually hired Houston Nutt as the Razorbacks’ coach.
Montgomery serves on the current athletic director search advisory committee with 2-time national champion Arkansas Women’s Track Coach Lance Harter; former Lady Razorbacks NCAA champion golfer Stacy Lewis; Razorback Foundation Board member and Little Rock businessman and attorney Rick Massey; Board of Trustees Chairman Ben Hyneman of Jonesboro; UA journalism professor, former Kansas City Star sportswriter and current Razorbacks faculty representative Gerald Jordan; and UA Dean of architecture and former University of Virginia men’s assistant soccer coach Peter MacKeith.
Like the football coaching search, don’t be surprised if names other than the ones now most conjectured become most seriously discussed by Steinmetz, the advisory committee and the search firm.