On this planet of what-could-have-been, there are specific scabs that Razorback followers can’t assist however preserve selecting. Imagining the glory that may have transpired had Carson Shaddy caught a sure fly ball within the 2018 School World Collection. Fantasizing in regards to the trajectory of the basketball program had Al Jefferson and Andre Iguodala performed for the Hogs as initially deliberate. Interested by the chances of the 2006 Arkansas soccer workforce had Gus Malzahn and Houston Nutt been capable of get alongside.
And, after all, this hum-dinger of an alternate historical past possiblity: What would have occurred had Bobby Petrino by no means ridden his bike right into a ditch?
The following firing of Petrino by Arkansas athletic director Jeff Lengthy set into impact an extended seek for a everlasting head coach. Throughout these six months of wanting excessive and low, Razorback Nation was subjected to this:
The 2012 season was not the very best of occasions. (Nor, because of Chad Morris, wouldn’t it show to be the worst of occasions.)
Nevertheless it was additionally an period of dreaming about the potential for what might come subsequent. By the tip of the 4-win season, the listing of candidates for subsequent Arkansas soccer coach included loads of of us with Arkansas ties – Tommy Tuberville, Butch Davis and Charlie Sturdy amongst them.
Then there was essentially the most pie-in-the-sky candidate that the majority followers would have thought to be an absolute grand slam of a rent, somebody who would have introduced extra nationwide consideration to Fayetteville than nearly every other risk: Jon Gruden.
Jon Gruden and the Little Rock Landing Membership
It was no secret that sure Arkansas powers that be needed to make Gruden, who had already received a Tremendous Bowl with Tampa Bay and was then serving as an ESPN NFL analyst and a commentator on Monday Night time Soccer, into the very best paid coach within the SEC. On the time, Gruden was making $4.3 million yearly as a commentator, however Arkansas was ready to pay him one thing within the $6 million per 12 months vary.
The Razorbacks gave a proposal to Gruden’s workforce, in response to Arkansas sports activities author Jim Harris, a contributor to Better of Arkansas Sports activities. Harris believes that Lengthy ran this proposal by Gruden’s agent to appease sure energy brokers on the Razorback Basis. Whereas Gruden declined earlier than a proper supply might be made, that is doubtless the closest Arkansas has ever gotten to hiring a Tremendous Bowl-winning head coach who would have are available with extra identify recognition than every other first-year SEC coach.
Ultimately, Arkansas employed Bret Bielema and the Gruden-mania that had swept sure components of the Arkansas soccer fanbase was swept apart. Nonetheless, questions linger about what Gruden truly considered the job and the Arkansas followers who needed him so badly. How shut did he get to returning to the school ranks?
We’ll lastly get solutions to some if not all of those sorts of questions on August 30 when Gruden seems because the visitor speaker on the Little Rock Landing Membership:
David Bazzel, the founding father of Little Rock Landing Membership, wrote in a textual content that he’ll ask Gruden in regards to the time he acquired a proposal to develop into Arkansas’ head coach. It might even be good to listen to extra in regards to the friendship between Gruden and John Daly, the Arkansas native golfer who reps the Razorbacks tougher than any movie star on the market.
Certainly, Daly overtly campaigned for Gruden because the Arkansas soccer head coach in 2012, Tweeted Jeff Lengthy “[S]until robust behind Gruden as I nonetheless suppose he could be the person to take us to that degree! #WooPigSooie’”
Gruden had caddied for Daly throughout the PODS Championship in 2008 after the 2 had concocted the plan collectively whereas sitting in a company hospitality tent sponsored by Hooters.
Little doubt, Gruden would have upped Arkansas’ recruiting sport primarily based on his identify recognition and professional bona fides alone. We’ve already seen an analogous dynamic play out, to a lesser diploma, with former NBA head coach Eric Musselman and the Arkansas basketball program.
Sure, Gruden received a Tremendous Bowl, however his different years (together with more moderen ones with the Las Vegas Raiders) weren’t as constantly nice. His report in Tampa Bay within the all seasons following that Tremendous Bowl win have been 45-53.
Doc Harper, additionally a contributor to BoAS, identified that Gruden’s fame as a soccer genius was bolstered by his pre-draft breakdowns of quarterback prospects on ESPN.
“That present is designed to make Gruden appear like a genius. He will get to undergo all of the tape of a quarterback’s profession and handpick just a few performs that enable him to present sage recommendation on the best way to run sure conditions higher. It could appear like an impromptu movie session that we envision most each coach going by, however it’s solely scripted.”
Harper, then writing for Arkansas Battle, added: “When Alabama employed Nick Saban, they knew they have been getting a high school coach as a result of they knew what he did at LSU. South Carolina knew what Spurrier did at Florida. Arkansas knew what Petrino did at Louisville. Tennessee knew how properly Derek Dooley did at Louisiana Tech, and properly, there they’re. Gruden has no such report. He’s by no means been a lot as a coordinator in school and hasn’t coached in any respect at this degree in over 20 years.”
The actual fact Gruden wasn’t a school coordinator doesn’t look so unhealthy now contemplating what Sam Pittman has achieved within the final couple years in Fayetteville. However Pittman was extraordinarily skilled in big-time school soccer as an offensive line coach and he has used each ounce of that have in constructing the Razorback program.
Gruden would have been extra of a wild card because the final time he coached school soccer was 1991. Musselman had the good thing about assistant teaching at Arizona State and LSU, plus just a few years as head coach at Nevada, earlier than leaping to Arkansas. Gruden wouldn’t have had the good thing about such a ramping up.
The closest corollary doubtless was Lane Kiffin leaping from two years on the helm of the Raiders into head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers (who additionally tried to get Gruden in 2012) in 2009. And that was a catastrophe.
In the long run, Jon Gruden as a Razorback coach won’t have labored out properly. Onerous to say it will have been worse than the Bielema period, nonetheless. Regardless, it’s a kind of enjoyable different historical past narratives which are enjoyable to carry up now and again throughout the canine days of summer season.
And the Gruden flirtation did, in the long run, produce one thing of lasting worth. One of the crucial catchy anthems ever carried out by Arkansas soccer followers got here from this time:
Right here’s to hoping David Bazzel rounds up these three guys and will get them to carry out “Hey Grude” one last time on August 30 on the Little Rock Landing Membership.
This may occasionally even be Gruden’s first public look since this went down: