LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- First basketball, now football.
Another coach has spurned Arkansas.
Wake Forest's Jim Grobe was the latest to turn down the
Razorbacks after he appeared to be headed to Fayetteville. The
Razorback Foundation, a private fundraising arm for the University
of Arkansas, had actually approved a salary supplement for the Wake
Forest coach, but Grobe was still with the Demon Deacons on
Before starting practice, some Wake Forest players cheered "Sooie!" -- a reference to Arkansas' famous "Pig Sooie" cheer.
"I think Arkansas's a great place," said Grobe, who would've
replaced Houston Nutt at Arkansas. "I wish them a lot of luck, I
think it's a great opportunity for somebody, but I just felt like
this was the best opportunity for me right here."
Grobe's decision brought to mind an even more unusual near-miss
for Arkansas. When basketball coach Stan Heath was fired in late
March, the Razorbacks hired Dana Altman a week later. After his
introductory news conference, Altman changed his mind and went back
Arkansas hired John Pelphrey a week later.
"I'm just kind of embarrassed, personally," said Anthony
Lucas, a former Arkansas receiver who lives in Little Rock, after
the Razorbacks again failed to get their man. "I just hate what's
going on with this up there. I don't understand why we can't find a
"I don't understand why a coach wouldn't want to take this job.
As a [Southeastern Conference] school, of course, I know our fans
are a little tough. But it's one of the greatest schools in
America," Lucas said.
Nutt resigned Nov. 26 and was hired almost immediately by
Mississippi. Grobe would have been an intriguing hire. He took
perennially downtrodden Wake Forest to the FedEx Orange Bowl last season.
The Demon Deacons face Connecticut in the Meineke Car Care Bowl this season.
Jeff Long, Arkansas' incoming athletic director, is handling the
coach search. He takes over as AD on Jan. 1 after Frank Broyles
retires. Long released a statement Thursday.
"The search for a head football coach at the University of
Arkansas is ongoing," Long said. "While I have been involved in
detailed discussions with candidates, no formal offer has been
extended and no agreement has been reached."
Grobe was vague when talking about his contact with Arkansas.
"I think that we had some good discussions, but in the end, I'm
still at Wake Forest," Grobe said. "I kind of don't think you
come real close until you sign something."
Those have become words to live by in Arkansas. Television
stations in the state linked Auburn's Tommy Tuberville to the
Razorbacks last week. Tuberville agreed to a contract extension
This week it was another Tommy who was linked to the job, but
Tommy Bowden agreed to an extension at Clemson on Tuesday.
Finally, on Wednesday night, multiple media outlets reported
that Grobe would take over the Razorbacks. Not so fast.
"The thing that happens at Wake Forest, I've got a really good
job and the rest of my staff is happy," Grobe said. "We've got
really good players, and we've got a chance to be really good next
year, and so even though you look at other places, you've got to
remember, Wake Forest is a pretty good place itself."
Butch Davis, a former Arkansas player, said Thursday he won't
talk with other schools about jobs and will return for his second
season at North Carolina.
"I hope they hire a good coach. I really do," Davis said of
Arkansas. "I hope as an alum they hire and find somebody that does
as good or better than Houston Nutt. I think Houston Nutt did an
excellent job there. They were very competitive."
Arkansas, ranked No. 25 in The Associated Press poll, will face Missouri (No. 6 BCS, No. 7 AP)
in the AT&T Cotton Bowl. Defensive coordinator Reggie Herring is the
Razorbacks' interim coach.
Nutt left following a turbulent year in which fans used the
Freedom of Information Act to investigate his cell phone records.
Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn left in January, and quarterback
Mitch Mustain transferred to Southern California. Planes flew at
games towing anti-Nutt banners.
Lucas, who played for the Razorbacks during the late 1990s,
defended the fans.
"They can be a little bit aggressive at times, but that's the
love for it," he said. "They want to know what's going on with
Arkansas is not alone with its protracted search. Michigan, for
example, hasn't hired anyone to replace Lloyd Carr. Also, as
difficult as it was, the Razorbacks' lengthy basketball search
eventually yielded Pelphrey, who is off to a 7-1 start with the
Lucas played for the Razorbacks in 1997, when Nutt replaced
Danny Ford. That search took about as long as this one has, but
once in place, Nutt led Arkansas to an 8-0 start his first season
Even so, Lucas is concerned. With each day that passes without a
coach, the uncertainty surrounding Arkansas football lingers.
"We've got to find the right guy," Lucas said. "We've got to
find a guy who wants to be here -- that's most important."