Ask Mike: Pittman’s Staying, A Mizzou Invasion & Did Freeze Rat Poison Auburn?

By Mike Irwin
on 2023-11-20 18:42 PM

Q. Our first question is from mousetown who wants to know: What was accomplished against Florida International aside from saying we won a game. I saw some good things but I’m not sure a lot of the fans will see it that way.

A. Well the first thing it did was guarantee that Sam Pittman will be back. Remember, in spite of all that was said about him coming back Hunter Yurachek himself didn’t comment until after the game when he told the team in the locker-room that Pittman would be their coach next season. The timing of that tells me that had they lost that game Pittman might have been gone. So for Pittman that win was huge.

I would agree that there were some good things that happened. Specifically the play of freshmen running back Isaiah Augustave who had over 100 yards rushing, prompting the question, where’s this guy been? I liked the way the defense bounced back and in spite of some inconsistencies, the offense twice, once in the first half and once in the second half when Florida International appeared to have gained momentum.

Q. From WVHOGFAN: Coach Pittman says that he is not worried about losing his job. Why should he? Either way he is going to make at least 16 million. To me, I take it that he is not motivated to keep the job. The average fan would lose their income if they lost their job.

A. Well, we now know that he wasn’t worried about losing his job because his AD told him he wasn’t. But I get your point. However very few coaches have the attitude, pay me my buyout and I don’t care if I’m fired. But no question getting all that money softens the blow. Maybe not in the day immediately after he’s fired but when it sinks in that he’s independently wealthy, it takes the sting away. I’m all about performance base contract for coaches. Like, I’ll pay you top dollar to coach but I’m not giving you mega bucks if you fail. But try that and you won’t likely get the coach you want to take your job offer. His agent will tell him, no way.

It’s the system we’ve got and I don’t see it changing unless a lot the money generated by college football goes away.

Q. parallaxpig says: When Hunter Yurachek first arrived he had narrative on how coaches contracts were out of control. He had a perfect opportunity to give Sam Pittman a performance based contract with a small buyout. Why did he cave?

A. I don’t know that he’s ever explained that. It’s not like Pittman was going to jump to another team. I’m just guessing but it sounds like Jimmy Sexton got to him. Sexton is good at that. The good will that Pittman had with most of the fanbase started to dry up at least among some. They thought he had suckered them with all that talk about I don’t care how much money I make. When they found out what his buy out was they suspected it could be an issue if Yurachek ever needed to fired him. Some say that’s why Pittman will be back next year. That Yurachek can’t come up with the money to buy him out. I’m told that Yurachek believed all all along that keeping Pittman and giving him the NIL money to keep current players while bringing in some help was the way to go.

Q. tzthib wants to know: What does it mean if Arkansas is forced to keep Pittman because there’s no money for the buyout? That seems to imply we are never going to be able to compete in the SEC. Give me a reason to be optimistic please.

A. Trey Biddy of 247 sports sent out a tweet last night indicating that if Pittman is staying because Hunter Yurachek could not raise the buyout money then Arkansas might as well leave the SEC and go to another conference where money is not as big an issue. He also stated that If NIL money at Arkansas was an issue that’s another reason to leave.

I haven’t asked him but I don’t think he was seriously suggesting that Arkansas should leave the SEC. He was pointing out that in football you can’t go cheap and win big in football in the SEC.

The money is there but Arkansas boosters I have talked to are not crazy about just throwing money at a problem. If they give their money for buyouts or NIL deals they want some assurance that it will be spent well.

I was also told that it wasn’t just boosters that didn’t want to cough up money for the buyout, the BOT was against using current funds to do it.

However it does appear that this was Yurackek’s decision and the buyout money was not the deciding factor.

Q. Hogman80 is mad. He says: Let’s get one thing straight. Hunter Yurachek is not and should not get fired. I believe if we got rid of him, it would be the worst decision that the university has made in a long time.

A. Yurachek is very popular with the coaches and players on campus. The majority of fans would agree with Hogman 80. I’ve been told by certain boosters that they question the buyout he gave to Pittman after saying he didn’t believe in big buyouts and now he’s put them in a bad light because of all this talk that Pittman is staying because the boosters would not buy him out. I’ve also been told that there are some on the BOT who don’t like Yurachek’s plan to spend over 100 million dollars on a Bud Walton Arena project that would take away seats but add new luxury seating.

Q. JJHog asks: Agree with this assessment? Hunter wants to fire Sam but Chancellor Brown disapproved and believes keeping Sam is for the best so instead of spending money on a buyout we spend it on new staff members (OC, OL) and players ?

A. I’ve heard that theory but not associated with the chancellor. As I’ve pointed out some believe that this is Yurachek’s thinking. Use the money he’ll save from a buyout to get a couple of new coaches including a name offensive coordinator and throw in more NIL money to keep players and add players.

Q. my3boneheads says: I’m glad CSP is back. He took the job when it was a disaster. I thought he deserved another year. Could Arkansas make a bowl game if they beat Missouri? Would the schedule we played and the close losses be factored in?

A. I don’t think so but it’s not impossible. A limited number of five-win teams haven gotten in the past in because there weren’t enough six or more win teams to fill up all the bowl games. I would not hold my breath if I were you. Beating Missouri is a long shot and that’s no guarantee to get Arkansas a bowl.

Q. Hogin Iowa says: Sam made the comment that there are multiple players who could return for a super-senior year in ’24. There are a majority of those who I would encourage to move on due to the lack of effort they’ve exhibited over the last few games. What are your thoughts?

A. He might do that and if he does will we know about it? There’s no question not every player who hits the portal is somebody the had coach wants to keep. But if he encourages a player to leave he’s not going to publicly acknowledge it.

What if one of those players is KJ.? Would Pittman say to him, You’ve been a great leader for us in the past but part of the reason we struggled this season is because of your inconsistent play. If you come back will you lose 20 pounds? We don’t need a 250 pound quarterback. Will you work to adapt to whoever I hire as the new offensive coordinator?

Or will he simply say, “Great KJ. Wonderful. Super happy we’ve got you for another season.”

Q. Bloodredhog says: It seems improbable Pittman can turn this around. Is Hunter basically sacrificing next year for budgetary reasons? It appears Hunter is saying it’s too expensive to pay a $16M buyout and hire a new coach and staff, so let’s just take the cheaper option and hope for the best?

It appears Hunter is saying it’s too expensive to pay a $16M buyout and hire a new coach and staff, so let’s just take the cheaper option and hope for the best.

A. Since Hunter Yurachek is not going to share his thoughts on that, in answer to your questions all I can do is speculate. I read where the total cost to Texas A&M to replace Jimbo Fisher and his staff and hire a new head coach with his staff is almost double of Fisher’s actual buyout. If that’s true of Arkansas Yurachek could have been looking at 30 million to replace Pittman and his staff with a new coach and his staff. I’m not sure how he could pay for that.

By keeping Pittman, if he turns things around next year, he’s saved he athletic department a lot of money. If he doesn’t, it will cost way less to make a change in 2025 and he can use the money he saved to pay more for a new head coach and his staff.

Q. AuburnCanBite me asks: Did Hugh Freeze just rat poison his team? Runs his mouth about embarrassing my Hogs and gets payback from NM St. Hilarious!

A. Sure looks like it to me. By popping off he gave his players the false impression that Arkansas is better than it is.

Q. Pigsfeat asks: If Arkansas had kept Briles, do you think the season would have turned out same/better/much better?

A. Just my opinion but I think it would have turned out better but not much better. Enough to go to a bowl game, maybe. You still have the same O-line. KJ might have been more effective simply because he would not have had to adjust to a different offense. I think you’d still have leadership issues inside the team. That was a big part of it to me. They needed players to solve problems in the locker room before the coaches had to get involved. Good teams have that. The 2021 team had it. This one doesn’t.

Q. RazorAlex88 says: In response to last week’s response: Hey, I like to enjoy myself. Life is too short to remain angry over football. I’ll admit I did leave Auburn game right after the first drive of 3rd quarter.

…..I saw the writing on the wall and just couldn’t do it anymore. I WILL be there for the FIU game cheering as much I can!
I’ll be enjoying the nice warm San Diego on Christmas. Holiday Bowl and football is a bonus.

A. Again, good for you. I’m sure your attitude will be good for your mental health. However I’m not sure how many fans can detach themselves the way you do. Which is why a lot of ’em are so angry these days.

Q. Tom in Fort Worth says: I believe you have mentioned that Arkansas didn’t get a lot of high level interest in the head coaching job when Hunter Yurachek fired Chad Morris with a couple games left. I’d like to get your thoughts on whether or not firing a coach during the season has an impact on the interest of other coaches that could fill that position.

A. The problem with firing a head coach is the early signing day in college football. If you wait until the end of the season to start looking you have about three weeks left to get a new coach and his staff in place before recruits make a decision. A lot of them are not going to wait that long to make a decision. So to me A&M and Mississippi State are ahead of the curve in their search. You are probably going to have to wait until the end of the regular season to announce a new head coach and sometimes longer depending on the coach. So it’s not a fool proof way of doing it. Also some ADs don’t fire a coach until the season is over but they are looking. It’s hard to keep that secret.

But in answer to your question, Yurachek’s problems in getting a name head coach to look at the Arkansas job had nothing to do with firing Morris before the season was over. You’re not likely going get such a coach when the program is as down as it was back then and the same might turn out to be the case if Pittman is fired this season or next season. But you never know when a candidate will pop up out of nowhere and be the guy you want. It sometimes happens even when the program is in bad shape.

Q. Hogdogger says: KJ beat the school record for touchdown passes but he has had an extra year. If not for that who holds the record for passing TDS?

A. Brandon Allen held the previous record of 64 TD passes. Like KJ he started for 3 seasons and played for four so they basically had the same amount of time to set a record.

Q. Marty Byrde’s proxy points out: Used to be, when a college player hired an agent, all eligibility ceased. Has that changed too? Are agents now legal or do players negotiate their own NIL deals?

A. Players are allowed to have an NIL agent who is also a sports agent but they are only supposed to help with NIL deals until the player’s eligibility is up. However it’s hard to catch it when it happens. The NCAA appears to be looking the other way on this these days.


Q. sglies says: Okay we beat FIU and Pittman gets to keep his job. You know what’s next? Mizzou. We’re screwed.

A. I would tend to agree. Arkansas has looked terrible at home in SEC games this season. Arkansas has looked bad after wins this season. The nightmare would be Missouri coming in and having a huge crowd with a lot of Arkansas fans staying home.
But there’s always a chance, since the players are really happy, that Pittman’s job is safe and that they will play their best game of the season. Maybe Missouri will come in over confident and suffer a let down. But I don’t think so.

Q. eddylynn asks: Is the football team rubbing off on the basketball team? Do those guys hang out together on campus? Tell Muss to keep his players away from the football team.

A. I have no clue if they hang out together but I doubt if that’s what happened in the UNC-Greensboro loss. Arkansas was probably looking ahead to the Battle For Atlantis in the Bahamas.

(Last updated: 2023-11-20 18:42 PM)