Bill Cosby used to do a comedy routine based around a saying: “Never challenge ‘worse.’” As in, never say things can’t get worse because worse will jump on your back and prove, without a doubt, that they absolutely can.
This past Saturday night at a Hooters in Orlando (post-game, I wanted some wings – I’m not proud), I encountered three Arkansas fans at a table a few feet away and heard one of them say the fateful words Dr. Cosby talked about. To them and all other Hog faithful I would reply that not only can things get worse for your team this season, they are almost guaranteed to.
Check the schedule: you have Rutgers at home this Saturday in a game you could very well lose. That’s followed up by a game vs. Texas A&M and, later in the season, tilts against South Carolina, Mississippi State and LSU. 6-6 seems to be the best Arkansas can hope for this season, with four or five wins much more likely. But don’t despair, help is on the way and I know what it is.
Tommy Tuberville. His current gig at Texas Tech is a whole lot of “above average.” The pay is good, not great. The pressure to win is present, but doesn’t keep him up at night. The recruiting base is perhaps the best in the nation, but Tech is the 7th . . . at best . . . most likely destination for elite in-state talent behind Texas, the Aggies, Oklahoma, LSU, probably TCU and, occasionally, schools such as Alabama that like to raid the state for a player or two every so often.
None of those semi-negatives are bad enough on their own to make a coach want to leave. But Tuberville and Texas Tech have been an odd fit since the day he was introduced. There’s a good chance the Red Raiders finish with eight wins this season. Do that every year and you can coach in Lubbock for decades. But when he was the coach at Auburn, Tuberville established a pattern of playing footsy with other schools after virtually every successful season he had there. And he liked living in Auburn and being the coach there. But he would parlay nine or 10 wins into a small raise and another year or two on the contract and everyone began to realize that’s just how we were going to conduct business. He always stayed, but only with a few more dollars in the envelope every two weeks and 365 more days tacked onto his guaranteed tenure.
While staying at Texas Tech is good, returning to the SEC is great and he knows it. Tuberville is from Arkansas, began his coaching career in the state and would love to get back. Not because he misses his high school buddies, either. Tuberville has always loved the bigger stage, the chance for more attention on him and the ability to win the most. Win in the Big XII, specifically at Texas Tech, and you’ll live a comfortable life. Win in the SEC, specifically at Arkansas, and you’ll get a street named after you and a statue unveiled outside the stadium.
Most times whenever we read about potential coaching changes and who may fill a spot, it’s a stretch. “This guy was at that school for one year as a GA, so now he IS going to be the new coach!” Think Jon Gruden-to-Tennessee as the template for that one. Tuberville to Arkansas goes well past anything like that. Mark your calendars for the last week of November, Hog fans. That’s when the new era in Arkansas football begins.
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