The Benton Courier

Petrino, Pittman talk UA reunion

By Otis Kirk

FAYETTEVILLE -- The reunion is now official with Bobby Petrino back at Arkansas and no two people are happier about it than him and Sam Pittman.

Pittman made it clear Petrino was who he wanted to hire after interviewing five people for the job.

“I wanted to interview him and wanted to talk to him,” Pittman said. “I think one of the things that I said in one of the criteria I wanted was a man that loved the University of Arkansas, and it’d be hard to find someone that felt stronger towards Arkansas than Coach Petrino. So obviously the next step is to talk to the athletic director about that.

:I interviewed several guys. Five guys for the job. Coach was very excited about coming back to Arkansas. And then once I knew his interest back in us, it was really a nobrainer at that point and time. Then it was just all about making the contract and timeline and all those things work.”

Petrino was the head coach at Arkansas from 2008-2011, but was fired following an April 1 incident with an employee. While he didn’t know if a reunion would ever happen Petrino certainly wanted it.

“Well, like I said, I thought about it and dreamed about it,”

Petrino said. “I didn’t know if it would ever happen. So certainly… I can’t tell you how excited I am to be back here. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I truly do love Arkansas — the university and the state, and the people. I think it’s the most special place I’ve ever been.”

Petrino relayed a funny story about what happened after the first call between he and Pittman.

“I want to win,” Petrino said. “I want to see us … I came back here to support Coach Pitman and winning. I appreciate him a lot when he did send that message that ‘This is Coach Pittman and I want to talk to you.’ The hair on the back of my neck stood up.’ I’m like, ‘That’s

gonna happen, really?’ And then we talked for a short amount of time and he said an interest and we set a time to talk where we both had time later on. And that was exciting. I felt, ‘Hey, maybe this is going to happen. Could it possibly happen?’ I’ll talk to my family and stuff and see if this could possibly work.

“Then we had a great conversation, over an hour some. Maybe longer than that. Then when I got off the phone, I said, ‘Man, he didn’t offer me a job.’ I was a little bit surprised about that. I thought maybe I need to do a better job interviewing again. But it was a process he was going through and taking his time. I was just anxious to talk to him again.”

It took some people at the University of Arkansas signing off on the hiring beyond Pittman.

“That part of it, I think that’s with Hunter (Yurachek) and those guys,” Pittman said. “I wanted to hire him. I know he’s a good man. We all make a mistake. I wanted to hire him. He was the best candidate. He’s a wonderful person. I was adamant I wanted to hire him, and he was adamant he wanted to come. So the university went to work on all that kind of stuff.”

Pittman and Petrino attended the impressive Arkansas win over Duke Wednesday night in Bud Walton Arena with over 20,000 fans in attendance and many chanting the name of the new offensive coordinator.

“I was hoping so,” Pittman said. “It was wonderful. You had the “BMFP” shirts made. I think Coach (Petrino) asked one of the guys ‘what does that stand for?’ And we were having trouble figuring that out. Hell, it was my suggestion to go over to the Duke game. I want to show him off, too, now. I’m proud that he came here. We’ve got a lot of work to do. But yeah, we wanted to get over there and support the basketball team. Man, what a heck of a game they played. Congratulations

to them. I texted Muss. It’s been a great few days for the state of Arkansas, in my opinion.”

Petrino admitted that was something that definitely caught his attention.

“It was exciting,” Petrino said. “Yeah, I felt good about it. Again, I have to say it’s a credit to Sam, to be able to bring me there and allow that to go on. I think it’s just a credit to him. You can see the confidence that he has in himself, as a man, and how much he loves the university and wants to do what he believes is best for us to go forward to win. It’s a real credit to him.”

At Texas A&M, it was pretty obvious that Jimbo Fisher didn’t give Petrino full control of the offense, Pittman talked about that on Thursday as related to Arkansas.

“Well, he’s the offensive coordinator just like KB (Kendal Briles) was, just like Dan (Enos) was,” Pittman said. “He’s got a job to do and I don’t know how I can allow him to do a job if it ain’t his offense. We hired him because he’s a brilliant offensive mind. It’s his offense. That’s just what it is. Just like it was Kendal Briles’, just like it was Dan’s.

I’m always going to have input on what my feelings are of things, but he’s the offensive coordinator and that’s what he was hired to do.”

Petrino also spoke highly of former

Morrilton standout Jacolby Criswell and Malachi Singleton the two remaining quarterbacks at Arkansas.

“I’ve had a chance to watch their video and see some of their practice video, some of their game video and see things that they can do,” Petrino said. “Obviously you like the talent that you see there, arm strength and mobility and different things they can do. You really don’t know a lot until you get out on the practice field and start practicing with them, so I look forward to that.

The rules are such now that we have time to meet with them when we come back from Christmas and get in the classroom with them, so it’ll be fun to see how much they understand about the game of football.”

Pittman did indicate the Petrino hiring won’t be the last for his 2024 staff, but offered no specific details.

“Yeah, I do,” Pittman said. “I think there’ll be some. I’m not ready to talk about it, but I don’t think we’ll be intact totally next season.”

Pittman and Petrino will be on the road recruiting on Friday. The reception to Petrino’s hiring has already been a hit with the recruits.

“Well, I mean we were trying to keep it quiet,” Pittman said. “But, you know, I was all in on these player evals and leaving and all that. We were trying to keep it quiet. Y’all let them know, you know, that he was coming back. Which always happens by the way. I’m not being negative, just happens. So, I was getting a lot of calls. Didn’t have to call them, I was getting a lot of calls. There was a lot of excitement about it. But we didn’t have to worry about calling the kids, they were calling us.”

Rumors have linked Mississippi State to possibly interested in adding offensive line coach Cody Kennedy to the new staff there.





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