By Robbie Neiswanger
Arkansas News Bureau • firstname.lastname@example.org
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long appears to be inching closer to finding the Razorbacks next head coach after telling players Sunday night his search would be over in 10 to 14 days.
Several reports suggested Tuesday that one potential target could be the coach who was in Fayetteville last week.
LSU coach Les Miles emerged in the discussion regarding the Arkansas position on Tuesday, when the website Sports By Brooks first reported via Twitter the Razorbacks had placed an offer on the table that would pay Miles $5.5 million annually over five years. The report was refuted by a source with knowledge of the Arkansas search Tuesday evening, saying Miles had no offer from the Razorbacks. But the New Orleans Times-Picayune, citing a source, indicated later Miles had a “serious offer” in front of him and LSU athletic director Joe Alleva was meeting with Miles’ agent and the discussion was ongoing.
WWLTV.com in Louisiana also reported Tuesday former Razorback and Dallas owner Jerry Jones is handling the offer for Arkansas. Miles was part of the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff from 1998-2000 before moving to Oklahoma State.
Miles is 85-20 in his eight seasons with the Tigers, leading LSU to two SEC Championships and the 2007 national title. He led LSU to a 20-13 win against the Razorbacks last week, ending John L. Smith’s tenure with the program.
Such a deal would give Miles a big raise from his current contract, which pays the coach roughly $3.8 million annually. An LSU spokesperson declined to comment about the Sports by Brooks report earlier Tuesday, according to the Times-Picayune, and said Miles had been informed of the twitter post Tuesday.
"We've seen the tweet by Sports by Brooks and we're not going to comment on rumors or bits of information," the LSU spokesperson told the Times-Picayune at the time. "It has been brought to Les' attention and he didn't have anything to say."
Miles’ agent, David Bass, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
It’s not clear if Miles — who has a relationship with Long after the two worked at Michigan earlier in their careers — is simply using Arkansas as leverage to help at LSU. That is something Long alluded to earlier this fall, when he spoke about the challenges of trying to find a coach who was truly interested in leading the Razorbacks.
“It’s different just because you have a lot of time to do a lot of research,” Long said of his search in October. “As we look forward, there is still going to be a window there that a lot of things will have to take place very quickly to secure that coach. You’ll go in with a lot more background knowledge, but you don’t know which people are truly interested and which are interested based on helping their current situation."
Miles is scheduled to meet with the media in Baton Rouge, La., on Wednesday.
A hefty offer may be the only thing to pull miles away from an LSU program regarded as one of the nation’s best. It also would make Miles the highest-paid coach in the country. A recent salary study by USA Today indicates Alabama’s Nick Saban is the NCAA’s highest paid coach at $5.476 million, while Miles is fifth.
Long has said several times the Razorbacks are financially stable and can attract a quality candidate for the position, which opened after he fired Bobby Petrino last April. But a $5.5 million offer would go against what Long indicated in October during an appearance in front of the Little Rock Touchdown Club.
He said Arkansas had no plans to make its next coach the NCAA’s highest paid.
“That’s simply not true. That would be an irresponsible statement to make,” Long told the crowd. “We value our resources very, very much. We value what you all have given to us through your ticket purchases, through your donations.
“I’d never make a statement like that. We’re going to have to make a judgment. We’ll have to judge the resources vs. the coach. And certainly we put ourselves in good position to have the financial resources to hire a quality coach.”
The list of rumored candidates has been lengthy since Long announced Petrino’s firing. Other names have been mentioned in various reports lately, including Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, TCU’s Gary Patterson, Boise State’s Chris Petersen, Baylor’s Art Briles and Vanderbilt’s James Franklin.
Arkansas is one of four SEC schools searching for a new head coach this offseason, joining Kentucky, Auburn and Tennessee. But Kentucky made its selection Tuesday, naming Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops as its new coach. Stoops, the younger brother of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, replaces Joker Phillips.