FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Jeff Long’s search for the program’s next coach continued in relative silence Monday, with few rumblings surfacing a day after reports suggested Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy was being courted by the Hogs.
But another search — involving an Arkansas assistant — officially ended.
Paul Petrino was introduced as Idaho’s new coach during a press conference at the school in Moscow, Idaho, on Monday. Petrino was selected for the position after reportedly being one of five finalists to interview for the job. It gives Petrino the opportunity to run his own program for the first time in his career.
“It’s a dream come true,” Petrino said in the school’s press release. I’ve wanted to be a head coach my whole life. I had a chance to come back out to the Northwest.”
Petrino, a Montana native, has spent his coaching career as an assistant.
Most of his time recently has come on his older brother’s staffs at Louisville, Arkansas and with the Atlanta Falcons. He spent three seasons with the Razorbacks, working as offensive coordinator in 2008 and 2009 before moving to Illinois for the next two seasons. He returned to the Razorbacks last December and was in charge of the offense after Bobby Petrino was fired in April.
Arkansas struggled in 2012, recording its lowest yardage and scoring outputs since 2008. Red zone woes and turnovers were the primary culprits.
But Idaho athletic director Rob Spear believes Petrino will succeed in his return to the Vandals. He was an assistant on John L. Smith’s staff from 1992-94.
“Paul has coached college football at the highest level and brings the coaching experience, energy, toughness and commitment to developing the entire student-athlete at the University of Idaho,” Spear said, according to the Idaho athletic department’s website. “He has an outstanding coaching pedigree and is known as one of most creative offensive minds in the country, which will bring an exciting brand of football to the University of Idaho.”
Petrino replaces Robb Akey, who was fired in October after a 1-7 start. The Vandals finished 1-11, but Petrino said he was “fired up” to be back with the program.
He agreed to a three-year contract that will pay him $390,000 annually, according to the Idaho Statesman. The newspaper reported Petrino has a chance to earn two extension years based on football attendance goals for 2013 and 2014.
“We want to score a whole bunch of points, be explosive on offense and hit that quarterback on defense,” said Petrino, who earned $475,000 with the Razorbacks in 2012. “We want to win a whole bunch of games and go to bowls.”
As for Arkansas’ search, there was no known movement regarding Gundy a day after he declined comment about coaching positions. Volquest.com, which is in the Rivals.com network, reported that Gundy interviewed with the Volunteers on Sunday. Alex Marvez, a senior NFL writer for FoxSports.com, cited an NFL source as saying Arkansas met with Gundy about the vacancy as well Sunday.
The coach is one of several who have been linked to the position by reports, joining TCU’s Gary Patterson, Boise State’s Chris Petersen, Vanderbilt’s James Franklin, LSU’s Les Miles and Baylor’s Art Briles. Franklin and Miles have agreed to contract extensions and raises with their respective schools. Petersen met with the media in Idaho on Monday to discuss his team’s preparation for Washington in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 22 and did not refer to any other job rumors.
There’s a chance Long could conduct some business in New York City today, where the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame ceremony is held at the Waldorf-Astoria. It’s a convention, of sorts, for coaches and athletic directors. It also serves as a good meeting spot for job interviews between parties.
Arkansas associate athletic director Kevin Trainor said the Razorbacks will have a contingent in New York City with former Razorback Jimmy Johnson being inducted into the Hall of Fame. But he could not confirm that Long would be with them, saying it depends on his schedule because the coaching search is top priority.
Long told Arkansas’ returning players during a team meeting last Sunday he planned to have his search wrapped up in 10 to 14 days. The timeline means Arkansas’ next coach could be in place as early as Wednesday.