Thoughts from someone excited about Gus

I’m not from NW Arkansas, and I have no dog in any hunt concerning past high school wins and losses or hurt feelings or the Nutt situation.

Instead, I’m a life-long Razorback fan. The Razorbacks are more than my hobby – they are my passion.

And, I’m a guy who likes facts.

I have carefully studied Gus’ record everywhere he’s been – from Hughes to Shiloh to Springdale to Arkansas to Tulsa to Auburn to Arkansas State to Auburn – and the facts show that his teams immediately improve when he shows up. The improvement doesn’t happen over 5 years or even 3 years – it usually happens immediately. The only mediocre stretch he has had was 2014-16 at Auburn, and even in those years he went to bowls. In his entire career, those years are really the only bad ones – otherwise, he’s had outstanding results. And, I find his philosophy on football to be incredibly innovative – I just enjoy watching his teams’ style of play.

Bret Bielema and Gus were hired by Arkansas and Auburn one day apart five years ago. At that time, you absolutely cannot fault Jeff Long for hiring Bielema. Bielema was coming off three seasons in which he led Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl – that’s a pretty darn impressive accomplishment. Bielema wanted to come here, he had a personality that fit our state, he ran an offense that made the Broyles and Hatfield devotees excited, and he ran a clean program like Jeff Long and most fans wanted. At the time, you absolutely cannot find fault in the hire.

If you look at the 3 years prior to the hiring of Bielema and Gus, the 2010-2012 seasons, the 2 programs frankly don’t look very different (with the glaring exception of the national championship trophy Auburn won in 2010.) In fact, if you ignore the national championship, you’d say that Arkansas may have had a better 3-season run than Auburn. Look at the facts:

  • Overall records: Arkansas 25-13 vs. Auburn 25-14
  • SEC records: Arkansas 13-11 vs. Auburn 13-11
  • Final rankings: Arkansas #12, #5, not ranked vs. Auburn #1, not ranked, not ranked
  • Bowls: Arkansas loss in Sugar Bowl, win in Cotton Bowl, and no bowl vs. Auburn win in BCS NCG, win in Chick-Fil-A bowl, and no bowl
  • Head-to-head: Arkansas with 2-1 advantage over Auburn, outscoring Auburn 105-86

But, the 20/20 clarity of hindsight – and the facts of the two teams’ performance from 2013-2017 – unfortunately shows us that our choice just didn’t work out. In fact, given the similar starting positions of the programs, Gus has done significantly better at Auburn that Bielema did at Arkansas. In the 5 years since that time, here’s the comparison:

  • Overall records: Arkansas 29-34 vs. Auburn 45-21
  • SEC records: Arkansas 11-29 vs. Auburn 25-15
  • Final rankings: Arkansas never ranked at end of season vs. Auburn #2, #19, unranked, #24, and currently #7
  • Bowls: Arkansas 3 bowls (win in Texas Bowl, win in Liberty Bowl, and loss in Belk Bowl) vs. Auburn 5 bowls (loss in BCS NCCG, loss in Outback Bowl, win in Birmingham Bowl, loss in Sugar Bowl, plus a spot in Peach Bowl this season)
  • Wins over #1 teams: Arkansas 0 vs. Auburn 3
  • Wins over top 5 teams: Arkansas 0 vs. Auburn 5
  • Wins over top 25 teams: Arkansas 6 vs. Auburn 14
  • Head-to-head: Auburn with 4-1 advantage over Arkansas, outscoring Arkansas 235-115

The crazy thing is that everyone thought Gus was a pass-happy run-and-gun guy. Well, guess which coach owns the all-time single game rushing yards record against the Hogs? That’s right, it’s Gus. And, this year, even his defense was pretty darn salty.

So, I do worry that history will show that our program missed out on one of the great coaches to ever wear the Razorback uniform and to have called Arkansas home. We’ve missed out on others – Bear Bryant being the most famous. But, none of those others bothered me – in fact, I’ll take what Coach Broyles did at Arkansas any day over the opportunity to have had Bear Bryant. But, I must be honest, the miss on Gus has always bothered me. I think he’s just a darn smart football guy and a very hard worker who is as fanatical about managing a football team as any coach in the land. And, I think there was a time when he wanted to be our coach.

Well, I’m now over my desire to have Gus coach at Arkansas.

Gus had his chance to come home today – and he didn’t take it. Assuming the rumors are true, we offered him every bit as much as Auburn did, and he turned us down. I don’t see another chance for him to come back home, so I’m moving on. He has effectively burned the bridges. I don’t wish Auburn any more or less success than any other SEC school. In fact, my wish for them is the same as my wish for all of our conference mates – that when they take the field with my Razorbacks, they find that my Razorbacks and our coach (whoever that may be) are superior in their sportsmanship, their coaching, in their mental and physical preparation, and in their skill and ability. And, I hope that the outcome of the game reflects that Razorback superiority – in short, I hope we beat the heck out of whoever we play.

So, let’s look forward. Let’s get a coach who is excited about building a winner here – and who can do it fast. Let’s get a coach who brings innovation to the field and who can use that innovation to overcome our perceived (or perhaps real) recruiting disadvantages. Let’s get a coach who comes to love the Hogs as much as we we all do. Let’s get a winner. Let’s get someone who wants to be a Razorback. Let’s go Hogs!

Another incredibly well-thought out and constructed commentary by a “Gus Supporter” (or formerly, perhaps). I won’t speak for all the people who felt the way you do about his coaching skills and very much wanted him to be our next coach, but I have several friends and family members who mirror every sentiment you expressed in your post. To a person, they also share your change of heart about ever wanting him at Arkansas. Some of these people had become quasi-AU fans except when the Hogs were the opponent. Not all, but some of them are actually angry at Gus, some of them are waiting to see if additional facts will ever come out to provide more information on just exactly how the deal went down. I will say that most of these individuals of whom I’m speaking absolutely blame Sexton and intensely dislike him. As for me, I’m in the category that still doesn’t know enough facts to dismiss Malzahn as a purely self-centered egotist who gleefully jammed up the UofA program. But I am over him as a potential head coach here. Don’t really want him and agree that ship has absolutely sailed. On the basis of what I DO KNOW about Gus the person, and the facts you noted re. his coaching acumen/success, I had no problem with trying our best to hire him.

Good post.

100 percent the way I feel. Blew our chance 5 years ago. Now it will never be. Is what it is. It’s just us.

Agree, the Malzahn chapter is finally closed for good after over ten years of back and forth, I had no problem with him being the next coach and he had the chance but said no, lets move on and hope we can find a coach who can kick the crap out of him every time he comes to Fayetteville.

Mvaraz-- This is one of the best post ever put on this board. Every thing you wrote is hitting the nail on the head, and its going to open a alot of eyes. Thank you!

Please post more often.