FAYETTEVILLE — One road loss isn’t making Chad Morris rethink his Friday night routine.
The first-year Arkansas coach said Wednesday he still plans to travel to watch his son, Chandler, play quarterback for Highland Park High School in Dallas as often as possible. Some fans had been critical of Morris’ decision to be away from his team last Friday, the night before the Razorbacks lost 34-27 at Colorado State.
Morris said he does not miss any team meetings or practices while he is away to watch his son, a junior who has been offered by Arkansas, Clemson, Auburn, Oklahoma and other programs.
“Everything is done here before we ever get on any plane or before we ever travel to any team hotel,” said Morris, who added that team meetings and walkthroughs are scheduled for Saturday mornings before the games.
An itinerary of last Friday’s team activities shows the Razorbacks left Fayetteville at 3 p.m. Central and landed in Fort Collins, Colo., around 5 p.m. Mountain - a span of three hours. Once at the hotel, players had an optional chapel service at 6:15 p.m.; a team dinner at 6:45 p.m.; offensive and defensive meetings at 7:45 p.m.; and yoga, mental imagery and a snack between 9 p.m. and their 11 p.m. lights out curfew.
Steve Atwater, a former All-Pro safety for Denver who played at Arkansas, spoke to the team during dinner.
The CBS Sports Network broadcast of the game stated that Morris arrived in Fort Collins around midnight local time after watching Highland Park defeat Mesquite Horn 35-18. Morris said Wednesday that he plans to attend Highland Park’s game at Frisco Lone Star on Thursday.
Because he attends a game in which his son is playing, Morris is able to evaluate players without the game counting against the program’s limit of 42 evaluation days. Highland Park will play some teams with Razorback recruits, such as at Mansfield Legacy on Oct. 12. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, a receiver from Rockwall, Texas, recently reported an offer from Arkansas 10 days after Morris watched his team play against Highland Park.
Morris said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney used to attend his sons’ games on Friday nights. Morris was Clemson’s offensive coordinator from 2011-14. Other notable coaches who have recently attended their sons’ high school games the night before their own teams played are Bob Stoops and Mike Gundy.
“We’ve got several coaches out on the road on Friday,” Morris said. “Again, going back to building this program and taking it from the blueprint of where we were at Clemson and watching Dabo and his success, and being able to go watch his two boys play and being on the road on Friday nights - a lot of programs do things different on a Friday….The main important thing is to get out and recruit when you get the opportunity. You only get so many days to get out.”
Following a speech to the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club last Wednesday, Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek said he was OK with Morris’ decision to attend his son’s games.
“I had a son that played college football over the past four years and I fought tooth and nail to make sure I didn’t miss very many of his games, especially not his home games,” Yurachek said of his son Ryan, who graduated from Marshall last year. “And I missed several of the events at the University of Houston when I was an athletics director there because I thought it was very important for me to be at my son’s games.
“I have full trust in Coach Morris…He’ll handle that the right way, and he already has.”
Jeff Traylor, the team’s running backs coach and associate head coach, oversees the team’s Friday night activities.
“You usually try to give guys downtime to get away from football,” Morris said. “We’ve taken teams to the movies before just for the simple reason that’s their one time during the course of the week they don’t have to worry about their studies. We want them to get away from football for a little bit; just get to your room and relax. Sometimes we’ll have them come down and have a team function where we’ll watch the Friday night game of the week, play dominoes or cards or whatever it is to fellowship together.
“We try to vary it and a lot of it depends on what our seniors want to do. As we continue to grow our program I’ll give them more options on what they want to do with their Friday nights.”