Wednesday’s football: Arkansas hires SMU’s Morris
Fayetteville, Ark. — Arkansas had its best back-to-back seasons in the Southeastern Conference when Bobby Petrino was leading a high-powered offensive attack during the 2010-11 seasons.
The Razorbacks have turned to an up-tempo, offensive-minded coach — albeit one without the Petrino’s scandalous baggage — to try and rekindle that level of success.
Arkansas hired SMU’s Chad Morris on Wednesday, ending nearly two weeks of uncertainty following Bret Bielema’s firing moments after the season ended. Morris, 49, inherits a program in disarray, though his arrival — along with the hiring earlier in the week of new athletic director Hunter Yurachek — represents a fresh start for a program desperately in need of it.
“The future is tremendously bright at the University of Arkansas with the addition of Chad Morris,” Yurachek said. “I am confident that Chad will bring an exciting brand of football, phenomenal student-athletes and championships to Fayetteville, and do it all with high integrity.”
Morris agreed to a six-year contract worth $3.5 million annually. He leaves the Mustangs after agreeing to an extension through the 2023 season last year.
Yurachek was familiar with Morris from when Houston nearly hired him in 2014 before going with Tom Herman. The former Cougars athletic director thanked Arkansas interim athletic director Julie Cromer Peoples for her help with identifying Morris before his hiring on Monday.
Morris went 14-22 in three seasons at SMU. He took over a team that finished 1-11 in 2014, won two games his first season and improved to 5-7 in 2016 and 7-5 this year.
He replaces Bielema, who was fired after compiling a 29-34 record in five seasons, including 11-29 in the Southeastern Conference.
The Texas native was a longtime high school coach before beginning his collegiate career as the offensive coordinator at Tulsa in 2010. He then spent four years as the offensive coordinator at Clemson, helping lay the foundation for the Tigers’ national championship last season.
“I’m a Texas high school football coach. That’s who I am,” said Morris, a Dallas native, when he was hired at SMU in 2014. “I think that Texas high school football coaches do it the right way.”
“Arkansas, y’all are getting a good one,” tweeted quarterback Rafe Peavey, who began his career with the Razorbacks before transferring.
Pittsburgh signed coach Pat Narduzzi to a new contract that will keep him with the Panthers through the 2024 season. Financial details were not disclosed.
Narduzzi, a former Michigan State assistant, is 21-17 in three seasons with the Panthers, including a 5-7 mark in 2017. Pitt pulled off major upsets in each of the last two years.
The Panthers were the only team to beat eventual national champion Clemson in 2016 and stunned second-ranked Miami last month. Pitt has also sent 14 players to the NFL during Narduzzi’s tenure, five in 2017.
Athletic director Heather Lyke called Narduzzi a “tireless worker” and said the athletic department is “deeply committed” to helping Narduzzi and his staff help the Panthers compete at the “highest level” in the ACC.
... Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, Stanford running back Bryce Love and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson are the finalists for The Associated Press college football Player of the Year.
... South Carolina fired co-offensive coordinator Kurt Roper.
The Gamecocks other co-offensive coordinator, wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon, will call plays at the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl against Michigan.
... Ron Meyer, the football coach behind SMU’s powerhouse “Pony Express” teams and former Patriots and Colts coach, died age 76 in Austin, said Rev. Bobbi Kaye Jones of Tarrytown United Methodist Church.