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Arkansas hires Georgia assistant Sam Pittman as head coach

Sam Pittman, right, was named the head football coach at Arkansas on Sunday after previously serving as Georgia’s offensive line coach. (Joshua L. Jones / Associated Press)
Sam Pittman, right, was named the head football coach at Arkansas on Sunday after previously serving as Georgia’s offensive line coach. (Joshua L. Jones / Associated Press)
By Ralph D. Russo Associated Press

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas hired Georgia assistant Sam Pittman as its head coach Sunday, giving the longtime offensive line coach his first chance to lead a college program.

Pittman, an Oklahoma native, has been coaching at the FBS level since 1994 and he’s been in the Southeastern Conference, including a three-year stint at Arkansas, since 2012. Athletic director Hunter Yurachek made the move official with Pittman on Twitter.

Pittman has spent the last four years at Georgia working for Kirby Smart. He’s known as both an ace recruiter and top-notch line coach.

“Sam Pittman has been an integral part of successful teams that have competed at the highest levels, including for SEC and NCAA championships,” Yurachek said in a statement. “As one of the nation’s premier offensive line coaches, he has built a remarkable body of work thanks to his tremendous passion for his student-athletes, including teaching the fundamentals and developing his players on and off the field.”

Pittman also has made assistant coaching stops at Tennessee, North Carolina and Northern Illinois, but this is a much different challenge. Arkansas is coming off a 2-10 season that led to the firing of coach Chad Morris after less than two seasons. The Razorbacks have not reached a bowl game since 2016 and are on their fourth head coach in less than a decade.

The fans have checked out. This season, the year after a $160 million stadium renovation and expansion, the school had its two lowest-attended games since 2001.

Pittman is in familiar territory, though. He was part of Bret Bielema’s staff in Fayetteville from 2013-15. His last season with the Razorbacks was the team’s best since Bobby Petrino was fired in 2012 after lying to his bosses about the circumstances surrounding a motorcycle accident and the relationship he had with a woman in the athletic department.

Bielema couldn’t fully get Arkansas on track after the Petrino situation, and he was fired after going 29-34 from 2013-17. Morris was hired after a search conducted largely without an athletic director in place.

Morris was let go 10 games into this season, still without an SEC victory. It all hit rock bottom when the Razorbacks were routed by Conference USA member Western Kentucky last month. Western Kentucky quarterback Ty Storey, who had transferred from Arkansas the previous year, passed for 219 yards and a touchdown and ran for 77 yards and two scores in a 45-19 victory. Morris was fired the next day.

Yurachek, who was hired shortly before Morris, was in position to run a true search this time. He went after Lane Kiffin, who landed at Mississippi on Saturday. Arkansas moved quickly on Pittman after Georgia finished its regular-season in the Southeastern Conference championship game.

While Arkansas struggled, Pittman thrived at Georgia. The Bulldogs played in the College Football Playoff championship game after the 2017 season, an overtime loss to Alabama. In 2018, Georgia finished first in the SEC in rushing offense and second in scoring offense. Pittman was named associate head coach this February after serving the previous three seasons as offensive line coach, and this year’s squad earned a Sugar Bowl berth.

Now, Arkansas hopes he will bring some of that good fortune to the Razorbacks.

“Sam knows the Southeastern Conference inside and out and is one of the nation’s best recruiters,” Yurachek said. “His connections throughout football will enable him to build a quality coaching staff.”

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