OPINION | GARY SMITH: Head coach searches are a fact of life in college athletics, but it’s a relief when it doesn’t happen

Relieved to avoid process for picking head coach

Of all the things for which I've expressed thankfulness recently, one is a somewhat new addition to the list of favorites (health, family, etc.) and may seem incredibly insignificant in relation to the other blessings that have been bestowed upon me.

Given my background and early career exposure, it still resonates with me. I am exceptionally thankful we won't be subjected to a head football coach search at the University of Arkansas this year.

Yes, I know, petty, petty, oh so petty. But, personally important. And who are any of us to judge the pebble in someone else's shoe?

I want to qualify that by saying my joy is that we won't have to sit through a search this year. I make no judgments on whether we should be going through a coaching search this year, except to say that "should we be looking for a new coach?" is sort of like "where is the fire extinguisher?" The fact that we're asking the question means the reason is somewhat obvious and the answer should probably be "yes."

From the look of things, a coaching search is likely a "when" not an "if" question. Sort of like heading for the hospital with chest pains: you can go now in the car or later in the ambulance, but you're going.

There is also the question of whether the good folks who will potentially be looking for another football coach are particularly good at that sort of thing. History stretching back across the last few years and more than one leadership group would suggest "meh." But timing and luck appear to be large factors in those sorts of decisions and both of those things may not be the fault of anyone in particular.

It's important to note the recent hiring of an offensive coordinator could fall into the "problematic" category, so a significant break from the underwhelming tradition of the last few years, at least where football is concerned, could be off to a bit of a rocky start.

But my happiness at the lack of a coaching search this year is basically for one reason and one reason only: I've been there and it's not fun.

As I'm sure I've mentioned, my earliest exposure to the world of professional journalism was as the sports editor of a large-ish Arkansas newspaper. Actually, my first exposure was covering the courts in eastern Oklahoma for that same paper. We can refer to that as a target-rich environment.

The "sports" part of the job was great fun, but one downside was that, this being Arkansas, we tend to go through coaches on a fairly regular basis. Which sounds exciting until you have to do it.

That's because, from the moment you walk in the doors of a school of journalism, it is pounded into you that you report the facts fairly and honestly, and not until verified and corroborated. Despite what current popular opinion might be, that's what journalists try to do. Doesn't' always work out, but then, what does?

However, have a coach leave and what follows is a tsunami of rumor, innuendo, trial balloons from coaches and their agents, leveraging to get a better deal or job, insistence on the profligate spending of other people's money and wild speculation about the possibility of hiring anyone who has ever attended, coached at, worked for someone who has attended or coached at or frankly even driven through the state of Arkansas. Or who doesn't pronounce it "Ar-Kansas."

And that's the upside. The downside is you spend a lot of time chasing all those wild speculations and rumors, vaguely certain they are just that. And as the days go by and the air gets let out of those wild speculations and rumors, you tend to feel like the kid who started by asking the homecoming queen to the prom and wound up taking a cousin. Reality will flatten your expectations on a fairly regular basis.

Sports, like life itself, is often about dealing with loss. Who wants to add "and no one wants to coach your football team" to that?

Perhaps we're jumping the gun here. Perhaps the next season will showcase an incredible turn-around and we'll wonder what all those other people were thinking because we were always in the current coach's corner.

If not, well, next year I can always be thankful for the grandkids. Which may actually be enough to ask for and more than I have a right to expect.

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