Arkansas Team News

Line coach’s departure causes angst at Arkansas

Sam Pittman

Score one for new Georgia coach Kirby Smart and, oddly enough, another for Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long.

After losing to Arkansas on the recruiting and coaching fronts early last week, Smart won one by luring Razorbacks offensive line coach Sam Pittman to Athens. In his new job, Pittman will be reunited with new Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. The duo coached together in Fayetteville in 2013 and ’14 before Chaney left for Pitt’s OC job following the ’14 season.

Early in the 2015 season, Hogs fans missed Chaney’s play calling, but as the season progressed, Dan Enos’ methods won over many. Losing Pittman, though, hits Bret Bielema and Co. hard. The beloved line coach was an integral piece of the Razorbacks’ rebuild.

“I think when you’re dealing with 19-, 20- and 21-year-old kids, they’re going to be emotional,” Bielema said after the last-ditch effort of loading up the offensive line and showing up on Pittman’s doorstep failed. “Some were mad, sad, sad then mad. It’s a part of the job no one wants to talk about, and Sam, because of the way he recruits and the way he handles people — until this matter — had been very personal.”

Players were not the only ones upset by Pittman’s departure. Bielema was not scheduled to speak with the media over the weekend, but he felt it necessary under the circumstances. Boss Hog made it clear that having made moves himself, he understands that coaches leave, but this was different.

“This one took place within the conference, and I just wanted Sam to address the linemen as to why this was happening,” Bielema said Saturday. “I thought that was the last thing he could do, and he didn’t want to do that, so I just took them to him.”

Those comments did not sit well with Pittman, and he took to Twitter to refute them.

Pittman has a good reputation for developing linemen, which leads us to Long’s win. Long’s insistence on Enos’ non-compete clause is the reason we are talking about losing only a line coach and not an OC. Bielema saw up close and personal how that kind of clause can prevent headache, heartache and a lot of hurt feelings.

“(Pittman) kind of always made the comment that, ‘You don’t have to worry about me going. You can set the buyout wherever you want it,’ ” Bielema said. “I just believed it, and obviously it didn’t come true.”

Long likely won’t hear any arguments from Bielema about contract language anytime soon. Still, as visibly upset as Bielema was over the situation, there is no time to cry over lost assistants. Arkansas has to prepare for the Liberty Bowl, and Sunday marked the final day of recruiting contact for December. Graduate assistant Eric Mateos will oversee the offensive line through the bowl season, and the remaining staff was on the road over the weekend to make the most of recruiting efforts.

Pittman did a phenomenal job in less-than-ideal circumstances, but he still is replaceable. And in the grand scheme of things in the business of coaching, it was just another day in December.

(You can follow Leslie Koerdt on Twitter @LK_Comm)
(Feature photo COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS)

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