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2012 Coaching Carousel: Arkansas springs forward with firing of Bobby Petrino

Bobby Petrino's personal off-field issues cost him his job at Arkansas. Getty Images.

Arkansas fires Bobby Petrino

I’ll admit, it was difficult determining if this should be added to the 2011 Coaching Carousel, but after getting some feedback and thinking it over I decided the news of Arkansas firing Bobby Petrino deserved to kickstart our 2012 Coaching Carousel. Why? With spring practices ongoing across the country and everyone ready to breakdown the 2012 season, I figured that news of the first coaching change deserved to be kept with the same season we are beginning to focus on.

Besides, I already put the finishing touches on the 2011-12 Coaching Carousel.

Bobby Petrino's personal off-field issues cost him his job at Arkansas. Getty Images.

On Tuesday night, Arkansas officially cut Bobby Petrino loose, following a week-long saga involving a motorcycle accident, lies to hide information about a second passenger on the bike and his relationship with the woman involved in the accident. By now you know the story (if not listen to our podcast conversation with Chris Bahn from, The Bobby Petrino Story). In his place, at least for the time being, Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long has named linebackers coach Taver Johnson interim head coach.

During his Tuesday night press conference Long was asked if he would like to have a permanent head coach in place before the start fo the 2012 season, just a few months away, but Long was unsure exactly what the timeline would be for naming a successor to Petrino. Given the timing, it may prove difficult to find a suitable replacement, although Arkansas does have more time than Ohio State and North Carolina heading in to the 2011 season.

My initial impression is that Arkansas will ultimately settle with an interim coach in 2012, which could harm their chances to contend for an SEC, and BCS, championship. Instead Arkansas will be on the search for a new head coach for the 2013 season. Again, just an initial reaction, so take that for what it is.

Petrino was 34-17 at Arkansas, leading the Razorbacks to their first BCS bowl game in the BCS era in the 2010 season. Arkansas was ranked as high as third in the AP poll in 2011, the highest Arkansas has been ranked at ay one time in the AP poll since being ranked second in 1978 as a member of the old Southwest Conference.

For Arkansas, the decision to cut loose the head coach shows that the university supported having good character in charge of the football program as opposed to just focusing on winning football games. Under Petrino the Razorbacks had won 21 games over the last three seasons and elevated to elite level in the SEC, though still a notch below Alabama, LSU and Auburn the last two seasons. Arkansas is a trendy pick to be among the SEC and BCS championship contenders entering the 2012 season, although it remains to be seen how this coaching change will impact those expectations.

While Arkansas will finish up spring practices and play through the 2012 season with an interim head coach, the list of candidates for Jeff Long should start developing rather quickly, if it has not already. Some of those names that have mentioned as potential candidates include South Florida’s Skip Holtz, Stanford’s David Shaw, and Iowa State’s Paul Rhodes according to

So, without any further adieu, here is the first entry in to the annual coaching carousel.

School Out In
Arkansas Bobby Petrino Bret Bielema
Arkansas State Gus Malzahn Bryan Harsin
Auburn Gene Chizik Gus Malzahn
Boston College Frank Spaziani Steve Addazio
Cal Jeff Tedford Sonny Dykes
Cincinnati Butch Jones Tommy Tuberville
Colorado Jon Embree Mike MacIntyre
Florida International Mario Cristobal Ron Turner
Georgia State Bill Curry Trent Miles
Idaho Robb Akey Paul Petrino
Kent State Darrell Hazell Paul Hynes
Kentucky Joker Phillips Mark Stoops
Louisiana Tech Sonny Dykes Skip Holtz
Nevada Chris Ault Brian Polian
New Mexico State DeWayne Walker Doug Martin
North Carolina State Tom O'Brien Dave Doeren
Northern Illinois Dave Doeren Rod Carey
Oregon Chip Kelly Mark Helfrich
Purdue Danny Hope Darrell Hazell
San Jose State Mike MacIntyre Ron Caragher
South Florida Skip Holtz Willie Taggart
Southern Mississippi Ellis Johnson Todd Monken
Syracuse Doug Marrone Scott Shafer
Tennessee Derek Dooley Butch Jones
Temple Steve Addazio Matt Rhule
Texas Tech Tommy Tuberville Kliff Kingsbury
Utah State Gary Andersen Matt Wells
UTEP Mike Price Sean Kugler
Western Kentucky Willie Taggart Bobby Petrino
Western Michigan Bill Cubit P.J. Fleck
Wisconsin Bret Bielema Gary Andersen

* denotes interim head coach

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About the Author

Kevin McGuire
Contributor to College Football Talk on Also a contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.