LINCOLN — A college football coaching website said Tuesday that Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long — who’s looking for a permanent coach after firing Bobby Petrino last spring — could target Nebraska coach Bo Pelini.
FootballScoop.com — which tracks college job changes and trends from Division I down to NAIA — reported that Long is “very interested” in speaking with Pelini about a likely vacancy once one-year interim coach John L. Smith is let go.
“I don’t know anything about that,” Pelini told The World-Herald after Tuesday’s practice.
Pelini also mentioned that Arkansas already has a sitting coach in Smith, who took the interim role after Long fired Petrino with cause for hiring his mistress in the football offices and lying about her role in a highly publicized motorcycle accident.
Smith has led the Razorbacks — considered a dark horse contender for the national title after beating current BCS No. 1 Kansas State last season in the Cotton Bowl — to a 4-6 record this year. Though Smith said he remains optimistic he’ll get the permanent job, his $850,000 salary and poor record suggests he’s a one-year fix while Long looks for a permanent replacement for Petrino.
Petrino led Arkansas to the Sugar Bowl in 2010 and the Cotton Bowl in 2011, and appeared ready to field his best team in 2012.
On April 1, Petrino crashed his motorcycle and suffered severe injuries. He initially told Long and others he was alone, but he had actually been riding with his 25-year-old mistress, whom he’d just hired for a job in the Arkansas football office. On April 10, Long fired Petrino — who made $3.53 million per year — with cause for “misleading and manipulative behavior,” as Long called it in his press conference. Arkansas didn’t have to pay Petrino the rest of his long-term contract.
Pelini — who’s led the Huskers to a four-game winning streak and has them in the driver’s seat to play in the Big Ten championship — will earn $2.875 million this year, with $100,000 increases each year of the contract. He coached in the SEC from 2005 to ‘07 as LSU’s defensive coordinator.