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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Pittman staying a step ahead of the game

by Wally Hall | April 26, 2022 at 3:13 a.m.

Nothing seems to rattle Sam Pittman.

The head football coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks comes across like Tom Cruise in "Top Gun."

Always calm, cool and collected. Always ready to act or react.

Last December when Pittman changed agents, one could only wonder if that would be a distraction during preparations for the Outback Bowl.

Wanting another raise after just getting a $750,000 raise for winning six, seven and eight games in a season, plus a $150,000 bonus for making the Outback Bowl, raised some eyebrows.

Yet, in the crazy world of perspiring arts where college football coaches make north of $5 million at most major programs, wanting to be on a level playing field is natural.

Pittman ranked 13th in SEC coaches' salaries.

That is not impressive to recruits who these days have an eye on a school's earning power for personal reasons.

The details are still being hammered out on his new contract, but a guess is he will no longer be 13th.

Another guess is Pittman was concerned about deferred compensation, or money for his retirement.

He's 60 years old, and the grind of college coaching is 24-7, 365 days a year, which is why more and more are starting to look at the future and holding up to the pressure.

Bob Stoops, Jay Wright and Matt Luke come to mind immediately and there are others. In fact, it is becoming a trend.

So Pittman may have been thinking about when he and Jamie retire to Hot Springs, probably not in the next few years, but someday, and wanting the grass to be at least green enough to maintain a lifestyle.

Letting his old agent, Judy Henry, go was very hard for Pittman and his wife.

Signing with Jimmy Sexton, who seems to have almost as much clout in the SEC as Commissioner Greg Sankey, was the natural next move.

This is a third guess, and the last for today, but Sexton most likely let UA officials know there was a coach in the SEC, probably one of his clients, who was leaving next season and that school would be coming after Pittman.

That's the way the game is played.

Plus, if there was an assistant coach Pittman needed to get rid of but didn't want to end his career by firing him, Sexton would most likely be able to help find that coach another job.

Before a news conference in Tampa, Pittman sent word that he preferred to talk about the game with Penn State and not his contract negotiations, which at that point were in Sexton 's hands anyway.

Pittman knew he had to be 100% focused on the game if his staff and players were going to be equally focused.

Arkansas fell behind 10-7 at the half but scored 17 unanswered points in the third quarter to cruise to a 24-10 win that was not as close as the score indicates.

Pittman was all in for the win.

So months passed, and during spring practice Pittman took about five minutes to casually let it be known an agreement had been reached and went right back to work.

All indications are, most, if not all, of what Pittman and staff hoped to address on the field was addressed.

There may be a couple of days off for the coaches between now and when the players officially report for practice, but mostly there will be recruiting, evaluating recruits, evaluating the spring practices, recruiting, coaches meetings about this season and recruiting.

It is a grind, one that all coaches feel and deal with until it becomes too much, and then they step away if they are financially secure.

Pittman will be fine, and he's never leaving the Razorbacks, He probably wouldn't have anyway and now the playing field is more level.

Print Headline: Pittman staying a step ahead of the game


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