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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Are Arkansas, Auburn headed for mistakes?

by Wally Hall | November 2, 2022 at 3:27 a.m.


There appears to be a similarity with Auburn University and the University of Arkansas.

At Auburn it is athletics, and at Arkansas it is academics.

The similarity is that some very wealthy boosters are either making the calls or, in the UA's case, trying to make the calls when it comes to choosing the next UA chancellor.

Everyone knows the UA Board of Trustees is split 5-5 on whether to hire current UA interim chancellor Charles Robinson or Daniel Reed, the presidential professor of computational science at Utah.

Reed's science background is driving some and experience the others.

Robinson has more than 14 months in as a chancellor and that experience grows every day. Reed has been in the running before but wasn't chosen.

Robinson stepped in a month after Joe Steinmetz was given 24 hours to clean out his desk and get off the campus.

Steinmetz had science in his background, and he was recommended by UA System President Donald Bobbitt, who doesn't have a vote, nor should he have a voice.

What this deadlock appears to be is five trustees voting for what is best for the UA, which is hiring Robinson, and five who are voting for what they think is the best for the UA.

The University of Arkansas does not need to be overhauled. It has been taking care of Arkansans for 151 years and has grown with the times -- including this year, under Robinson's leadership, when enrollment topped 30,000.

Donations are up, crime is down. He has handled more than one complicated situation.

The final decision of these 10 is going to reflect on the UA, the state of Arkansas and them personally.

When the most qualified candidate is a vibrant, well-liked Black leader and you pass on him for a less-qualified, white 65-year-old man there will be an outcry, even if the lone Black trustee votes against Robinson.

The UA and the state of Arkansas don't need or deserve that.

Auburn's mess is mostly football.

It is impossible to feel any sympathy for the school that keeps making the same mistake over and over again.

Auburn, which has been without an athletic director since August, fired Bryan Harsin on Monday following a 41-27 loss to Arkansas.

Another typical Auburn move.

In 1998, Terry Bowden was fired for off-the-field issues. He was 47-17-1.

Tommy Tuberville survived a decade, but just barely. In his fifth season, a booster ordered then-athletic director David Housel -- who protested the idea -- to fly to Louisville and interview Bobby Petrino, who had been Tuberville's offensive coordinator.

That blew up and the Auburn board sat back. The next season Tuberville went 13-0, followed by 9-3, 11-2 and 9-4. In 2008, they slipped and a booster called Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt to see if he was interested in moving to the Plains.

Nutt and Tuberville shared the same agent, Jimmy Sexton, who had put in Tuberville's contract that if any coach was contacted during the season he could leave with a $5 million buyout.

Rather than continue to fight the boosters, Tuberville, who was 85-40, left.

Gene Chizik was fired after four seasons with a 33-19 record and a national championship.

Gus Malzahn was fired after eight seasons and a 68-35 record.

Harsin was fired after 21 games and a 9-12 record.

Auburn has paid its past four coaches more than $52 million to go away.

There's no doubt there will be interest in the job. Names like Hugh Freeze and Deion Sanders came up immediately, as did Ole Miss' Lane Kiffin, but he'll probably use this to get a big raise from the Rebels.

Auburn needs to get it right this time. Its reputation, integrity and leadership is on the line.


Print Headline: Are Arkansas, Auburn headed for mistakes?

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