FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas football program’s slide to the bottom of the SEC began when offensive line coach Sam Pittman left for Georgia after the 2015 regular season.
Now Pittman is coming back to Arkansas to try to restore the program to relevancy.
Pittman, 58, was announced the Razorbacks’ new coach on Sunday. He is replacing Chad Morris, who was fired on Nov. 10, a day after Western Kentucky’s 45-19 victory dropped him to 4-18 at Arkansas.
Pittman came to Arkansas to be Bret Bielema’s offensive line coach in 2013 and recruited powerful offensive lines with top-rated players from around the country, including Frank Ragnow from Minnesota, Dan Skipper from Colorado and Denver Kirkland from Florida. He is considered one of the nation’s top recruiters.Gallery: Sam Pittman through the years
After the Razorbacks struggled to a 3-9 record (0-8 in the SEC) in 2013, they improved to 7-6 (2-6) in 2014 and 8-5 (5-3) in 2015 with bowl victories over Texas and Kansas State.
Pittman was hired as Georgia’s offensive line coach following the 2015 regular season. He has helped the Bulldogs go 43-12 since 2016 and win SEC East titles the last three years.
In 2017 Georgia won the SEC championship, made the College Football Playoffs and beat Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl before losing in overtime to Alabama in the national title game.
Since Pittman left Arkansas, the Razorbacks are 15-35, including 2-10 each of the last two seasons.
“Sam’s got an incredible personality and kids gravitate to Sam’s personality,” Georgia Coach Kirby Smart said on the SEC coaches’ teleconference on Nov. 13 when asked about the possibility of Pittman being the Arkansas head coach. “He’s a tremendous asset for our program and he’d make an incredible head coach given the opportunity.
“He’s a joy to be around. … He’s been one of the major parts of the foundation [of Georgia’s program], which starts with the offensive line, defensive line.
“He’s been a part of that ever since we’ve been here. He’s got a lot of experience and he’s been a lot of places. He’s certainly been a big help to me.”
Smart thought so much of Pittman that his annual salary is $900,000, making him one of the highest-paid assistants in the country.
Shortly after Bielema hired Pittman at Arkansas, Alabama Coach Nick Saban tried to hire him. Pittman received a raise to stay with the Razorbacks.
Pittman, an Oklahoma native, has no previous head coaching experience on the NCAA level. He has been a high school head coach in Princeton, Mo., and Trenton, Mo., and at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College.
Since 1994 Pittman’s stops as a college assistant coach have included Northern Illinois (two stints) , Cincinnati, Oklahoma, Western Michigan, Missouri, Kansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas and Georgia.
Pittman was an NAIA All-American player at Pittsburg (Kan.) State, where he earned his degree in education in 1986.