FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas football program's slide to the bottom of the SEC began around the time that offensive line coach Sam Pittman left for Georgia after the 2015 regular season to take the same position with the Bulldogs.
Now Pittman is coming back to Arkansas, trying to restore to relevancy a Razorbacks program that has lost 19 consecutive conference games.
Pittman, 58, was announced as the Razorbacks' new coach on Sunday. His last game at Georgia was a 37-10 loss to LSU on Saturday in the SEC Championship Game.
Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek announced the hiring on his Twitter account and included video of him and Pittman holding a Razorback helmet.
"Hey, Coach Pittman, you got something to say?" Yurachek said.
"Yeah, I do," Pittman replied. "Go Hogs."
Then Yurachek and Pittman shared a drawn-out "Yeeeesss sir!" yell.
No contract details have been announced.
Pittman is replacing Chad Morris, who was fired Nov. 10, a day after a 45-19 loss to Western Kentucky on senior day dropped his record at Arkansas to 4-18.
Pittman was Bret Bielema's offensive line coach at Arkansas -- he also held the titles of associate head coach and recruiting coordinator -- for three seasons, from 2013-15. He recruited powerful offensive lines with top-rated players from around the country, including Frank Ragnow from Minnesota, Dan Skipper from Colorado, Sebastian Tretola from California and Denver Kirkland from Florida. He is considered one of the nation's top recruiters.
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, respectively.
Pittman went to Georgia before Arkansas beat Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl in January 2016.
When Pittman told Bielema that he was going to Georgia, Bielema took several offensive linemen to Pittman's house to try to talk him into staying at Arkansas. They weren't able to change his mind.
Since Pittman left Arkansas, the Razorbacks are 16-34, including 2-10 each of the past two seasons.
Pittman has helped the Bulldogs go 43-12 under Coach Kirby Smart.
In 2017, Georgia won the SEC championship, made the College Football Playoff and beat Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl before losing in overtime to Alabama in the national title game.
Pittman will be introduced as Arkansas' coach in a public event at 3 p.m. today in the Walker Pavilion, according to a news release.
"Sam Pittman has been an integral part of successful teams that have competed at the highest levels, including for SEC and NCAA Championships," Yurachek said in a news release. "As one of the nation's premier offensive line coaches, he has built a remarkable body of work thanks to his tremendous passion for his student-athletes, including teaching the fundamentals and developing his players on and off the field.
"Sam instills in his players the motivation, grit and determination required to compete and win. Throughout this process, I heard from many of his former players about the tremendous influence he had on them as a player and as a man."
When Morris was fired, several of Pittman's linemen at Arkansas spoke up on his behalf and urged Yurachek to consider him as the Razorbacks' next head coach.Gallery: Sam Pittman through the years
"There is without a doubt in my mind that @CoachSamPittman is the perfect fit for @RazorbackFB," Travis Swanson, an all-SEC center who played for Pittman at Arkansas and later played in the NFL for the Detroit Lions, New York Jets and Miami Dolphins, tweeted the day Morris was fired. "The best recruiter in the country and the best coach in the country."
When Ragnow was picked by the Lions in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Pittman attended his family party in Minnesota.
"I just can't believe it man. Unreal," Ragnow tweeted in a reply to Yurachek's announcement of Pittman's hiring. "There is no better person out there. Bunch of freaks about to be on the hill. Freakin' Sammy P!!!!!"
Johnny Gibson, an offensive lineman who played two seasons for Pittman, encouraged current Razorbacks not to enter the transfer portal.
"To all the players that think they want to leave ... Don't," Gibson tweeted.
Pittman has coached in the SEC since 2012, when he was the offensive line coach at Tennessee before coming to Arkansas.
"Sam knows the Southeastern Conference inside and out and is one of the nation's best recruiters," Yurachek said. "His connections throughout football will enable him to build a quality coaching staff."
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 Community College in Kansas.
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.
"In his previous tenure, Sam and his wife Jamie fell in love with the state of Arkansas and with Razorback fans," Yurachek said. "They know what a special place this is and are excited for the opportunity to come back to the Home of the Razorbacks."
After Smart was hired as Georgia's coach, he lured Pittman from Arkansas.
"Sam's got an incredible personality, and kids gravitate to Sam's personality," Smart said Nov. 13 when asked about the possibility of Pittman becoming Arkansas' head coach. "He's a tremendous asset for our program, and he'd make an incredible head coach given the opportunity."
Smart thought so much of Pittman that his annual salary is $900,000, making Pittman one of the highest-paid assistants in the country. He was elevated to Georgia's associate head coach this season.
Shortly after Bielema hired Pittman, Alabama Coach Nick Saban tried to hire him. Pittman received a raise to stay with the Razorbacks.
Pittman is the Razorbacks' 34th head coach and the sixth since 2011, including interim stints by John L. Smith for the 2012 season -- after Bobby Petrino's firing because of off-the-field issues -- and tight ends coach and special teams coordinator Barry Lunney Jr., who was promoted for the final two games of this season after Morris was fired.
Pittman played defensive end at Pittsburg State, where he was a first-team National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics all-American and twice earned all-conference recognition during his playing career from 1980-83. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in education in 1986 and was inducted into the college's Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998.
Metro on 12/09/2019
Print Headline: UA chooses Sam Pittman as new football coach