Weighing Arkansas' hiring options

Updated: April 13, 2012, 5:01 PM ET
By Ryan McGee

On Wednesday morning, as the smoke was still clearing from Arkansas Razorbacks athletic director Jeff Long's goodbye Bobby Petrino news conference, I chatted with several college administrators, athletic and general. Everyone, no matter their job or background, shared two common opinions.

"My first reaction was that I was totally blown away by the class with which [Long] handled that situation and especially that moment in front of the media," one AD said, echoing the comments of his colleagues. "My second reaction was, man, this is the worst timing ever to try and go get a new football coach."

That same day, my new colleague Travis Haney put together his list of potential Petrino replacements. As Haney noted, this might be a plum job, but it's a tricky spot. Because of that, the biggest factor when it comes to exactly who is hired will likely be when he is hired.

Like a Petrino offense, there are multiple options and routes that could be played. Let's take a look at what Long and his staff see as they look across the line of scrimmage. And we'll let the college administrators chime in, though none wanted their name attached to comments.

Option 1: Poach a big head coach

Candidates who fit the bill: Skip Holtz, Gus Malzahn, Garrick McGee, Gary Patterson, Paul Rhoads

In a perfect world -- a world where the calendar reads December, not April -- this is the path Arkansas would take. They certainly have the clout to pull it off, even at this time of year, with a likely top-10 BCS team, the draw of coaching in the SEC and deep booster pockets to match any current employer's counter-offer. Petrino was the ninth-highest-paid college football coach, pulling down $3.56 million annually. That Petrino won't contest his firing means there won't be any issue with paying the next guy either.