Losing to both a Conference USA and a Mountain West team at home is going to make life difficult for any Power Five head coach and it appears that was the final straw that Arkansas needed to judge the tenure of the head coach.
“As part of my continued evaluation, I have come to the conclusion that a change in leadership is necessary to move our football program forward and position it for success,” athletic director Hunter Yurachek said in a release. “It is clear that we have not made the progress necessary to compete and win, especially within the Southeastern Conference. Throughout our history in football, as well as with our other sport programs, we have demonstrated that the University of Arkansas is capable of being nationally competitive. I have no doubt that as we move forward, we will identify a head coach that will help lead our program to that benchmark.
“I want to express my personal and professional regard to Coach Morris and thank him for his investment in the lives of our student-athletes.”
Morris departs with a 4-18 overall record, which includes going winless in SEC play during his two years as head coach. When including his tenure leading SMU, the former Clemson offensive coordinator is just 18-40 overall as a head coach with just one winning season.
The Texas native was expected to be a breath of fresh air for the program who could bring a spread offense to town and reenergize recruiting links to the Lone Star State that had faded away under previous coach Bret Bielema. However he and his staff never seemed to be able to get things together between the lines, generally becoming uncompetitive in league play and losing to the likes of North Texas, WKU and Colorado State didn’t help matters one bit.
Morris is expected to receive a buyout just over $10 million as a result of his firing, which might have been made easier for the school to swallow after they stopped paying Bielema’s own large buyout earlier this year as part of some legal wrangling. Former Razorback quarterback and tight ends coach/special teams coordinator Barry Lunney Jr. will serve as the interim head football coach for the remainder of the 2019 season.
Yurachek, who was hired after Morris in December of 2017, is expected to conduct a quick search and will undoubtedly focus on somebody with ties to the state like Memphis head coach Mike Norvell or perhaps somebody along the lines of Louisiana-Lafayette’s Billy Napier. While the job is an SEC gig, its placement in the West division with heavyweights like LSU, Alabama, Auburn and Texas A&M make life difficult on a yearly basis in league play but it wasn’t long ago at all that Bobby Petrino was winning double-digit games in Fayetteville and earning a top 25 ranking.
Either way, the writing was on the wall this weekend after the team lost to another Group of Five opponent and the end result was a parting of ways with Morris that nearly everybody saw coming at some point.