Originally found on CBS Sports:
Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek told players and staff Saturday night that Sam Pittman will remain as Razorbacks coach. Pittman’s future with the program came into question as the Razorbacks limped to a 2-6 (0-5 SEC) start. Yurachek released a statement on Sunday confirming that Pittman will return to lead the program in the 2024 season.
“Our team was extremely excited last night after the game when I informed them that Coach Pittman is our head coach and will be moving forward into 2024 season,” he said. “This has not been the season any of us anticipated. We have work to do. I am confident that together, we can meet the goals and expectations of our program. I want to thank the many Razorbacks fans who have supported our team this season. I look forward to honoring our seniors and cheering this team on Friday as we take on Missouri.”
Entering Friday’s season finale against Missouri, Arkansas is 4-7 (1-6) after beating FIU in Week 12. The Razorbacks are guaranteed to miss the postseason after back-to-back bowl wins the previous two seasons. Maintaining a winning trajectory in 2023 proved challenging following the departure of offensive coordinator Kendal Briles for TCU and defensive coordinator Barry Odom for the UNLV job.
A 39-36 win at Florida on Nov. 4 kept Arkansas’ bowl chances on life support, but those hopes faded fast with a 48-10 home loss to Auburn on Nov. 11. Despite Pittman’s reputation as an offensive line guru, the Razorbacks have struggled to open holes in the run game this season. They also failed to protect veteran quarterback K.J. Jefferson, who has been forced to play hero ball with a relatively unproven group of receivers.
Still, the 61-year-old Pittman has done plenty of good for Arkansas during his four seasons as coach and will have a chance to reclaim a winning trajectory. The formerly well-traveled offensive line coach marked an outside-the-box hire for the Razorbacks in December of 2019. He arrived from his assistant coaching position at Georgia with no experience as a Division I head coach or coordinator.
Pittman inherited a program coming off consecutive 2-10 (0-8 SEC) seasons under Chad Morris. The Razorbacks were 1-23 in SEC play during the three seasons prior to Pittman’s arrival and immediately faced the challenge of a 10-game SEC-only season in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though the Razorbacks finished 3-7 in 2020, the season included wins over Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Tennessee, as well as losses against Auburn, LSU and Missouri that came by a combined seven points. The campaign marked an immediate and noticeable uptick in competitiveness for Arkansas. That momentum carried over into 2021 when the Razorbacks finished 9-4 (4-4 SEC) with an Outback Bowl victory against Penn State.
Arkansas struggled in close games in 2022, suffering losses against Texas A&M, Liberty, LSU and Missouri by a combined nine points. Still, the Hogs finished 7-6 with a thrilling Liberty Bowl win over Kansas. However, the 2023 season brought more of the same struggles to win close games. The Razorbacks lost one-possession contests against BYU, LSU, Ole Miss, Alabama and Mississippi State during a six-game losing streak in September and October.