Arkansas had its best back-to-back seasons in the Southeastern Conference when Bobby Petrino was leading a high-powered offensive attack during the 2010-11 seasons.
The Razorbacks have turned to an up-tempo, offensive-minded coach — albeit one without the Petrino's scandalous baggage — to try to rekindle that level of success.
Arkansas hired Southern Methodist's Chad Morris on Wednesday, ending nearly two weeks of uncertainty following Bret Bielema's firing moments after the season ended. The 49-year-old Morris inherits a program in disarray, though his arrival — along with the hiring earlier in the week of new athletic director Hunter Yurachek — represents a fresh start for a program desperately in need of it.
"The future is tremendously bright at the University of Arkansas with the addition of Chad Morris," Yurachek said. "I am confident that Chad will bring an exciting brand of football, phenomenal student-athletes and championships to Fayetteville, and do it all with high integrity."
Morris agreed to a six-year contract worth $3.5 million annually. He leaves the Mustangs after agreeing to an extension through the 2023 season last year.
His contract also calls for incentives to be established that could net Morris up to an additional $1.2 million annually. He'll also receive retention bonuses of $500,000 in 2019, '21 and '23 if he's still employed at Arkansas — and there have been no major NCAA rules violations.
Should Arkansas fire Morris, his buyout begins at $14.7 million in 2018 and drops to $12.25 million in 2019. That's followed by $9.8 million in 2020, $7.35 million in 2021, $4.9 million in 2022 and $3.5 million in the last year in 2023. He would owe the school $3 million if he leaves for another job in 2018-19, $2.5 million in 2020, $2 million in 2021, $1.5 million in 2022 and nothing in 2023.
Yurachek was familiar with Morris from when Houston nearly hired him in 2014 before going with Tom Herman. The former Cougars athletic director thanked Arkansas interim athletic director Julie Cromer Peoples for her help with identifying Morris before his hiring on Monday.
Morris went 14-22 in three seasons at SMU. He took over a team that finished 1-11 in 2014, won two games his first season and improved to 5-7 in 2016 and 7-5 this year.
He replaces Bielema, who was fired after compiling a 29-34 record in five seasons, including 11-29 in the Southeastern Conference.
In other coaching hires:
— Former Stanford offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren takes over at Rice. Bloomgren agreed to a five-year contract with the Owls after spending last season as the associate head coach with the Cardinal. He takes over for David Bailiff, who was fired on Nov. 27 after Rice finished 1-11 in his 11th season.
— Kansas State offensive coordinator Dana Dimel steps in to guide Texas El Paso, which is coming off a winless season. Dimel takes over as Miners coach after Sean Kugler resigned Oct. 1 after the team's 0-5 start in his fifth season at his alma mater. Former coach Mike Price served as interim coach the remaining seven games. This will be Dimel's third stint as a head coach. He had a 30-39 record at Wyoming (1997-99) and Houston (2000-02).