Arkansas is bringing in SMU’s Chad Morris to replace Bret Bielema, the school announced Wednesday. Morris, who will be introduced Thursday morning, agreed to a six-year contract worth $3.5 million per year.
Morris inherited a major rebuild at SMU, which went 1-11 the year before he arrived. This season, Morris’ third with the program, the Mustangs will play Louisiana Tech in the Frisco Bowl, the program’s first bowl appearance since 2012.
Morris, known for running an uptempo spread offense, had a 14-22 overall record, going 2-10 in 2015, 5-7 in 2016 and 7-5 this year. Entering bowl play, SMU is No. 13 nationally in total offense, averaging 494.5 yards per game, and No. 8 in scoring offense, putting up 40.2 points per game.
“The future is tremendously bright at the University of Arkansas with the addition of Chad Morris. 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,” said newly-hired athletic director Hunter Yurachek.
Before his arrival at SMU, Morris spent four seasons as Dabo Swinney’s offensive coordinator at Clemson, where he helped land Deshaun Watson. He also had a one-year stint as offensive coordinator at Tulsa in 2010 following 16 seasons as a head coach at five different high schools in Texas. His connections throughout the Lone Star State could prove to be a big boost for Arkansas in recruiting.
The addition of Morris means Arkansas made two important hires this week. On Monday, the school announced the hire of Yurachek, formerly of Houston, to replace Jeff Long. Long was the man who hired Bielema away from Wisconsin following the 2012 regular season in what was considered a major coup for the Razorbacks at the time. However, Bielema just could not get Arkansas over the hump in the SEC West. In his five seasons, Bielema had a 29-34 overall record and was just 11-29 in SEC play after finishing 4-8 (1-7 SEC) this year.
With Long cast aside, senior associate athletics director Julie Cromer Peoples led the coaching search, which ultimately yielded Morris.
“As we began our search for the next head football coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks, Chad Morris was a name that quickly emerged as someone that would be an excellent choice for our program. Coach Morris aligns with the priorities we sought to find in our next head football coach including relentless work ethic and the ability to maintain good relationships within our state and beyond to attract the nation’s top talent,” Cromer Peoples said. “Chad is demanding but still relatable to the student-athletes of this generation. He was identified by several closely connected with our program as someone that our state would embrace and would fit the fabric of our university and our program.”
Added Yurachek: “We all owe a debt of gratitude to the incredible work of Julie Cromer Peoples in leading a comprehensive search and helping to bring a high caliber coach to Arkansas.”
After moving on from Bielema, Arkansas made a heavy play for Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, an Arkansas native who played receiver for the Razorbacks. But Arkansas could not lure Malzahn, who led Auburn to an SEC West title this season, home. Instead, he signed a lucrative extension to remain with the Tigers.
With Malzahn out of the picture, Thamel reported Monday that Yurachek would target Morris and Memphis’ Mike Norvell, both of whom Yurachek observed during his time in the AAC. Norvell agreed to a contract extension at Memphis earlier Tuesday, and the Morris hire came into picture soon after.
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