Sam Pitmann climbs the ladder

Published 3:57 pm Wednesday, April 15, 2020

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Like coaches everywhere, Sam Pittman, at this juncture on the calendar, expected to be up in the morning, out on the job and working like the devil to bring Arkansas what it hasn’t had lately —a championship football team.

As Sam went about climbing the ladder in coaching, there was a foretelling vignette that took place pre-game of an Alabama-Arkansas game. Kirby Smart, then defensive coordinator for the Tide, looked Sam up and complimented him on the conspicuous performance of the Arkansas offensive line. Kirby had learned from watching game film, that the Razorback linemen were of the prototype dimensions and were imbued with textbook technique. “If I ever get a head job,” Kirby said to Sam, “you will be hearing from me.”

A call went out to Pittman in December of 2015 soon after Kirby was hired at Georgia, good news for Sam but not so for then Arkansas Coach Brett Bielema, who heavy-handedly tried to coerce Pittman into remaining in Fayetteville. While he felt that he had one of the very best assistant coaching jobs in college football when he settled in Athens, Sam, nonetheless aspired to be a head coach. There is no campus where he was more familiar with than in Fayetteville.

He knows the state, the people, the Arkansas history and also why so many of his predecessors have failed. When the Arkansas athletic hierarchy did its homework, they realized they were homing in on a diamond in the rough. The more they researched Sam’s resume and reputation, the more they were overwhelmed. Although he retained hopes that somebody in Fayetteville might reach out to him, Sam heard nothing from the time Chad Morris was fired until 10:30 a.m. on Sunday following the SEC championship game. Deputy Athletic Director Jon Fagg called for an exploratory conversation. There was one compelling question coming loud and clear through cyberspace—if offered the job would he take it? At that point, Sam had difficulty containing himself but soon answered affirmatively as measured and succinctly as possible. It was difficult not to shout his response.

The Razorbacks were ready to make a deal. As they headed to the airport they couldn’t help but reflect on where they had been. They enjoyed life with the Bulldogs, including being part of a compatible and hardworking staff. They felt blessed with the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, SEC and National Championship experiences—which was new to them. Gameday between the hedges was over the top.

“We were also amazed how well Georgia fans traveled,” Sam says. “Their passion for the Bulldogs was a moving experience for us. We ‘sorta’ expected that, but it was uplifting to experience it.”