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Garrick McGee To Arkansas Possibility: What Is A Coach’s Best Interest?

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on Wednesday afternoon it “received further confirmation” or report “Garrick McGee would be the new head coach at Arkansas.”

The report added McGee could be introduced as the Razorbacks’ new head coach “no later than Monday.”

Aside from rendering the entertaining Phil Fulmer rumor null and void before it could gain traction, McGee’s hypothetical hire raises an ethical question about a coach’s loyalty to a program.

McGee and new Arkansas State head coach Gus Malzahn were two of the initial names mentioned when Bobby Petrino was fired last week. Undoubtedly, Arkansas is a better gig than either left his assistant position for. Coaching can be a most thankless job, and in that regard, one has to look out for his own best interests. Further, were McGee in another industry, leaving for a job with higher pay, greater opportunity and more prestige would not cause one to bat an eyelash. Most other professions aren’t so publicly scrutinized, nor do such choices impact upwards of 100 young men.

One-and-dones like Todd Graham and Lane Kiffin were universally panned for leaving in pursuit of what they believed to be better opportunities. McGee doesn’t even have the one. He wouldn’t be the first coach to leave a program before coaching a game, but unlike Mike Price, George O’Leary and Mike Haywood, it would be of his own volition.

So, does McGee have a debt to UAB that should keep him there? The university’s athletic program gave him an opportunity that apparently, no one else was prepared to.

A brilliant offensive strategist, McGee was named UAB’s head coach on December 5. It was a great hire — frankly, I’m surprised given the number of BCS conference positions open this past winter McGee didn’t receive a more prominent offer. Among them was Arizona State, where McGee played in the early 1990s and which had been running a system similar to McGee’s.

Perhaps his lack of any head coaching experience scared off potential suitors. Arizona was another program where McGee might have been a good fit, but the Wildcats had just bottomed out with a coach previously lacking head man qualifications. Perhaps McGee was beneath the glass ceiling that still undeniably exists for black coaches. There were 11 black head coaches in the Bowl Subdivision last season; three have since been fired (Mike Locksley, Larry Porter and Turner Gill).

Whatever the reason, the Big Six’s loss was UAB’s gain. His track record with Mike Kafka, Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson boded well for Blazer returnee Bryan Ellis. Should McGee leave for that BCS conference offer that eluded him in November and December, players like Ellis get the short end of the stick.

Given how late into the offseason this development is unfolding, UAB would almost assuredly elevate one of the assistants McGee assembled. It wouldn’t be an entirely new face for the Blazers, and to that end McGee’s possible departure would come before the bond of a season was forged. Still, it’s a difficult position should the Blazer players have to face it.

The timing is interesting, because it coincides with increasing public debate of how transferring players are handled, both by coaches and the NCAA. Danny O’Brien and DeAnthony Arnett faced well publicized battles on coach-imposed restrictions over their transfer. Wisconsin basketball coach Bo Ryan handed down an absurdly restrictive list of banned locations to Jarrod Uthoff earlier this week.

Those playeres sought what he felt was a better situation for their paths, and Randy Edsall/Derek Dooley/Ryan have all faced their share of criticism for impeding that. Expecting McGee to not pursue a better opportunity while condemning transfer blocks is somewhat hypocritical.

If the Arkansas job is indeed McGee’s, he’ll have an opportunity to make history. He has the support of Hog players past and present, and has the chops to flourish. Ultimately, McGee must do what’s best for his family and career. It’s just unfortunate that pursuit would so profoundly impact others.