Yurachek assures Pittman into 2024

FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek informed players and staff members on Saturday night he was sticking with Coach Sam Pittman for 2024.

News broke of Yurachek’s support in the midst of a trying 4-7 season on Sunday morning and Yurachek provided further details in the afternoon.

The sixth-year Arkansas athletic director informed the football team in the locker room of the decision to retain Pittman following a 44-20 win over Florida International at Reynolds Razorback Stadium before an announced crowd of 61,442 that was smaller in actual attendance.

“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 the 2024 season,” Yurachek posted on X, formerly Twitter. “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 Razorback fans who have supported our team this season. I look forward to honoring our seniors and cheering on this team on Friday as we take on Missouri.”

Rumors regarding Pittman’s job status kicked up after a 48-10 home loss to Auburn on Nov. 11. Pittman said he and his staff had to spend hours last Sunday communicating to recruits and parents after unsubstantiated Internet reports surfaced of his impending dismissal.

Pittman appeared frustrated when asked in his postgame news conference about a report from ESPN’s Rod Gilmore saying the broadcast team had met with Pittman and he informed them he had talked to Yurachek for 2 hours the day after the loss to Auburn and had been assured his job was safe.

“I don’t remember having that conversation with those guys,” Pittman said. “That’s not for me. That’s — you guys need to ask [Yurachek] all that kind of stuff.

“But I will say this, guys. Those — when we start talking about firing and all of this, it kills us in recruiting. It does, especially when we fabricate stories and put it out, it kills us in recruiting. … I know it’s an opinion world now.

“I don’t think I’m getting fired, guys, or [Yurachek] would’ve told me I’m getting fired. And so I’m not sure why I have to answer these questions about getting fired or not. I don’t, but we’ll kill recruiting if we keep talking about it.”

Gilmore responded to a poster on X regarding the exchange with Pittman during ESPN’s production meetings this week.

“I didn’t say he was ‘assured,’ ” Gilmore wrote. “I repeated only what Sam Pittman told us: that he had met with the AD on Sunday and that Pittman said he ‘wasn’t going to be fired this year.’ I didn’t say that the AD told him that. Pittman’s perspective was our focus — his words.”

Pittman has a 23-24 record in his fourth year as coach at Arkansas, his first major college head coaching position.

Pittman, who will celebrate his 62nd birthday on Nov. 28, is working under the terms of a five-year contract he signed after a 9-4 season in 2021 capped by a 24-10 win over Penn State in the Outback Bowl. Pittman received a one-year extension and a $250,000 raise to a base salary of $5.25 million after going 7-6 in 2022. He has also earned two retention bonuses of $1 million for 2022 and $1.1 million after the completion of the current season and can earn other incentives. He is also in line for a $1.2 million retention bonus following the 2024 season.

Pittman has sliding buyout language in his contract, based on whether his overall record (minus the 3-7 mark in his debut season of 2020) is at .500 or better or below .500.

For purposes of his buyout, Pittman has a 20-17 record entering Friday’s season finale at Razorback Stadium against No. 9 Missouri.