The Chad Morris era at Arkansas has come to an end.
Morris was fired by the university on Sunday, a day after the Razorbacks were blown out at home, 45-19, by Western Kentucky. The loss was the seventh straight for the Razorbacks, who are in the midst of a second miserable season under Morris.
The team went just 2-10 in 2018, Morris’ first season. Things haven’t gotten better in 2019. Saturday’s loss dropped the Razorbacks to 2-8 on the year, giving Morris a 4-18 record in Fayetteville. During that span, Arkansas went 0-14 in SEC play and lost to four Group of Five teams: Colorado State, North Texas, San Jose State and WKU.
“As part of my continued evaluation, I have come to the conclusion that a change in leadership is necessary to move our football program forward and position it for success,” Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek said in a statement.
“It is clear that we have not made the progress necessary to compete and win, especially within the Southeastern Conference. Throughout our history in football, as well as with our other sport programs, we have demonstrated that the University of Arkansas is capable of being nationally competitive. I have no doubt that as we move forward, we will identify a head coach that will help lead our program to that benchmark.
“I want to express my personal and professional regard to Coach Morris and thank him for his investment in the lives of our student-athletes.”
Another Arkansas coaching change
Morris was hired in December 2017 after Arkansas fired Bret Bielema, who went 29-34 (11-29 SEC) in five seasons at the school. Morris spent the three previous seasons as the head coach at SMU, leading a struggling program to a bowl berth in his final season in Dallas. Before landing the SMU job, Morris most notably was the offensive coordinator at Clemson from 2011 to 2014. He also was a longtime high school head coach in Texas.
Morris becomes the third Power Five head coach to be fired during the 2019 season, joining Chris Ash (formerly of Rutgers) and Willie Taggart (Florida State).
With Morris out of the picture, tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. will serve as interim head coach for the team’s final two games. Lunney, a former Arkansas quarterback, has been on staff since 2013. The Razorbacks have a bye next weekend before closing out the year against No. 2 LSU and Missouri.
Chad Morris’ buyout isn’t cheap
As part of his contract, the university will owe Morris a buyout in the range of $10 million, which is supposed to be paid out monthly through Dec. 31, 2023.
Morris’ contract includes language pertaining to future income — a detail that has become a sticking point in the buyout payments ($320,833.33) the school was sending monthly to Bielema, who is currently the defensive line coach for the New England Patriots.
According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Razorback Foundation has stopped paying out the monthly check to Bielema, claiming a breach of contract. Bielema had a buyout in the $12 million range when Arkansas fired him.
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