If you asked Chris Beard about it, he would flat out deny it. The Texas Tech coach is focused on one thing Thursday night: beating Michigan in the Sweet 16. The Wolverines and Red Raiders tip off at 9:52 p.m. EST on CBS for a chance to play Gonzaga in the West Regional final.
What’s the question to ask Beard, you say? Will he return to the state of Arkansas this offseason. The former Arkansas-Little Rock coach took the Texas Tech job in 2016, leading the Red Raiders to their first-ever Elite 8 last season.
With Arkansas canning Mike Richardson after the SEC Tournament, the chance is open for Beard to return to the Land of Opportunity as locals call it. Let’s take a look at rumors surrounding the decision.
Chris Beard to Arkansas Rumors
Andrew Hutchinson of Hawgs Beat, the Razorback Rivals.com affiliate, listed Beard as the No. 2 target under Houston’s Kelvin Sampson. He said Arkansas locals got an up close and personal look at what he could do at UALR.
Arkansas fans got an up-close glimpse of what Beard was capable of doing a few years ago when he took UALR to the second round of the NCAA Tournament as a No. 12 seed by knocking off No. 5 seed Purdue in double overtime in his lone season with the Trojans.
He briefly took a job at UNLV before landing at Texas Tech, where he had served as an assistant coach under Bob and Pat Knight for 10 seasons. In just his second year with the Red Raiders, he reached the Elite Eight. Despite losing most of that team, Beard has them back in the Sweet 16 this season.
There are a few factors working against Arkansas when it comes to trying to lure him back to the Natural State. First, he’s already at a major conference school and has things rolling. Second, he recently agreed to a six-year, $19 million deal. That is an average annual salary of $3.175 million, or about 25 percent more than what Arkansas was paying Anderson. On top of that, the Razorbacks would be on the hook for a large buyout. Finally, one reason the Texas Tech job was so attractive to Beard in the first place is because it is only a few hours away from where his three daughters live.
Jeff Goodman of Stadium said that Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yuracheck should take a swing at Beard, even if the move could be considered lateral.
Much like Alabama, I don’t see Beard ultimately taking it, but it’s worth a shot for Yuracheck and the Razorbacks. The difference between Arkansas and Alabama is that Arkansas considered more of a basketball school, so that might give the Razorbacks a shot. But again – it’s a longshot.
Alabama just hired Nate Oats out of Buffalo, and Arkansas was in a similar position last season to the Crimson Tide in terms of falling on the wrong side of the bubble. That would suggest that the Razorbacks are probably in the market for a smaller school coach that’s up and coming.
Candidates in that position include Steve Forbes of East Tennessee State or Murray State’s Matt McMahon.
As far as Beard goes, he makes good money for a school in a major conference. He also has that program on the verge of its second-straight Elite 8, and possibly its first Final Four.
He also coached under Bobby Knight during his tenure in Lubbock. The odds are stocked against Beard bolting for somewhere else. Plus, he’s a Marietta (Ga.) native, so it’s not as if Arkansas is truly his home.
Most of his time coaching was spent in the state of Texas. He’s not leaving the Lone Star State for a mid-tier SEC job.