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Chad Morris named new Razorbacks football coach

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FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas Department of Athletics officially announced Chad Morris Wednesday as the new head football coach of the Razorbacks.

The announcement follows Hunter Yurachek's introduction as the university's new athletic director, moving from the same position at the University of Houston. Morris, who turned 49 years old on Monday, will be formally introduced today as the 33rd head coach in program history in the Fowler Family Training Center at 10 a.m.

Morris was head coach for the Southern Methodist University Mustangs for the past three seasons after four years as the offensive coordinator for the Clemson Tigers. Morris agreed to a six-year contract for $3.5 million in annual pay. Per his employment agreement, he will also be eligible for additional compensation through retention payments and incentives.

Arkansas reportedly offered current Auburn Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn, 52, $7 million per year after the Tigers lost the SEC Championship Game 28-7 to No. 3 Georgia on Saturday. Malzahn agreed to an extension with Auburn on Monday.

Memphis coach Mike Norvell, 36, was thought to be a candidate for the position as well. Norvell agreed to an extension with the Tigers on Tuesday. He is 18-7 in two seasons at Memphis with the Tigers' only two losses this season to 12-0 Central Florida.

"As we began our search for the next head football coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks, Chad Morris was a name that quickly emerged as someone that would be an excellent choice for our program," said Julie Cromer Peoples, University of Arkansas associate vice chancellor and senior associate athletics director.

"Coach Morris aligns with the priorities we sought to find in our next head football coach including relentless work ethic and the ability to maintain good relationships within our state and beyond to attract the nation's top talent. Chad is demanding but still relatable to the student-athletes of this generation. He was identified by several closely connected with our program as someone that our state would embrace and would fit the fabric of our university and our program.

Arkansas began its search for a replacement after firing Bret Bielema on Nov. 24, just minutes after the Razorbacks ended the season with a 48-45 loss at home to Missouri. Bielema was 29-34 in five years at Arkansas with an SEC record of 11-29.

The struggles in football likely contribued to the ousting of former athletic director Jeff Long, who was in his 10th year with the school. Long was fired on Nov. 15.

Morris draws comparison to Malzahn with a 169-38 record, six state title game appearances and three state championships in 16 years as a head coach at the high school level in Texas. His record is 14-22 at SMU, his first college head coaching position.

"The future is tremendously bright at the University of Arkansas with the addition of Chad Morris," Yurachek said. "I am confident that Chad will bring an exciting brand of football, phenomenal student-athletes and championships to Fayetteville, and do it all with high integrity. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the incredible work of Julie Cromer Peoples in leading a comprehensive search and helping to bring a high caliber coach to Arkansas."

Morris took over for SMU after the Mustangs finished 1-11 in 2013 with the last-ranked offense in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Their 7-5 record this season earned them the program's first bowl big since 2012.

Offense is an area of emphasis for Morris, who helped Clemson go 41-11 in his four years as the Tigers' offensive coordinator. The Mustangs had the nation's eighth-highest scoring offense this season averaging 40.1 points per game and were one of just two FBS teams to feature a 3,000-yard passer, 1000-yard rusher and multiple 1,000-yard receivers

"We are thrilled to welcome Chad, Paula and their children to the Arkansas family," said Arkansas Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz. "I enjoyed getting to know him and I am confident that he is the right coach to lead us back to competing for SEC and national titles.

"Julie Cromer Peoples did an outstanding job conducting the search in her interim role and on behalf of the Razorbacks everywhere, I say, 'thank you' to Julie. I am pleased that Hunter Yurachek had the opportunity to be involved in the final decision and offer and we cannot wait to have Chad leading our program.

Sports on 12/07/2017

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