Story of Why Bear Bryant Never Coached Arkansas
by Jack E. Forrest -- UArkansas 1961, 1967, 1978 (Ph.D.)
Coach Bryant had verbally accepted the football head coach's job at Arkansas immediately prior to Pearl Harbor when he instead joined the World War II effort.
After the war, he returned to college coaching, first at UMaryland, then UKentucky.
While he was at Kentucky, Bryant once again applied for the open head coaching job at Arkansas. Bowden Wyatt had left Arkansas after only one year -- the end of the '53-'54 season.
Here is what was told to me by Professor Walter Cole, an Accounting teacher, who was on the UArkansas selection committee to replace Wyatt. Its Chairman, campus President John Tyler Caldwell, asked each committee member to contact a counterpart at Kentucky and inquire about Bryant. Cole contacted Accounting teachers who informed him, "Coach Bryant likes to get involved in the academic process."
Hearing this negative influence report on teachers from Cole, President Caldwell said, "What's the matter? Don't you have the best interests of the University in mind?" Cole replied, "I was here before you arrived, I'll be here after you're gone. Yes, sir I have the University's best interests in mind."
The committee selected Jack Mitchell. Bryant accepted the head coaching position at Texas A&M. Caldwell left UArkansas in 1959 to become chancellor of North Carolina State University. Cole stayed at UArkansas until his retirement.
I was an administrator at UArkansas from 1965 to 1973 in the College of Business Administration. I had many conversations with Professor Cole.