Pittman, Anderson named AFCA Region Coaches of the Year

Arkansas coach Sam Pittman argues a call during the first half of the team's NCAA college...
Arkansas coach Sam Pittman argues a call during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against LSU in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)(Matthew Hinton | AP)
Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 6:14 PM CST
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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KAIT) - Arkansas’ Sam Pittman, who has engineered one of the most remarkable turnarounds in all of college football, was named the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Region 2 Coach of the Year on Monday.

Under the second-year head coach, the Razorbacks have won eight games in 2021 – the most regular-season wins for the program since 2011 – after winning eight games total in the three seasons prior to Pittman’s tenure at the helm. The Hogs started the year with an unblemished 4-0 mark and rose to No. 8 in the Associated Press poll, the team’s highest ranking since 2011, as Pittman became one of only 14 SEC coaches in history to take over a team with a losing record and lead it to the top 10 in the AP Poll in their first two seasons.

This year, Pittman’s squad won four non-conference games, going undefeated outside of league play for the first time since 2016, and posted a 4-4 mark in Southeastern Conference action – the program’s most league wins since 2015. For the first time in history, Arkansas captured all three of the program’s trophy games, beating No. 7 Texas A&M in the Southwest Classic, winning at LSU in the Battle for the Golden Boot and topping Missouri in the Battle Line Rivalry.

Pittman led the Hogs, who are one of an SEC-record 13 bowl eligible programs, to a third-place finish in the SEC West, the team’s best finish since 2015. He is the fifth Arkansas head coach in history to lead the Razorbacks to a bowl game berth in each of their first two seasons, joining Houston Nutt (1998 & 1999), Ken Hatfield (1984 & 1985), Lou Holtz (1977 & 1978) and John Barnhill (1946 & 1947).

The AFCA recognizes five regional Coach of the Year winners in each of the Association’s five divisions: Football Bowl Subdivision, Football Championship Subdivision, Division II, Division III and NAIA. The winners, who are selected by active members of the AFCA who vote for coaches in their respective regions and divisions, will be honored on Sunday, Jan. 9, during the 2022 AFCA Convention in San Antonio, Texas.

The AFCA will also announce the 2021 Werner Ladder AFCA FBS National Coach of the Year on Sunday, Jan. 9. The regional winners, including Pittman, Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell (Region 1), Michigan State’s Mel Tucker (Region 3), UTSA’s Jeff Traylor (Region 4) and Utah State’s Blake Anderson (Region 5), are finalists for National Coach of the Year.

After posting a 1-5 record in a COVID-19-shortened 2020 season, Utah State had one of the best turnarounds in the nation in 2021 under Anderson, a former Arkansas State head coach, as it won its first-ever Mountain West Championship and recorded 10 wins for just the fourth time in school history after being picked to finish fifth in the Mountain Division of the conference in the preseason polls.

Utah State’s nine-game improvement this year is tied with Baylor (2-7 in ‘20 to 11-2 in ‘21) and Northern Illinois (0-6 in ‘20 to 9-4 in ‘21), and trailing Michigan (2-4 in ‘20 to 12-1 in ‘21) for the second-best turnaround in the nation. 

Utah State is also the first Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) team to post a 7-0 road record since the 2013 season. Furthermore, Anderson is the only first-year head coach – out of 19 at the FBS level – to win 10 games this season. 

Utah State (10-3, 6-2 MW) will face Oregon State (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) in the inaugural Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 18, at 5:30 p.m. (MT), at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. The game will be televised live on ABC.

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