It is time once again for our weekly “Ask Mike” segment where our veteran analyst Mike Irwin answers your questions about Arkansas Athletics. Below are this week’s questions and answers from Mike.
Q. Our first question is from Armon Abbe who says: I’m glad Vandy didn’t win the CWS but I don’t like Mississippi State either. Is it wrong as a Hog fan to wish that NC State had won it? I think they were the best team.
A. Not wrong at all. There’s nothing that dictates that Razorback fans have to pull for SEC teams in games against teams from other conferences. And you are right. North Carolina State was the best team in Omaha.
They went up against Vandy with just 13 players because of COVID contact tracing and it was a 3-1 ball game. And of course the second elimination game wasn’t played because the NCAA basically ruled the Wolfpack baseball team unfit to play because additional COVID cases and contact tracing. To me the 2021 CWS was tainted. There are other Arkansas fans I’ve talked to who are happy for Mississippi State because it was the school’s first national championship in any sport. A lot of those people also believe that NC State should have had a higher vaccination rate and they got what they deserved. I say, take a week off after the Mississippi State-Vandy series and let the Bulldogs take on NC State. If MSU wins that series, fine. They’re the national champions.
Q. SED76 asks: Do you think this whole NIL deal will lead to locker room issues? Can’t imagine a back up who doesn’t have endorsement deals being very happy when the more famous players start showing up with new cars, clothes, jewelry, etc.
A. It has the potential for being a problem but a week into the new name, image and likeness process we were seeing things that I sure didn’t anticipate. So far the deals are not necessarily being handed out to how big a star you are in your sport but how you market yourself. Already we’ve seen companies check out athletes social media sites. If it’s well done and in particular if that athlete has a lot of followers that tells those companies that this is someone who influences people.
It’s also got a lot to do with things about athletes that has nothing to do with a particular sport. The first Razorback with an endorsement deal is Trey Knox because through social media he was trying to find his lost Husky dog. The dog was found. Knox was very grateful and posted that. The Pet Smart people noticed and offered him a deal.
The bottom line, if you are a college athlete and you want a deal you’re going to have to get creative and aggressive in the way you market yourself. I love this because I’m a big believer in American capitalism and this is teaching these athletes how they can take advantage of that system.
Q. MuskogeeHogFan points out: Our Total Offense in the 1st five games averaged 369 yards. In the 2nd five games our average went up to 413.6 yards. Do you expect a full off-season of preparation, practice and conditioning will continue this trend of improving their offensive performance?
A. I do. I think the biggest difference we’ll see moving forward is the way the O-Line improves. If you go back to Sam Pittman’s time at Arkansas as an O-Line coach there was an incremental improvement in year two and year three. The offensive line got bigger and it it got better. I think the O-line got better last year as the season progressed. I expect we’re going to see a better run game this fall because of the work that’s being done on the weight room and also in recruiting. I can’t wait to see what Ty’Kieast Crawford can do this coming season. He is an absolute beast. Also if the pass blocking improves that will certainly help K.J. Jefferson as he takes over as the starting quarterback.
Q. @mousetown on Twitter says: It concerns me that COVID cases are going back up. It concerns me that vaccinated athletes are still getting COVID. What are the chances that we’re heading right back into another messed up college football season?
A. They said all along that vaccinations don’t keep you from getting COVID. It amps up your immune system to a point where you may not even know who have it or toy symptoms are mild. Also its not 100% effective. With the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines it doesn’t have the desired affect in about 5% of cases.
So does that mean vaccinations are pointless? Of course not. But conferences like the SEC need to develop new protocols for fans and players.
Don’t test players unless they develop COVID like symptoms. If they are feeling bad and they test get them to a doctor. But get rid of contact tracing of vaccinated athletes. There is no reason to test somebody who is vaccinated and not sick.
With this policy I believe vaccinations rates would go up because players will know that they’re not going to get quarantined just because they’ve been around a teammate who wasn’t vaccinated and tested positive.
As far as the fans, I do think if COVID cases started going up by a lot, with hospitalization rates up and death rates up and it was traced to full capacity crowds you might see schools take some actions. Like requiring proof of vaccination to end a game. Or doing temperature checks to enter. But the CDC has said for almost a year now that COVID doesn’t spread outdoors the way it does indoors. If that’s true then we shouldn’t see rising COVID cases traced to football games and other outdoor sports.
Basketball crowds are another issue but it’s too early to start speculating on that.
Q. Texas-grocery-hog says: The Jeff Long era didn’t end well at Arkansas or Kansas. What is Jeff Long doing nowadays and do you ever see him having an athletic director position for a power 5 school again?
A. I can’t find anything on the Internet that would indicate he has another job since he got fired at Kansas. He got a 4 million dollar buyout when he was fired at Arkansas but he only collected about a million of that in monthly payments before he was hired at Kansas. His buyout there is just under 2 million dollars. Throw in a salary at Arkansas of anywhere from $500,000 to $750,000 a year for 9 years and 1.5 million a year for 3 years at Kansas and I can’t imagine that he’s strapped for cash. Long is almost 62 years old. Sounds like good early retirement to me.
As for him getting hired again, Bobby Petrino hired his mistress on Long’s watch at Arkansas. Long hired Les Miles at Kansas and Miles had to be fired when allegations surfaced that Miles had acted inappropriately toward female students at LSU. Then there was the infamous pole dancing controversy at half-time of a Kansas basketball game.
Long’s career contained a lot of situations where he seemed to be asleep at the wheel. At some point the excuse, “I knew nothing about that,” stops being an excuse. I would think it would be hard for him to work again as an AD but who knows?
Q: Grober Kriegschwein says: My wife is due with our 4th kid on July 5th here in Germany. I’m two weeks from 45 years old. No question. Just want some empathy.
A. Well, let’s see. You’re a daddy again at 45? I actually think it’s get easier to be a parent the older you are. I was much harder on my oldest son and I was 32 when he was born and had more trouble raising him. My youngest son came along six years later and that situation was a lot easier. So I figure at 45 you’ll breeze through that. Almost like being a grandfather and grandkids are a picnic compared to raising your kids. So I don’t think you need empathy. You’ll do just fine.
Q. Eddy Lynn wants to know: What do you think about Portis making the NBA finals?
A. I think it’s terrific. He’s a fine young man. Somebody all Hog fans can be proud of especially compared to some of the spoiled, self important NBA players around these days. He’s really representing the university and this state well. He’s was never a problem as a college player. He worked hard and continued to improve just like he’s done in the NBA. He was easy to deal with from a media standpoint. I’m happy for him and during this dead period before the Olympics it’s been fun to follow him. I hope the Bucks win it all.
Q. Patches 0 Hogahand says: As a fan of both the Razorbacks and the St. Louis Cardinals, the Cardinals have not drafted a Razorback since Zack Cox. Is there an issue with the Cardinals organization and DVH? Would love to see Franklin or Kopps in a birds on the bat uniform.
A. I’m not a Cardinals fan but Cardinals fans tell me that St. Louis tends to draft guys out of high school not college guys. St. Louis has drafted some Arkansas signees who bypassed college but I don’t think they did that just to mess with Arkansas recruiting.
Q. LifetimeHogFan says: The 60’s was a great decade in the Texas rivalry. Texas won 6 to Arkansas’ four but there were some epic games. Could you comment on the 60’s and its place in the history of Hog Football?
A. The best 10 year period in the entire history of Razorback football. Nothing else even compares. Arkansas won a national championship in that decade and came within a few points of winning two more. The amazing thing to me was that Arkansas facilities were among the worst in the SWC. Anybody that ever saw those two half houses that served as dressing rooms during games knows how bad they were. The football team had a grass practice field and a half and it was sloped from north to south. The only thing impressive about Arkansas’s facilities in those days was War Memorial Stadium. And yet the program has more success than at any other time. Frank was a hell of a coach and he hired good coaches who recruited he heck out of Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana. That’s how they did it.
Q: MuskogeeHogFan is back with another question. He asks: Given how we are doing in football recruiting so far, what do you think our chances are of landing somewhere between #15 and #20 in the 247 rankings when we close the books on the 2022 class?
A. There was an initial rush of four star commitments. A month ago I think they stood 12th or 13th. There have been several three star recruits added to the commitment list since then. Or recruiting expert, Otis Kirk, tells me that those three stars are really good players I don’t doubt that but their ranking is down around 19th the last time I looked. I’m gonna guess and say they’ll end up outside the top 15. Maybe around 20th, which is good progress in year two.
Q. austin.hogfan wants to know: How many fall seasons have you more anticipation than this one with football on its way back and hopefully competitive in every game, men’s and women’s basketball could be top 10 good…
A. If you’re talking the entire athletic department, all sports, there hasn’t been one that looks as good going in as this one. Two of the three revenue sports have a shot at winning a national championship. Could this be a year in which Men’s Basketball, baseball and women’s track win national titles in the same year? It could happen.
Mike will be on vacation next week and Ask Mike will return on July 19th as Mike answers your questions about Arkansas Athletics.