Another busy week in Arkansas Athletics has come and gone providing a lot of questions from Razorbacks fans to our veteran analyst Mike Irwin. Get his thoughts on several topics in our weekly “Ask Mike” segment. Below are the questions from the fans and Mike’s answers. Make sure to log onto Hogville.net and find the Ask Mike Forum to submit your questions each week.
Q. Our first question is from WizardofhOgZ who says: In your last show you ranked the top Arkansas QB’s with regard to arm strength. I’d agree with Joe Ferguson. Anyone who ever saw him throw the ball could not leave him off the list. But that you did NOT include either Ryan Mallett or Tarvaris Jackson stuns me. Both had fire hoses for arms.
A. The actual question was, “In your years of covering the Hogs which QBs exhibited the strongest arms?” I didn’t take that as a question where I was supposed to rank a top 10 top 5 or whatever. I just named some Arkansas quarterbacks who had strong arms. I did inject some bias into my answer because to me a strong arm without an ability to hit a target means nothing. Tarvaris Jackson was not among the quarterbacks I mentioned for that reason. When he was at Arkansas he had trouble completing passes even in practice which is why he hardly ever played. He got a lot better after he transferred to Alabama State and ended up having a decent NFL career. But the question had to do with Arkansas quarterbacks. Yes, Ryan Mallet had a strong arm. I’m sure there are some others I didn’t mention but again I did not take the question as, list every Arkansas quarterback with a strong arm.
Q. Hoggle points out: You said Hatfield and Nutt were 2 coaches you could think of that left voluntarily. But we all know Nutt was fired (got a buyout) and Hatfield was nudged out. Also you forgot the most interesting one, Eddie Sutton (kind of like the Hatfield deal for different reasons).
A. For clarity let’s go back to my original point which was that head coaches from outside the state who come in and have success at Arkansas don’t usually leave. This was in response to fans who were worried that Eric Musselman might use his success this past season to get a job that he wanted more. I named off four national championship coaches at Arkansas who each got offered other jobs but stayed. I did leave Eddie Sutton off that list and no question he was successful but he was being pressured by Frank to get professional help for his drinking problem and he had refused. Eddie knew it was must a matter of time until he was fired if he continued to deny that he had a problem. The Kentucky offer came along at that time and he took it. But he also said later that it was a mistake. He should have stayed
Ken Hatfield and Houston Nutt had success too and they did leave on their own. They were not fired. But there were special circumstances. Hatfield had issues with Frank Broyles. Felt like Frank meddled too much in his coaching so he left for Clemson. If he’d had a better working relationship with his boss he would have never left. Some fans continue to claim that Nutt was fired because they confuse the money he got when he went to Ole Miss with a buyout. It was a bonus owed to him by the Razorback Foundation whether he stayed or not. On of his early contract extensions included a provision giving him a million plus dollars bonus if he stayed at Arkansas for five more years which he did. Also a very well placed source inside the athletic department told me at the time that Nutt told everybody there he was leaving either to SMU or Ole Miss when the season was over but when Arkansas beat number one LSU at LSU he came back saying he’d changed his mind. If he had stuck with that decision he would not have been fired. It probably would have happened after the next season when he would be without several key players on the 2007 team and when Frank was no longer the AD to protect him. Nutt’s wife stepped in and told him she was tired of the drama. And after pondering what the 2008 team would be like without Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, Marcus Monk and others, he went ahead and resigned.
The point of all of this is that Musselman has a boss that he’s really connected to. He’s going to continue to be well paid. Hog fans are great. He’s got the best on campus basketball arena in the country. You can win national championships at Arkansas. It’s already been done in four different sports including men’s basketball. I think he’ll stay maybe until the end of his career.
Q. PorkSoda asks: Why are states like Florida making laws to allow student athletes to be paid for their Name, Image, Likeness (NIL) when it was never against the law in the first place? Do people realize that ‘NCAA Rules’ are not ‘Laws’?
A. You’re right in that some fans confuse NCAA rules with actual law which is not the case. It’s never been against the law for an athlete to get paid money as long as a law is not broken in the process. For instance if a booster gave an athlete $200,000 to sign with a certain school as long as taxes were paid on it it’s not illegal and it’s not illegal for the booster to give that money. But it does violate NCAA rules and can get the school on probation with the athlete forced to go to another school.
In this particular case the state legislators are making it against the law for the NCAA to prohibit athletes from getting paid for the use of their the name, image or likeness. In other words they’re forcing the issue which to me is unnecessary because the NCAA is going to end up allowing this to happen anyway.
Q. The_Bionic_Pig says: As of 4/14/21 The Arkansas basketball coach is being paid 1 Million dollars more than the Arkansas football coach. Has this ever happened before?
A. Not at Arkansas and there’s a reason for it. We have a rare situation right now where the head basketball coach came in with a proven track record of success whereas the head football coach had never been a major college head coach before. Still Sam Pitman was hired at $3 million a year whereas Eric Musselman came in making just $2.5 million. His salary stayed the same after his first year but Arkansas made an incredible jump in year two so Musselman’s salary jumped by 62 %. Pittman didn’t get a raise after year one either but if his football program cracks the top 10 in the near future he will probably end up in the $5 million dollars plus range.
The bottom line, at schools like Arkansas, football generates a lot more money than basketball so the football coach is going to get more money than the basketball coach with a similar level of success.
Q. Dr. Starcs ask: Now that the Musselman contract extension talk is over could you address the rumors concerning his off-court demeanor that popped up during the season? Is or was there any credence to people within the athletic department having issues with him and his personality/antics to your knowledge?
A. I don’t know of any issues with athletic department employees not on his staff. There’s no question that he’s very demanding of his assistant coaches and his players. I would compare him to Nick Saban. There’s a video on line right now showing Saban chewing one of his players out coming off the field in a game last year. The score is like 52-0. There’s less than a minute to go and some might ask, what’s the point? The point is he’s perfectionist and he wins big because of it. He also has turnover on his staff. One of those who left was Lane Kiffin. But Kiffin also said he got a lot out of working under Saban.
The problem with that style is that it doesn’t work if you don’t win big. That’s why the players were mad at Musselman during that losing streak in early January. But what did they all say at the end of the season?
Eddie Sutton used to say, As long as you’re winning there’s no one correct way to coach. But you do have to be you. Players can spot a phony a mile away. I think Muss is Muss. After two years all of us pretty much know what that is.
Q. longtimeHogfan has a similar question: Should we be concerned about the assistant coaching turnover in our basketball program? Two in the first two years so far with the possibly of more to come. Does Texas Tech pay assistants more than we were willing to pay? What am I missing here?
A: It’s not about money. Musselman is very demanding. Very hard on his assistants. He’s an emotional guy and he doesn’t deal well with losing games. But as I said, as long as you’ve winning at a high level you won’t have any trouble finding assistant coaches.
Q. AlabamaHog says: I see discussions on the boards regarding changes to Bud Walton. Do you know if there are actual plans and what would be your recommendation(s) for reconfiguring/improving the facility?
A. Hunter Yurachek has indicated that at some point Bud Walton will undergo some changes. With the revenue issues from COVID I don’t think it’s going to happen soon. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the arena itself. People on message board who want the upper deck replaced with skyboxes are out of their minds. I can’t wait to see 19,000 plus fans in that place for SEC games next winter. There’s nothing like it. Why would you want 14,000 with some extra skyboxes for big donors? The atmosphere would go from the best to pretty good. That’s stupid.
I do think the entrances and concession areas could be modernized. More space for more concession stands. Maybe allow local restaurants to sell menu items. Add more restrooms. That’s always good for the fans. But leave the seating arrangement alone.
Q. parallaxpig says: The NCAA and some schools have been at odds for several years with some calling for a new organization to represent them. With the NCAA threatening to ban championships in states having legislation the NCAA doesn’t like, will that be the tipping point to form a new college athletic organization?
A. I’m not sure. The NCAA did this a few years back on a law North Carolina law banning public transgender restrooms. The state legislature in North Carolina eventually backed down. But we’ve got several states involved now over the issue of prohibiting biological men from competing against women as trangenders in college athletics. If the NCAA goes though with this threat you could see several SEC schools…. including Arkansas…unable to host baseball and softball regionals and super regionals. What will the SEC do about that? Could this lead to an exit from NCAA? I doubt it but I would not rule it out.
Q. CowHog32 wants to know: What will it take to finally get Nolan a statue outside BWA? Can we please make this happen sooner than later?
A. One thing at a time. We just got the street in front of Bud Walton named after him. I’ve said this before. I’m a statue guy. Outside of Alabama’s stadium they’ve got statues of all of these former coaches lining the sidewalk. That’s impressive. Arkansas doesn’t tend to do statues. They’ve got Frank and John McDonnell on campus. They need Norm and DVH in front of Baum-Walker. Nolan and Eddie in front of Bud Walton. And I’d like a series of football statues lining the so called Hog walk that the team takes going into Reynolds Razorback stadium before home games. I’ve heard no discussion about this. Probably not going to happen.
Q. BloodRedHog asks: What were your overall thoughts of the Spring game? How did it compare to previous coaches’ first Spring game in terms of execution and how well it was organized?
A. It was a fun game to watch. Both quarterbacks looked alot better then they did in the scrimmage. From what I understand they really worked hard the past few practices before that game and it showed. The gloomy weather and the baseball game knocked the size of the crowd down but I’m not big on this idea that you have to pack the stadium for a spring game. I think they did that back when Petrino came in. Honestly that’s my only memory of a first spring game under a new coach. The crowd was huge but honestly the only thing that matters on that subject is the size of the crowds next fall. It would be great to see that place full again. The crowds the last two years under Bielema and under Morris were pitiful and of course with COVID last year the restrictions saw the smallest crowds in probably 70 or 80 years. The bounce back this year should be fun to see.
Q. We’ve got two questions about K.J. Jefferson. 3Scoreand10 says: Looked like KJ has put on some weight. How much does he weigh now?AND…austin.hogfan wants to know: Do you now feel better about KJ as a real #1? If Hornsby won’t turn the ball over with bad decisions he sure brings that Baylor feel when Briles was there. It also seems running back by committee to me this year…
A. Jefferson is listed at 6-3 and 240. He may have dropped a little but of that this spring but I like the fact that he’s become bigger physically without losing any quickness. He’s not a speed burner and never has been but with his size he should do some damage as a runner this season. He had 4 carries for 33 yards in the Red-White game and that’s with a touch football like whistle they have for quarterbacks in the spring.
I do feel lot better about him after the spring game. He showed good touch on the ball. Looked like he did in the Missouri game last year. Sam Pittman said Jefferson really worked hard in the last week before the game and it paid off. More importantly, Pittman said, KJ has the whole team believing in him. He’s become a unquestioned leader. QBs have to have that to be successful. Hornsby looked a lot better too. His passing was head and shoulders above what we saw in the first two scrimmages. If he keeps that up he will play some this fall.
The running backs, Treylon Smith is the clear starter. They are hopeful that Rocket Sanders will be able ot back Smith up. He’s the bigger back they’re looking for. T.J. Hammonds averaged 7.4 yards per carry in the Red-White game with a touchdown and Donte Buckner, a redshirt freshman out of Pine Bluff, surprised me with 67 yards rushing. He averaged 8.4 yards a carry per carry.
Q. Eddy Lynn says: Looks like the Diamond Hogs finally ran out of their come from behind magic. They’ve been living on the edge a lot this season.
A. They’ve won a lot of games with late inning comebacks for sure. The thing you have to be concerned about it the Sunday pitching. Arkansas has given up a total 25 runs the last two Sunday’s. Connor Nolan is about ready to go, coming off that sore arm. Hopefully he’ll help. And Zebulon Vermillion did not pitch this past weekend. I’m wondering if the has some sort of minor arm issue. Anyway Arkansas won the series with A&M. They’re the only team in the SEC that has won every series. They are still number one in the polls and tied with Vanderbilt for the overall lead in the SEC. But South Carolina is just a game back for the overall lead. Arkansas goes to Columbia this weekend.