It is time for another edition of our weekly “Ask Mike” segment where our veteran analyst Mike Irwin answers your questions about Arkansas Athletics. Below is a transcript of this week’s segment.
1. OUR FIRST QUESTION COMES FROM SED 76 WHO SAYS: Going back to the end of the 2016 season with the two meltdown losses there has been talk about the locker room being “broken”. Division among the players, not buying in, etc. Chad Morris constantly talked about “changing the culture” but just seemed to make it worse. What do you think caused this, why has it continued and do you honestly think our new staff can get everyone on the same page? The quitting and lack of fight the past few years has been really disappointing.
Scoota Harris said in the lockerroom after the last game of he season that the players neveer bough into Char Morris and his staff. Other players have since agreed with that assessment. My opinion is that only a few players on that staff were SEC ready. Especially not the head coach and his two coordinators. Four months now since Sam Pittman was hired and even though these new coaches guys have yet to coach a single practice Pittman is getting high marks from various oaches around the country for the quality of his staff. By all account the players noticed and immediate difference. You mentioned quitting and a lack of fight. I don’t know how many games this team will win this fall but the lack of fight is over. Just my opinion but that what I see,
2. BACONTHESADDLEAGAIN POINTS OUT: Last week you mentioned that as far as high school sports is concerned, Arkansas is much better at producing high Division 1 basketball talent than football talent. The recruiting rankings certainly bear that out. Is there anything the AAA can do to help close the gap? Is there anything that the college football programs in the state can do differently to help increase participation or player development at the high school level in Arkansas?
AAU basketball in Arkansas is what’s responsible for the high talent level in the state. The people that run is have done a great job. Tournaments like The Real Deal in the Rock bring in top players from all over the country. There is no equivalent to this in football. There are 7 on 7 tournaments but 7 on 7 is modified football, not real football. There’s just no way to create offseason football the way AAU basketball creates off season basketball. U of A football coaches are going to have to contiune get the top six or sevean players in the state each year. Bring in preferred walkons from Arkansas and do a great job of recruiting out of state. Especially in Texas.
3. REDLEG asks: Is there any way the University of Arkansas football program would ever lay claim to their share of the 1977 Rothman FACT national championship that the Hogs were given? I realize it’s not the AP or UPI title, but Rothman FACT was still a recognized national selector at that time, and the players on that team certainly deserve it!
Schools can lay claim to whatever form of a national title they choose to accept but the fact is for all those years before the BCS and now, the national championship playoff format, the Writers poll and the coaches poll were what almost everybody went by. It was a ridiculous system. Can You imagine higfh school state football titles decided by voting? That’s whay I’m glad we finally decide a champion on the football field. I would like to see the playoffs expanded to 8 teams and eventually 16. As for the 77 team, it was top two in the history of Hog football. That’s not bad.
4. SPEAKING OF THE ’77 RAZORBACKS….HANGTENHOG ASKS: Can you share your favorite memory from the 1977 Razorback Football season?
Media day at the Orange Bowl a few days before the game. The Arkansas players were spread out over the field. They were loose. Joking around. Jim Howard and Steve Little told funny stories about each other. We were trying to ask serious questions about the game those guys were just having fun. Some in the media thought that was a bad sign. I wasn’t sure. But as it turned out I think those guys knew they were ready and I think they knew they were going to suprise a lot of people the night of the game.
5. REDDIEHOG19 WANTS TO KNOW: Do you think football games will continue to be played at War Memorial Stadium in the future? Some of the greatest Arkansas football games have been played there and I think we need to keep playing there.
I agree with you altough a lot of fans consider the stadium an embassassment. It’s 72 years old. Not much has been done to it over the years. It’s the second smallest football stadium in the SEC. The current contract calls for games in 2021 and 2023. After that who knows although it would not shock me to see that game go away. Arkansas plays a mens and womens basketball game there every year. They play a baseball game there once a year. The problem is War Memorial does not compare to Dickey-Stephens Park or Altell Arena. Expanding War Memorial to 70,000 and making additional upgrade is just too mush money for a game every other year.
6. REDDIEHOG19 HAS A FOLLOW UP QUESTION: Why do we no longer play LSU the day after Thanksgiving?
The SEC did that to get Texas A&M into the league. A&M was giving up Texas as a natural rival. LSU is the closest SEC school to College Station. Plus A&M had played Texas every year on Thanksgiving. Plugging in LSU on the day after Thanksgiving was a good compromise. The problem is, Arkansas fans hate it. Te SEC continues to believe that it can create a big rivalry with Missouri that week. It hasn’t happened. You can’t create a rivalry with a trophy. Jeff Long may have been forced into going along with this arrangement. I’m not sure but it continues to be a slap in the face to a lot of Hogs fans.
7. PARALLAX PIG ASKS: What current players and signees do you think the Hogs will lose in the five round MLB draft?
They migh not lose any signess with the way the signing bonus is being structured this year. A $100,000 cap with the remainder spread over the next two years. Major League baseball is going to have money problems after this COVID stuff. To me the best thing a high draft choice coming out of high school this years could do is go to college. Up your draft stock and get bigger money three years from now when more money is available
8. OLDHAWG WANT TO KNOW: Has the SEC resolved the spring practice issue? Arkansas had no practices, while most of the other schools had at least a few. When the teams return to the field for fall preparation, will the number of practice sessions be assessed proportionately based on how many days of spring practice each school has already had?
We’re going to have to wait a few more days to start to get some answers. The SEC has to announce what it plans to do next when the current shutdown set to expire at the end of the month. They might extend it to say June 15th. But once the do open the athletic facilities back up the first thing that has to happen is a strength and conditioning period, After that they’ll have to decide if some type of spring football is going to be allowed in July. This is huge for schools like Arkansas, Missouri and Ole Miss because they each have a new coaching staffs with new offenses and defenses to learn.
9. Arkansas Redneck says: I’ve heard it mentioned that there may be more baseball exhibition games this fall. Its this a serious thing and how many more games are we talking about?
Dave Van Horn mentioned tis several weeks ago. I haven’t heard anything more about it since then. Guess we need to set up another Zoom interview with him and find out. The idea behind it is that colelge baseball coaches lost over half their seasons plus thre is no summer basball for players. So this fall if they went from to to maybe 8 or 10 games it would help make up for that. Connor Nolan told us on Zoom interview last week that he thinks it’s a great idea and he thinks it should become permanent.
10. Lanny says: I’ve heard about some NCAA Coronavirus panel that says there probably won’ be fans as football games this fall. What up with that?
Basically they’re projecting now what will be going on in three months. There’s a lot of that going around. A lkot could change betwwen now and then. When we talked ot Hunter Yurachek several days ago he talked a lot about how SEC schools plan tpo handle crowds at games this fall to keep the fans safe. I would not read too much into what this NCAA panel is saying.