30 Nov

Is Mike Anderson’s #Fastest40 Tagline Still Legit?

Below is breakdown of where the Razorbacks have ranked nationally in “pace factor” (involving how many possessions a team has within the span of 40 minutes) in six seasons under head coach Mike Anderson.

For the unadulterated fun of it, I’ve listed rankings for other Arkansas programs as well. I’ve put records in parentheses to the right.

2016-17 (through Dec 2)

No. 95 Arkansas (5-1)

No. 102 UCA (1-6)

No. 152 A-State (6-1)

No. 161 UALR (5-2)

No. 277 UAPB (1-6)

(All stats via Sports-Reference.com)

 

2015-16

No. 18 UCA (7-21)

No. 27 A-State (11-20)

No. 78 Arkansas (16-16)

No. 329 UAPB (8-25)

No. 341 UALR (30-5)

(Arkansas finished No. 50 in the nation in assists this season)

 

2014-15

No. 6 UCA (2-27)

No. 12 Arkansas (27-9)

No. 89 A-State (11-18)

No. 148 UALR (13-18)

No. 192 UAPB (12-20)

(Arkansas finished No. 8 in assists, No. 17 in steals)

 

2013-14

No. 3 UCA (8-21)

No. 11 Arkansas (22-12)

No. 82 Arkansas State (19-13)

No. 92 UALR (15-17)

No. 117 UAPB (13-18)

(Arkansas finished No. 31 in assists, No. 11 in steals)

 

2012-13

No. 3 UCA (13-17)

No. 22 Arkansas (19-13)

No. 49 UALR (17-15)

No. 69 UAPB (16-14)

No. 166 A-State (19-12)

(Arkansas finished No. 71 in assists, No. 23 in steals)

 

2011-12

No. 6 UCA (8-21)

No. 30 Arkansas (18-14)

No. 165 UAPB (11-12)

No. 216 UALR (15-16)

No. 273 Arkansas State (14-20)

(Arkansas finished No. 131 in assists, No. 43 in steals)

 

Below are a look at some of Mike Anderson’s Missouri teams. Sports-Reference.com doesn’t track pace before the 2009-10 season, but it’s safe to assume Anderson’s Elite Eight  ’09 team would have ranked highly there.

2010-11

No. 15 Missouri (23-11)

(No. 20 in assists and No. 3 in steals)

 

2009-10

No. 34 Missouri (23-11)

(No. 34 in assists and No. 1 in steals)

2008-09

Missouri (31-7) finished No. 1 in Assists and No. 2 in steals.

Likewise, Nolan’s best Arkansas teams in the 1990s often finished in the top 2 in both assists and steals.

27 Nov

Mike Anderson on the Razorbacks’ Early 2016-17 Struggles

Mike Anderson

Below is a transcript of the Razorback basketball head coach’s post-game comments to Razorback broadcaster Phil Elson after his team’s first defeat of the 2016-17 season. It was a 14-point loss to  Minnesota on Nov. 22. 

… Defensively I didn’t think we really for the most part got after Minnesota and challenged them and made things difficult. Early in the game I thought we did, but even then you talk about we had probably some unforced turn overs. That led to some easy opportunities for them. You can’t do that on the road.

We talked about the things you got to do. You got to be able to shoot the basketball well, get quality shots, and that’s probably evident that we only had 8 assists. I mean that, we could get 8 assists in the first 8 minutes of any game and so that tells you the rhythm wasn’t there, but let’s give Minnesota credit. I thought they came in well prepared and really made it difficult for our 3-point shooters.

I thought Moses [Kingsley], you know we missed some easy shots inside, as well as Moses missing some, but yeah that’s a learning curve for our basketball team. When you go on the road man, it’s going to be physical. There are going to be some things that don’t take place that you get at home that take place on the road and you got to be able to fight through some adversity and we didn’t and got down early. It was an uphill battle in the second half. We cut it to maybe 14, 16 – 14 points, with the basketball and we still had some bad turnovers too, so it’s a lesson learned for our players and this is the big stage.

As I told some of our guys, some of our guys had a little stage fright going into it…

… I just think nerves. Not necessarily fright, but I just think nerves, but we came out. I thought we came out and our defense I thought was pretty good, but we didn’t, I didn’t think we were very efficient from a scoring stand point in terms of spacing the floor, because they packed their defense in there. I think, I just think that we had good ball movement, we had … like I said, when you get 8 assists in a game of this magnitude… We had opportunities to score at the basket and whether they blocked it or we misses layups, that really gets you, and so if you’re trying to mount comebacks it’s hard to do that.

Phil Elson: Every shot that the Razorbacks took was defended and you couldn’t really even get many three-point attempts up today, so I mean even the easy baskets like you’re saying were not made and every basket that they ended up making looked like it was a contested shot or a double contested shot. I think you put the nail on the head there, you’ve got to tip your cap to Minnesota. They played a great defensive game.

Mike Anderson: Well they did. They did. I thought they were the more physical team. I think it was evident in this particular game. They did a lot of ball screening, which we knew was going to take place. It just seemed like our rotation was off just by a hair and but you can’t do that against good teams. There were times in the first half where we actually had rebounds in our hands and they would just it out of our hands and just score.

That can’t take place on the road, but Minnesota’s got a good team. Rich has got a good team. They were prepared to play and I guess I didn’t do a good job of getting our guys prepared, but we’re going to learn from this. I think this to me is a learning game. This is the first road game for a guy like [Jaylen] Barford, a guy like [Daryl] Macon, even Arlando Cook, Dustin Thomas, this is their first time. Seven guys have never been on the road in a big time atmosphere and but again let’s give Minnesota some credit.

We got to learn from it. Our anchors, our guys that are coming back from last year, those guys got to be leading the charge. Moses, Dustin, Dusty Hannahs, those guys got to step up. Anton Beard, I thought he gave us something off the bench…

07 Nov

What Was Happening in Arkansas the Last Time Chicago Cubs Won It All?

The last time before  2016 , that is.

 

Before last week it had been a long time since the erstwhile ne’er-do-well Chicago Cubs won it all.

One hundred and eight years, to be exact. Yes, that really is a long time, as we’ve been repeatedly reminded in numerous articles, blog posts and during the Fox broadcast of Wednesday night’s Game 7 itself.

So long, in fact, that when the Cubs last won the World Series on October 14, 1908, World War I had not yet erupted, a sultan ruled the Ottoman Empire and Russia had an emperor. Babe Ruth was only 13 years old and Henry Ford had just finished his first Model T car.

But what was happening in Arkansas that October day in 1908?

Turns out a lot, actually. Residents in more baseball-crazy parts of the state were following the series’ last game. Thanks to an Arkansas Gazette brief, we know in several different parts of Pine Bluff, for instance, fans eagerly awaited inning-by-inning updates by telegraph.

But the bigger news belonged to the third annual State Fair, then winding down in Hot Springs. There, in the midst of  a reunion of Confederate and Union soldiers America’s first heavyweight champion of gloved boxing gave an impromptu speech to the veterans. The 50-year-old John L. Sullivan “admitted that he was now living in the memories of a past day of fighting,” according to the Gazette.

John L. Sullivan

Ol’ John L. in bare-knuckled    days.

“50 per cent better than that of last year”

The fair included a statewide agricultural exhibit. An Arkansas Democrat writer reported:  “Washington County has a rare exhibit of apples which occupies an imposing amount of space. Elberts peaches from Sevier County delight the eye and the fruit from Baxter makes a fine appearance. The magnitude of the growing rice industry is strikingly shown by exhibits from the heart of the rice growing counties of Arkansas, Prairie and Lonoke.

The horticultural exhibit is estimated by Mr. Manville to be 50 percent better than last year… In the live stock department the improvement over the exhibits of last year is calculated to be at least 20 percent…”

Southern Sympathies

When it came to the Confederate veterans traveling from Hot Springs to Little Rock, the Arkansas Democrat wasn’t shy about laying out its sympathies for Dixie.

“Little Rock today welcomes the veterans who wore the gray in the sanguinary days of the sixties [1860s]. The number is dwindling to a handful, and there is more of silver in locks once raven.

The steps have less of the elasticity that once marked them but their hearts are as warm with the chivalry of the Old South, and best as true to the dictates of loyalty to home and loyalty as ever.

It is a benign mission laid upon the shoulders of the new generation to make the path of the veterans as free from thorns as possible.”

Today, Arkansas is one of a handful of states to celebrate an annual holiday celebrating the Confederate general Robert E. Lee. That day, January 19, falls on the same day as Martin Luther King Day. “Proposals to end the joint holiday failed multiple times before a House committee last year after opponents said the separation would belittle Southern heritage,” according to a 2016 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article.

Democrat-Gazette opinion writers regularly pay tribute to Robert E. Lee around January 19.

Folks were going “autoing”

Decades before the construction of the interstate system and invention of more efficient car engines, driving across the state wasn’t exactly what we moderns would call “snappy.”

Helena

Just your normal half-a-day drive from LR to Helena (Arkansas Democrat).

In southwest Arkansas’ Montgomery County, the big news involved a new A.L. Clark Lumber Company sawmill

(Nashville News)

 (Nashville News)

… and word that a $171.50 artesian well would be going up on Nashville’s Main Street

(Nashville News)

(Nashville News)

Last thing: Advertisements circa 1908 could be strange. And a tad misleading, too:

screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-1-08-15-pm

(Arkansas Democrat)


For more Arkansas pro baseball history, read our piece on Dizzy Dean and Satchel Paige.

25 Oct

Bart Hester and War Memorial Stadium

Below is some interesting insight from the Arkansas Times’ Max Brantley, via the Times’ Week in Review podcast. He discusses a move in state government to cut funding for Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium in half — a decision, that at this point, will be delayed until at least January 2018.

“I think War Memorial Stadium is a slightly different animal, pretty clearly this was a piece of red meat thrown to Senator Bart Hester from Northwest Arkansas. He’s made this a crusade to cut War Memorial Stadium commission expenses. He hates Little Rock, he hates Central Arkansas. He’s a Northwest Arkansas devotee. He’s a UA graduate. The University of Arkansas is abandoning Little Rock as a place to play football eventually. They’re down to one game a year through 2018 and they may go before then. It makes sense, I have no hard feelings about that. They don’t really care about War Memorial Stadium. It’s a state facility. Hester has tried to say we could spend this $400,000 on foster children. That’s absurd. It’s also hypocritical coming from Hester who fought the Medicaid expansion tooth and nail from beginning to end so he’s got no business talking about helping poor people because he’s against it.

The fact is that the state operates a lot of things at a loss. State parks, for one. We have a tax rebate program that goes to every convention center and arena in the state from the Pine Bluff convention center to the new one they’re going to build on campus at ASU where you get money back because people use these facilities and theoretically spur some economic activity.

War Memorial Stadium has the state high school band championship every year. It has a bunch of state high school football games. It has a lot of other stuff. I’m not the greatest defender ever of War Memorial but there’s a reason it gets state support along with with a lot of other things. This is just pure meanness on Hester’s part. I think it’s a shame that Asa Hutchinson has decided to throw him this bone and say “We’re going to come up with a plan for the future for War Memorial Stadium.”

As Kevin Crass who is a conservative republican lawyer and chairman of the stadium commission said, “There is no plan that can make a stadium like this profitable.” I’ll point you to Verizon Arena, which is a very successful arena and which has lots of big-paying shows every year, it breaks even and it breaks even only because taxpayers own the building and there was no bond call from the building. It operates at a break-even basis.

War Memorial Stadium cannot self-sustain itself without state support. I suspect, and I’ve written, that I believe what’s in mind here is to adopt republican insider Rex Nelson’s idea to convert War Memorial Stadium into a smaller stadium with a running track and have more soccer fields and build this indoor basketball court that the Little Rock Convention Visitors Bureau wants to bring in new basketball tournaments, but to have the city pay for it with the city sales tax. Thanks a lot, I’m not ready for Rex Nelson and Asa Hutchinson to come up with a plan that makes Little Rock burger customers pay for some facility to get the state out of paying for War Memorial Stadium. I think it’s crazy.

I note this week that the governor’s claims have landed a Chinese garment manufacturing plant for Little Rock that includes giving them a 65 percent cut in their property taxes. To get that property tax cut, it’s called ‘payment in lieu of taxes when you get an Act 9 bond issue to build a plant, typically you have to get the approval of your city board of directors and your school board and your Pulaski County quorum court to get that. Hutchinson went over to China and offered it, I guess just assuming we would roll over and take whatever he gives, but he’s going to give the Chinese $3.5 million to build a plant in Little Rock and he wants to take $400,000 away from War Memorial Stadium. It kind of hacks me off.”

24 Sep

Jeff Long on Cheating, Texas A&M & Scheduling Woe from the Wolverines

Jeff Long

Heading into tonight’s game against No. 10 Texas A&M, Arkansas has excelled in close games since last September — to the oint where ESPN now deems the Hogs as the SEC’s  “Drama Kings.” Arkansas has won five of its last six games decided by eight points or fewer, including three straight overtime contests.

It’s been quite a turnaround from the first 25 months of the Bret Bielema era, when the Razorbacks lost nine straight games by eight points or less. And within that stretch no team has stuck in the side of the Hogs’ program more than the Aggies. In 2014, an unranked Arkansas lost 35-28 in overtime to No. 6 Texas A&M.

Heading into last year’s clash, Texas A&M had slid to No. 14 nationally while Arkansas was still unranked. Rinse and repeat on the heartbreak:  the Hogs led 21-13 late in the fourth quarter but eventually lost in overtime 28-21.

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long knows this year’s go-around, again in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, is big. The winner, after all, will be in the front seat to challenge Alabama and LSU for the SEC crown.

Below are excerpts from Long’s recent interview on Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly. We start with Long laying out the advantages of playing this series in the DFW metro as opposed to a home-and-home:

 

Jeff Long: It’s a big win for us to play down there, in many many ways.

First of all, we all know the recruiting that goes on down there. For Arkansas to have that place. We also know how important it is to play in the world’s most fabulous stadium, Dallas Cowboys’ stadium. AT&T Stadium. That’s huge for us. It’s also where we go to recruit students. We get a high number, high level, a high quality students. It’s our second largest alumni body outside the state of Arkansas. There are many many reasons why it’s a big positive for Arkansas.

I think we’re very fortunate to have the long term contract down there because it does allow us to do so many things. So much presence for Arkansas in the state of Texas.

Bo Mattingly: We talked about how big the TCU win was. What’s the importance of this game. What does it do if you win the game? What kind of impact is it beating a Top 10 team in that stadium?

Jeff Long: The focus on Top 10, I get it. To me, it’s just beating an SEC team on a neutral site. Again, huge for us. Huge for the conference rights, but also in the eyes of the college football playoff eventually. When we, hopefully, we’ll get to that point where that’ll matter. Playing that game in a true, neutral site, is a even bigger bonus for us.

Bo Mattingly: Where are you on replacing the Michigan game? What happened there? Did they just call you and be like, “Hey, we’re out.

Jeff Long: We had heard some rumors that they might have something going. Kept waiting to hear from them. Heard from a number of other people first. Finally heard from them. Their deal was already done with Notre Dame by the time they let us know and just informed us that they were going to buy out of the contract, which they have a contractual right to do, but it does leave us in a bind. Struggling is a kind word to say. We’re struggling to fill that opening.

Bo Mattingly: As an athletic director, you’ve been approached about other jobs. Did you get a call on the Florida job?

Jeff Long: I’m not sure why people continue to ask me. The last guy had the job for 50 years. Why do you guys think I’m ready to run out of town?

Bo Mattingly: I didn’t ask if you were leaving, I asked you if they called you. Tom, check the phone records.

Jeff Long: We’ll say it for fans because you already know my answer: I don’t comment on searches of other institutions. That wouldn’t be appropriate.

Bo Mattingly: Why have you decided to stay at Arkansas when you could get interest from others? You could seek interest from others. But you’ve, you’re going on your ninth year here. Some people thought you sold your home and maybe you were leaving.

Jeff Long: Seriously, you all know. Some of you have lived here your whole life. Those who’ve been out to other places, this is a very very special place. Northwest Arkansas. University of Arkansas. The natural beauty. The friendliness of the people. It’s a great place. Plus, you know, I think we build our athletic program into one that can compete against anybody.

I’ve said before too, and I hope people don’t take this the wrong way, we are from a small state. We don’t have all the advantages of some of the larger schools or the more populated schools. We don’t have the alumni base. I’m not well with me. I’d respond better as an underdog than I do as the favorite. I’ve always thought of myself as a fighter. I want to fight with Arkansas to win on the highest level. That can be football, basketball, all of our sports.

Bo Mattingly: … Does it feel better [to] win in Arkansas than in some other places?

Jeff Long: I think it does. I know for personally, it does me. When we beat Alabama or we beat LSU, we beat Ohio State. These other schools that maybe have more resources or more things going for them in some respects, yeah, it means more to me. Like I said, I’m always felt like I was an underdog. Again, I got to be careful how I say that. I think we built a program that is not really an underdog to very many people, but the fact that we’re in a state than less than 3 million people, and our University has just recently grown to 27,000 [students], we don’t have that huge alumni base to draw from. But we’re growing and we’re getting better.

On one hand, I’m really proud that we built a program that I think can stand toe to toe and compete against the perceived big boys, but there’s still a little chip on our shoulders that we want to get it done. When we do get it done at Arkansas, doing it the right way, it’s a little more special.

Interviewer: Do you ever feel like people aren’t doing it the right way? Does it bug you?

Jeff Long: Absolutely does. Absolutely it bothers me. Yeah.

Interviewer:  What do you tell your staff? What do you tell your coaches when they come up and they go, ‘Hey, so and so school doing this. Look at the success’?

Jeff Long: Turn them in. I’m a big believer, if you’ve got information on people cheating let’s not just talking about it. Of course, there are always rumors. Anybody who has a great recruiting year, they “cheated,” right? So I don’t mean that stuff, that’s coffee talk.

But if you’ve got something on someone doing something inappropriate, I want to know. I’m gonna share it and we’re gonna hopefully get it stopped at that institution…

 

The above excerpt has been lightly edited for clarity 

07 Sep

The Razorback Football Travel Coordinator’s Hilarious Annotation

Bielema big guy
This photo almost says it all.

Tanya Webb, a University of Arkansas travel coordinator, appears to get along well with the school’s head football coach. She notes that when it comes to seating, former lineman Bret Bielema needs his space for good reason.

Ample proof is provided through her comment at the bottom of this travel reimbursement claim Bielema and former offensive line coach Sam Pittman made to the university. It appears they might have been on a Hawaii recruiting trip relating to Reeve Koehler, a former 3-star lineman who did sign with the Hogs.

Hawaii 1

This scanned receipt is probably the funniest thing I saw in a 121 compilation of Bret Bielema-related expense claims provided to me by the UA. I did this in collaboration with Vice.com, which has an upcoming series looking at college coach expenses across the nation. The editor of that series told me the UA, which only took less than a week to reply, provided one of the quickest responses of any of the programs to which he made FOIA requests.

He also appreciated the UA, unlike other schools, didn’t try to nickel and dime us for ridiculous scanning costs. They simply provided what was requested without fuss.

Read my upcoming AMPPOB.com piece for a deeper (as in stomach-deep) look at some of the more interesting charges Bielema has made while working on the UA’s behalf.

Here’s a scanned receipt dump of some of the expenses I discuss on the new Arkansas Money & Politics website. Click on the image second to the top below to see details of a $2,343.35 charge made during the Arkansas-Texas A&M game in 2014.

Jerry's World 2 Jerry's World 1 Theo's Incipience Hawaii 2 Ella's $105.08 Doe's 245.06 Hawaii 3 Theo's Incipience 2

 

05 Aug

Lou Holtz’s Top 3 Most Important Assistant Coach Positions

The former Hogs head coach on why he always hired o-line coaches second, with some Donald Trump endorsement thrown in for good measure.

The below is via Via Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly

“The first thing I wanted was a good defense at court. I got a couple great ones. Monty Kiffen at Arkansas, Barry Alvarez at Notre Dame. The next important is your offensive line, you third was your defensive back to your coach. The offensive line dictates everything. If they have togetherness, they have confidence, and their a unit, it sends a whole message to your offense. When your leaders are the wide receivers, running back, quarterback, you’re going to usually struggle there because they’re all statistically inclined. The offensive line is just about putting points on the board, that’s the only thing.

It’s not just that you have some problems. You look at what we scored in the season. You have two sophomores and a freshman in your starting line-up coming out in the spring. You do have only one senior, Skipper coming back. The offensive line, either you’re playing young people because they’re outstanding, or else because you don’t have an awful lot of options, you’re building for the future. I would like to think it’s because they’re outstanding. Your offensive line. It’s particularly in Enos and Bielema, offense, they have to run the ball, that’s what they want to do. They want to establish the running game. You’ve had a lot of great running backs in the past, you had some very talented, yeah. If you can run the football, that’s when your play action passing come in. You look at Wisconsin when the coach was the head coach of Wisconsin, they always ran the ball really well. Dan Enos, who was a head coach at… Central Michigan.

He left a head coaching job to come there. They obviously had good leadership, the ran the ball very well. Everything should be based on their ability to run the football on offense. I don’t believe that he’s the type that wants to throw the ball 35, 40 times. They don’t play an awful lot of spread offs. The don’t run the spread off. The had a lot of difficulty stopping the spread off last year. I’m sure they’ve studied it in the off season and they’ve come up with a plan. The best way to stop a spread off is your 3-3-5, which is what? Your defensive coordinator. I believe it’s Robb Smith.

His take on Bret Beliema’s performance at  Arkansas

Lou Holtz : I knew Bret, I think Barry Alvarez was playing a football game and he had me come over and visited. Bret Bielema, at that time, was a defensive coordinator. Barry had already announced that he was going to retire and be athletic director. He told me that Bret would be the guy that he hired, he spoke very, very highly of Bret. I’ve known Bret, I’m very impressed with him. I like his attitude. I met his wife when he was dating her. They came to ESPN. I absolutely love her. I think she is a beautiful, talented young lady. I think he’s a very good coach, he’s a very solid coach. I think he’ll do an excellent job. I know he’s been there 3 years and he’s only 18 wins and 20 losses, but he’s building that program.

That’s what people don’t understand. I’ve said this to so many different people. How many good athletes do you have in the start of Arkansas? Every year, you will have anywhere from 12 to 15 big time prospects coming out of the state of Arkansas. They don’t get the national recognition because many people go into the state and try to recruit against Arkansas because everybody’s a hog fan there. Everybody wants to go to the University of Arkansas. Consequently, players are very much unrated when they come in. I remember when I was … Dan Hampton, Jimmy Walker, Dale White, that was our three defensive line. All from Arkansas. I’ll tell you what, they were big time players. Then what you have to do is go to Texas, Florida, Missouri or somewhere. You pick up your other ten or 11, but you can build as good a program entire country. I think Frank Broyles proved that when he was there.

On his endorsement of Trump and pro-life speech at the Republican National Convention

“I said somebody has to be the voice for the unborn child. Everybody should speak about it. That was the majority of the speech. Then I made a comment about where are we as a country. These are facts, these aren’t my facts. We have more people in poverty, welfare, foodstamps then ever before. I made a comment about immigration. The only thing I ever said about immigration: Please come here to become us, don’t come here and want us to become you. I’ve never said a negative word about a person, a nationality, or anything else concerning their character, their integrity, their work habits or love of their family. For somebody to put out a national story said I called deadbeat, that is just a blatant lie. If you really want to upset somebody, tell a lie to them or about them. That’s what upset me so much, in fairness.

The only thing is, maybe my speech about abortion, said it was effective. Everybody has to make their decision for themselves. I made mine for myself. I think we have an obligation. I’ve asked every youngster here: Look at everything and vote your conscience. Republican, democrat, I don’t care. Please study the issues and vote your conscience. That’s all. That’s all.”

 

24 Jul

Oldest Arkansas Razorback Jersey Known to Man

vintage hogs

An Arkansas baseball uniform dating back to William Taft’s presidency

 

Today, precious, precious few Arkansas Razorback artifacts older than 100 years old are publicly viewable.  College sports simply weren’t that popular in Edwardian Era Arkansas. It didn’t catch on here like it did in more densely populated metro areas in the northeast, where folks had more expendable income and time to travel and see the likes of Yale and Harvard clash.

So, exactly how unpopular were UA sports?

“We had no bleachers. If you had 50 people to look at you, you felt fortunate,” Will F. Thomas said* of his time as Arkansas’ quarterback in 1901. “They’d pay 25 cents for a tag, which served as a ticket. If they could sell enough tags, they drove stakes and put up rope, and sent marshals out to keep the crowd back. Most of the students didn’t care much about football then, and people downtown didn’t show much in it, either.”

Given these dark ages, you can imagine my surprise when I recently came across a Razorback jersey which the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame claims is 106 years old. The museum usually can’t verify the age of its donated artifacts, but no question this uniform looks legit old.

vintage hogs

Its owner, Boyd Cypert, played third base while also quarterbacking the football squad. Cypert later graduated from Harvard Law School, played for a brief spell in Major League Baseball with the Cleveland Naps, practiced law in Little Rock, got caught up in some creationism/evolution controversy and served as the business manager for the UA’s athletic department.

Besides this Razorback jersey of outrageous yore, I found other awesome memorabilia on my recent visit to the  Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, on the ground floor of Verizon Arena in North Little Rock. To wit:

A Veritable Shrine to Clyde Scott

All-everything back Clyde Scott might have been the most impressive dual-sport athlete to ever play for the UA football program. He set a UA record in the 100 meters (9.4 sec) and won a silver medal in the 110-yard hurdles in the 1948 Olympics — in the middle of his college career.

clyde scott

 

He did a lot of impressive things on the football field, too. Former UA athletic director John Barnhill said: “Clyde Scott meant more to the Arkansas program than any other athlete. His coming to Arkansas convinced other Arkansas boys they should stay home.”

His #12 is only one of two Razorback jersey numbers retired.

Apparently, the cleats below were worn by Scott during his four NFL seasons with Philadelphia and Detroit.

clyde scott NFL

Here’s a fun little anagram collage — a kind of 1940s equivalent to the heavily Photoshopped tribute images modern college football programs blast out to pump uptheir stars up for postseason awards.

clyde scott arkansas

 

Lance Alworth’s Razorback jersey

lance alworth

Lance Alworth ranks alongside Scott as one of the program’s most electric players pre integration. This future pro and college Hall of Famer, who become known as “Bambi,” led all colleges in punt return yardage in 1960 and 1961. Like Scott, he starred in track, running the 100 and 200-yard dashes (in 9.6 seconds and 21.2 seconds). He also long jumped. 

This is the jersey from his last game — a 10-3 loss to undefeated national champion Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

 

1965 Media Guide

arkansas football national champions

This is obviously one of a kind, as 1964 is the only season to which Arkansas football can lay claim to a national title. What are the chances Arkansas again wins the championship this year? Nowhere near as good as their chances of routing Louisiana Tech in the season opener, according to these college football lines.

 

Football used during the “Great Shootout” of 1969

frank broyles

Terri Johnson, director of Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, told me this football was taken by an Arkansan ball boy right after the No. 2 Arkansas lost to No. 1 Texas in an epic showdown in Fayetteville. That teen and his children played with the ball throughout the 1970s and 1980s. He did, however, get Frank Broyles to sign it at a speech.

You’ll notice Broyles also scribbled “Go Hogs Go” onto the leather.

Later, the man tracked down Texas’ legendary head coach Darrell Royal and got him to sign it as well. Royal obliged and told him it’s the only thing he ever signed with a “Go Hogs Go” on it, Johnson recalled with a chuckle.

The man, whose name I didn’t request, recently donated the ball to the museum.

***

*This quote is attributed to an article in an unspecified newspaper in 1974. The quote is on an Arkansas Sports HOF banner.

08 Jul

Legendary Good Byes

muhammad ali arkansas

Only halfway done, 2016 has already seen the deaths of a number of unparalleled sports legends.

Most recently the sports world lost the most towering figure in all of women’s basketball in  longtime Tennessee Volunteers head coach Pat Summitt. She won eight national championships, 16 SEC regular season and tournament titles and put together a perfect 39-0 season in 1998 in which her Vols beat the Lady Razorbacks in Arkansas’ only Final Four appearance. Summitt also won a gold medal as the coach of the 1984 U.S. Women’s Olympic Basketball team and was named the Naismith Basketball Coach of the 20th Century. Naturally, she’s in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

But Summitt was far more than just a basketball coach. A great leader, she lifted her program to heights not before seen in the women’s or men’s game (outside of John Wooden’s UCLA dynasty), inspired millions and changed the way many Americans think about women’s sports.

Hockey legend Gordie Howe, a six-time Hart Trophy winner as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player,  also recently died. Dubbed Mr. Hockey, Howe’s NHL career lasted 26 seasons and resulted in four Stanley Cup wins for the Detroit Red Wings. He also played another six seasons in the World Hockey Association. In all, his pro career stretched from the 1940s through 1980s.

He will connect more than far-flung decades: The new bridge being built over the Detroit River that will connect Michigan and Canada is to be named for Howe. As a tribute to Howe and his iconic #9 jersey, a public visitation with his casket was held in Detroit from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. soon after his passing.

But there was probably no bigger worldwide loss this year than that of Muhammed Ali. A truly transcendent figure, you didn’t need to be a boxing fan to be a fan of the self-described greatest of all-time. Brash, bordering on arrogant, and always controversial during his boxing heyday, Ali lectured at the University of Arkansas among other universities during his suspension from boxing for resisting the draft during the Vietnam War. He eventually returned to the ring and the top of the sport, and spent the three decades after his retirement as one of the world’s most respected ambassadors of sport, religion, and race.

In recent years Parkinson’s disease took him out of the public eye and, as some writers predicted, the neurodegenerative illness eventually took his life. But never his spirit — nor the long shadow he still casts in the world of boxing. The tributes keep rolling in for this transcendent figure who demolished so many walls dividing sports, religion and politics.

When Ali, then Cassius Clay, became heavyweight champion in 1964 he was a 7-1 underdog against Sonny Liston. Born to a sharecropping family is St. Francis County, Ark., Liston spent his childhood working long hours in the fields and taking beatings from his father. As a product of that brutal upbringing, coupled with scant schooling, he eventually landed in a St. Louis prison. In a fortuitous twist of fate, it was prison that freed Liston’s true calling — boxing.

Liston trained hard in jail and, a year after his release, turned pro. He rose to No. 1-ranked contender in six years. In 1962, the fearsome bruiser took on world heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson, and 2:06 into the first round felled him with a left hook that Sports Illustrated’s Gilbert Rogin wrote “crashed into Patterson’s cheek like a diesel rig going downhill, no brakes.”

 

Two weeks from now, heavy underdog Chris Arreola faces undefeated WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder in Alabama. The boxing betting is going almost exclusively to Wilder, and right now the odds are 1/16 that he will win. You can get 7/1 odds on an Arreola upset – the same exact numbers for Clay in 1964.

Wilder has reach, while Arreola has the power. If he gets inside to land a knockout punch, expect a new WBC heavyweight title holder.

06 Jul

Is LRSD Football Destined for Downsizing?

LRSD football

The Little Rock School District’s new superintendent lays out a vision in which dollars could flow to technology, pre-K and “wrap-around services” instead of football.

On Tuesday, new LRSD superintendent Michael Poore expanded on his plans to help turn around the long-struggling district. He covered a wide gamut of topics, from going to the ER this past weekend to pre-K education and “wraparound services” for poor students.

He stressed plans to build partnerships between middle school and high school students and local business leaders, leading to mentorship opportunities and project-based learning that would involve more after-school, weekend and summer learning sessions. He advocated for tech lab-like settings, likely in a business, near each of the LRSD high schools where this learning could take place.

Not once, though, did he mention athletics.

What role do sports — specifically football — play in the LRSD’s future if Poore’s vision becomes reality? Football is expensive and many of Poore’s ideas for expanding school services while expanding technical infrastructure will involve a lot of money. It’s probable insurance premiums for high school football will rise in the coming years as more data is uncovered linking “micro-concussions” and long-term cognitive defects. Meanwhile, starting after the 2017-18, the LRSD will lose $37 million in supplemental aid stemming from desegregation case settlement.

For years, LRSD football has leaned on that money to pay for the buses that transport students to and from practice and games.

Little Rock football

 

In 2013, busing for LRSD football players alone cost $75,000. When encompassing all sports, at all schools, and including drill team and cheerleaders, the cost was $350,000 in all. That cost has surely risen.

What will happen to LRSD students who need busing for sports events when the desegregation money runs dry?* Perhaps the money will come from another budget(s) within the district. Such an expenditure may spark a domino effect ultimately leaving less money available to invest in the programs and technology tools that Michael Poore is now espousing.

When discussing his ideas for project-based learning opportunities with local companies, Poore noted the success he had experienced with students at his previous superintendent job in Bentonville. This town (my current residence) does not lack for local civic pride and, by extension, strong support of its public schools. For proof, simply walk through the Tigers’ swank football stadium and basketball arena. The scoreboards and walls around those facilities are swamped with advertisements from local companies, many are Walmart or its vendors. Moreover, Bentonville High boosters (many of whom work for Walmart or its vendors) pay good money to buy season seats to attend football and basketball games.

But Little Rock, my native city and residence through 2014, presents a different story.

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