21 Jan

Hogs are Better In SEC Road Games Than At Home. How Rare Is That?

moses kingsley

A troika of seniors also led the last Razorback team to start conference playing better on the road than at home.

 

The ’98-’99 team had a rough SEC home start, but a helluva finish.

Road struggles have defined the Razorback basketball program through much of the 21st century. In the glory years of the late 1970s through mid 1990s, the Hogs were nearly invincible at home while winning their fair share of road games. In the 21st century, they have still been one of the SEC’s most dominant home teams but constant road woes have often sunk them into mediocrity.

This year, though, these 21st century trends are changing, for better and worse.

First, the good news for Hog fans: Their team has begun winning road games at a rate similar to that of the 1990s Nolan Richardson-led teams. Since 2014, Arkansas is 11-10 on the road in SEC play. Arkansas had gone 16-81 in the previous dozen seasons before that.

The problem: In the last two years, the program has been anything but invincible at home.

The result is a strange inversion of the Razorback’s usual 21st century mojo: This 2016-17 team has lost two of its first three SEC home games, while winning two of its first three SEC road games.

That’s very unusual.

Indeed, in the last 69 years*, only one other Razorback team has gotten off to a better start on the road than at home in the first six conference games of the season. That team, the 1998-99 Hogs, spent most of that season ranked in the Top 25 (no higher than No.18).

Those Hogs won their first SEC contest of the season — a road game — against LSU 80-75. It then lost on the road to Auburn, then ranked No. 14, 83-66.

Here’s how its next four games panned out:

(Home) Ole Miss, L 76-65

(Away) Mississippi State W 61-59

(Home) Georgia, W 82-79

(Home) Alabama, L 67-60

Those Hogs were stocked with All-SEC caliber seniors in Pat Bradley, Derek Hood and Kareem Reid. Their experience and tenacity was critical to allowing the squad to squeak out those road victories. This Hogs team also showcases three important seniors: Dusty Hannahs, Moses Kingsley and Manny Watkins.

Hannahs and Bradley fulfill similar roles on their respective teams, as do Hood and Kingsley. But nobody on the team has been able to harass opposing point guards, while consistently staying in front of them, like the ultra-quick Kareem Reid.  These Hogs’ inability to contain quick guards killed them in home losses against Florida and Mississippi State, and in the second half against Kentucky.

Former Razorback Blake Eddins, who began playing under Nolan Richardson in 1999-2000, recently joked this year’s team needs “a couple of defensive stoppers like Pat Bradley and Blake Eddins in there, to really bend their knees and get that butt down and show them how to play defense.”

“I’ll say this: I would have clotheslined a guy if he had a wide-open fast break layup. And that’s about all I was good for,” Eddins told Pat Bradley, now a sports radio co-host, on 103.7 The Buzz FM.

It’s difficult to imagine Dusty Hannahs — or newcomers Daryl Macon or Jaylen Barford — playing with this kind of Charles Oakleyeque defensive tenacity. But Barford and Macon do have the needed quickness to become much more effective one-on-one defenders, while Watkins and Anton Beard, though not as quick, have long flashed Kareem Reid/Corey Beck-like defensive effort.

It’s just a matter of putting it together in longer stretches, and specifically against the SEC’s best point guards.

That 1998-99 team ended with a fantastic home stand, beating No. 6 Kentucky and No. 2 Auburn in its final two SEC home games. It later made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Manny Watkins knows this is the last chance for he, Kingsley and Hannahs to make a similar statement.

“It’s our last year,” he told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “The sense of urgency is through the roof. In order to win, you’ve got to do things and it has to be from your seniors.”


*Only one team during the Razorbacks’ SWC days won at least two of its first three road conference games while losing at least two of its first three home conference games. That would be the ’48-’49 Hogs, which ultimately finished 9-3 in conference as SWC champs.

** Arkansas isn’t the only SEC team struggling at home this season. Through January 20, SEC teams are a combined 18-21 in home SEC games . (h/t to Blake Eddins)

african-american arkansans

Includes how NLR native Eddie Miles almost became the first black Razorback in basketball 

29 Dec

James Shibest: “I can remember how chunky ol’ Austin was when he was young”

James Shibest

The Virginia Tech special teams coach recalls meeting Austin Allen while coaching at Arkansas

James Shibest and Bobby Allen are at the center of Razorbacks-Hokies football coaching cross-pollination. Allen, a former Virginia Tech player, has been on the Arkansas staff for nearly 20 years. Shibest, meanwhile, is a former Razorback player and coach. He’s in his first year at Virginia Tech, coaching special teams and tight ends for Hokies coach Justin Fuente.

They will both be on the sidelines for today’s Belk Bowl, in which Arkansas is a touchdown underdog to Virginia Tech according to the latest betting odds.

Shibest, who coached at Arkansas 2000-07, yesterday recalled Allen training his two sons in and around Razorback Stadium. Those boys, Brandon Allen and Austin Allen, have combined to hold the Hogs’ starting quarterback job for the last four years.

“Almost every free minute he had he was working with them boys and obviously that worked,” Shibest told sports show host Bo Mattingly and sportswriter Clay Henry on Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly. “Whether it be football, baseball, whatever it was, has paid off. God I’m just so happy for them guys. I used to remember how chunky ol’ Austin was when he was young… He’s an unbelievable competitor, let me tell you. I know all the Hog fans know that boy but I’ll tell you what, he is a good player.”

Here are some more choice excerpts from their conversation:

Bo Mattingly: … What was that period of your life like when you  left Arkansas when coach Nutt took the job at Ole Miss? Then when it didn’t work out at Ole Miss, you had some stuff to figure out…

James Shibest: No doubt. I have really been unbelievably blessed. Ever since I’ve gotten to this level I was very fortunate. I came from junior college and coach [Houston] Nutt hired me. God what an awesome person to work for and learn from. You love your alma mater so much, you want to stay there. It was tough.

Then when we went to Ole Miss went ahead but you got to go feed the family. Really the first time I really ever had to look for a job is when I got connected with coach Fuente at Memphis there. It didn’t take long, it was a couple of weeks. It wasn’t like I had to sit out a year. It’s a tough road a lot of times in this profession. I’ve been extremely lucky. Always having to be at a great place and then with great people to work for.

On coaching junior college football:

James Shibest: Let me tell you it was really a great training. First of all you learn how to go be a coach. Them guys kind of were on their second chance especially the Division I type guys through academics or various reasons. They needed you more. I don’t know if I’ve ever been closer to my players more than in junior college. It was obviously a little bit smaller but them guys really needed your help. There was some deep, deep satisfaction when you could get them to that … back to division one or whatever, to that next institution.

Clay Henry: I’ve written stories about the Arkansas wide receivers of late and I keep pulling up these top 10 lists. I keep finding you in there —

James Shibest: Didn’t do much as a freshman and then, of course, it was a little nerve wracking there. I came in with hopes and Coach [Ken] Hatfield was … Of course all you heard was the Flexbone. I didn’t really know what that was as far as being a receiver, how I would fit in that. It’s amazing how it turned out to be a great blessing. Them safeties have to play the dang triple option in there, and I was out there by myself one on one most of the time and-

Clay Henry: You ran those crossing routes. It’d take a little while. The safety would clear than then ere came Shibest, about eight seconds later.

James Shibest: All right now, I was a lot faster than what y’all say I was.

Clay Henry: Okay, sorry, sorry.

James Shibest: [Laughs] It was pretty cool. You know Brad [Taylor] was still there so we kind of had to throw the ball that first year and end up having a pretty good year. It all worked out just like the way it should have.

The Shibest File
Experience: 27th season, 1st at Virginia Tech
Hometown: Houston, Texas
High School: MacArthur
College: Arkansas (1987)
Playing Exp: Arkansas (1983-87)
Family: Wife – Dianna; Son – James John III, Daughter – Jordyn Grace

Coaching History

Year School Position
2016 Virginia Tech Special Teams Coordinator/Tight Ends
2012-15 Memphis Special Teams Coordinator/Tight Ends
2008-11 Ole Miss Special Teams Coordinator
2006-07 Arkansas Special Teams/Tight Ends
2002-05 Arkansas Special Teams/Wide Receivers
2000-01 Arkansas Special Teams/Tight Ends
1996-99 Butler County CC (Kan.) Head Coach
1994-95 Garden City CC (Kan.) Offensive Coordinator/QBs/WRs
1993 Independence CC (Kan.) Defensive Backs
1992 Independence CC (Kan.) Offensive Coordinator
1990-91 Oklahoma State Graduate Assistant
19 Dec

Bill Raftery Compares Malik Monk to Michael Jordan, Jerry West

Malik Monk jumper

During Monk’s 47-point detonation, the longtime CBS announcer didn’t hold back with the praise

 

At the start of the 2016-17 season, Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman assessed Kentucky freshman Malik Monk’s NBA potential. Names like “J.R. Smith” and “Monta Ellis” were thrown out. In the comments, someone chimed in with “DeMar DeRozan” as Monk’s ceiling. Someone else agreed that’s a very good apex.

That ceiling may need to be raised a floor or two after Saturday. At night, in front of a national television audience,  Malik Monk scored 47 points in a thriller against North Carolina. The 6-3 shooting  guard produced the impressive shooting performance from an Arkansas native on a collegiate stage this big that I can recall:

 

 

If anybody thought Monk’s scoring ability or skill was overrated, this performance puts those doubts to bed. He is simply the most talented/electrifying scorer Arkansas has ever produced, and could overtake Joe Johnson as the most skilled. During the game, longtime CBS color commentator Bill Raftery, 73 years old and a college coach in the late 1960s through early 1980s – compared Monk’s first step to that of  Michael Jordan’s. (It’s very likely M.J. has watched this UNC-UK game. I’m sure the Tarheel was disappointed in the ending, but he was probably also glad to see Malik Monk — who was affiliated with Nike throughout the summer circuit — develop as a potential Jumpman representative in the future.)

Raftery also made a point of comparing Monk to the most skilled 6-2/6-3 scorer to ever play in the NBA: Jerry West. Specifically, he said Monk’s ability to “get those puppies aligned*” (i.e. his footwork on the jump shot)  reminded him of West’s.

This comparison is important to keep in mind when assessing where Monk will be drafted. He is only 6-3 and only has a wingspan just short of 6-4, and yes, that is short for a pure  shooting guard. Monk, though, projects to become a combo guard years down the line, in the mold of a Russell Westbrook or C.J. McCollum. Almost all all-time players are “combo” in the sense that their skills exploit  personnel mismatches, even if those mismatches come in the form of bigger, taller players.  Given up a few inches in height and arm span isn’t a death wish if the player is talented/skilled/driven enough to not only push through that deficit, but dominate despite of it.

Hakeem Olajuwon, at just over 6-9, is a case in point. He never seemed undersized against the giants of his day, though, because he almost always had the advantage in every other intangible and tangible you would want. Same goes with Steph Curry today at 6-2/6-3, who often has a strength and foot speed disadvantage. While in the 1960s, Curry’s height was more in line with the standard for a shooting guard, Jerry West still would have been a dominant scorer even if had he been a couple inches shorter.

In the pros, Malik Monk can do the same even as an undersized “scoring” guard.

His 47-point first-semester magnum opus hints at that more strongly than anything else. NBA executives are taking notice. In the last few weeks, Monk has more often appeared as a projected pick in the upper half of the 2017 NBA lottery. And, after the UNC win, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported an NBA executive can see him going No. 1 overall in the 2017 NBA Draft.**

 

*Credit to Marcus Monk, Malik’s older brother, for so consistently drilling him on the fundamentals over these last few years. 

**Monk would be the third Arkansan to be selected No. 1 overall in an NBA Draft. 

 

 

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)

[Dec. 9 UPDATE: Dropped to No. 123]

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.”