It is time for our weekly “Ask Mike” segment where our veteran analyst Mike Irwin answers your questions about Arkansas Athletics. If you want to submit your questions head over to Hogville.net and go to the Ask Mike Forum.
Q. Our first question this week comes from Kevin who says: The people in charge are killing college athletics. The portal, one time transfer waver, making money on likeness, the goofy basketball rule changes the committee put forth, NCAA trying to dictate to the people of states their politics. I think all this will start to drive people away, what say you?
A. The image likeness and transfer rule are probably here to stay. The NCAA was probably going to get sues and lose if it didn’t make those changes. It will take a few years to assess any damage in decreased viewership or live gate attendance. I’m am very worried about the NCAA or the players injecting politics into college athletics. Pro sports is dealing with this right now and if pro athletes don’t stop it they’re going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.
Everybody has a right to their political beliefs. Express that in the voting booth or to your friends. But if you’re athlete and you start pushing your politics off on fans they will reject you.
College athletics is benefiting from the backlash against pro sports right now but if student athletes start doing it a lot, it will affect them too.
As for the NCAA, what it’s doing with these threats against states with transgender laws banning biological males from competing against biological females in sports as transgenders is flat out blackmail. I’m not going to argue the right or wrong of the laws. But these are state laws passed by state legislators who are voted into office by the people. The way to change those laws, if you don’t agree with them, is to challenge them in court or to vote the legislators who passed them out of office and elect new legislators who will change them. That may not result in a change but the NCAA has no business getting involved. They are business, hired by member institutions, charged with enforcing the rules of college athletics and the administration of the playoffs in all sports other than football. That’s it. They have no authority to dictate state law to the various states.
Q. Hobhog weighs in on this issue and says: I agree with Kevin and I would add the new rule in football after the second overtime to his list. Who thinks a one play shootout from the 3rd OT on is a good idea?
A. This change is aimed ending these five or six overtime periods that can last 30 minutes or more but I’m fine with way it was. The new rules is similar to the major league baseball extra innings rule where you put a runner on second to start every extra half inning. It all boils down to whether or not the fan base is so limited in attention span that you lose your audience over the extra length of a game. It’s my experience that even those who tune out and to go to bed are still interested in learning the outcome and the details the next day.
To those fans who stick around either in person or watching on TV it’s like a badge of honor to see the final outcome live. But if this stuff continues I ask, What’s next? Nine hole PGA Tour rounds? If you don’t want to take the time to watch an event on TV then watch something else. I don’t believe in messing with something that most fans are satisfied with just to please a few.
Q. whippersnapper asks: With Amber Ramirez returning for her COVID year, the return of hometown gal Sasha Goforth, and all the other young talent coming in or returning….what are the expectations in the women’s program now?
A. Ramirez and Goforth are big time players as is Jersey Wolfenbarger. The expectations will remain high. This past season was good news, bad news. The win over Baylor, the historic win over UCONN were huge. But the season ended with a thud. Arkansas won five straight to end the regular season before getting bounced out of the SEC tournament by Ole Miss, which had just three conference wins going into that game and finished 11th in the league. In spite of that Arkansas entered the NCAA Tournament as a three seed and was one and done after a loss to the 13 seed Wright State. This was a team loaded with skills. It needed more toughness. That’s something I’m hoping to see next season. A more consistent team that plays not only hard against the best teams on its schedule but in games in which it is heavily favored.
Q. JHicks3636 wants to know: If there has not been a resolution by your next podcast, anything to the rumor that Smith could return for basketball?
A. Unfortunately the rumors that he was coming back proved to be untrue. Sunday afternoon Smith released a statement on social media indicating that he was hiring an agent and declaring for the NBA draft. Immediately Eric Musselman tweeted out a statement of support for Smith, thanking him for the role he played in Arkansas’ success this past season. These one and done transfers are going to become very common. I think it will take a while for some fans to get used to it but it’s here to stay.
Q. HogJamesHog says: As the college baseball season progresses, this team seems like an Omaha or bust team. Would it be a major blow to the program to see the number one ranked team to lose in regionals or super regionals, or is being ranked number one for most of the season enough?
A. No, it would not be enough. That’s one of the issues with being ranked number one for most of the season. Expectations are off the charts. Believe me, being number one doesn’t mean you make it through a regional and super regional. Upsets happen. The goal Arkansas baseball fans have is for their team to win a national championship. It will be that way with every good team Arkansas has after that 2018 game where a dropped foul ball cost Arkansas a national title. Most fans I know will not be truly satisfied until the memory of that disappointment is wiped out with a College World Series trophy in that display case at the new baseball performance center.
Q. Arkansas Redneck wants to know: Why can’t DVH find an effective combination of pitchers on Sunday? It’s the one thing that worries me about this team.
A. Because different pitchers keep having issues on different weekends. Caden Monke has been struggling. He pitched fine in game three against LSU. If he had been the first guy out of the bullpen Arkansas might have swept the series. But Van Horn doesn’t have ESP. He doesn’t know how some of these guys are going to respond until they get on the mound. Arkansas really needs an effective game three starter. Hopefully somebody will step into that role.
Q: TL Slaten asks: What is up with that stupid rally possum stuff and LSU baseball fans? Are they ever going to let go of that goofy legend/myth?
A. If only they did that against other teams right? Like they show up to the ballpark with those stuffed animal possums on a stick and wave them around any time they are behind against the Hogs. As far as I know they only do it against Arkansas.
Yes it’s goofy and completely annoying to Arkansas fans because they know that in the original rally possum game, the possum that got loose on the field had nothing to do with LSU’s comeback win.
But there are a lot of odd traditions in sports. The strangest may be Auburn’s War Eagle which symbolizes an actual Golden Eagle that broke loose from it’s handler in a game in Atlanta in the early part of the 20th century. The bird circled the game overhead and then fell out of the sky dead, landing in the middle of the field. Auburn was behind but came back to win after the eagle crash landed. So to this day they start each home game with a Golden Eagle flying from the upper deck of the stadium and landing in the middle of the field. Thankfully none of them have died yet while landing.
Q. Superhog1959 says: Arkansas football had some great teams in the 60s. But, IMO the 77 team was the best we ever had. Would you share some of your memories of that team? Also what stood out to you on why we lost to Texas that year?
A. The best talent top to bottom of any Arkansas team I’ve covered. Those guys had depth. They not only beat Oklahoma in the Orange bowl because Oklahoma over looked them, they would have won that game if the Sooners had been totally focused. What happened in the Texas was Earl Campbell. He had 188 yards rushing on 34 carries but didn’t do any real damage until the 4th quarter. Arkansas was up 9-6. Texas got into Arkansas territory and Texas dialed up a screen pass to Campbell that got them inside the five. They scored on the next play as I recall and that was the ball game. 13-9. Arkansas came that close to an undefeated regular season.
Memories of that team? Those guys were talented and they played hard but they also had fun. Steve Little was the team comedian. He was always kidding around with Jim Howard. Most of it is not suitable to talk about but here but It was typical stuff that college guys say and do. I will say that Little kept everybody laughing. Even me.
Q. Blood Red Hog says: Feleipe Franks was not drafted. In hindsight, should he have returned for one more year? The Hogs will be a better team with a chance for a bowl game. Franks would have benefited from the additional exposure.
A. I think Franks is going to be fine. Signing as a free agent is not a bad deal. You don’t make as much money up front but you have choices. Atlanta is close to home for him and the Falcons will take the time to develop him. Franks has all the tools to be a good pro quarterback. His game just needs some polishing.
Q. Jimmy Burk wants to know: What happened to Arkansas players in the draft? I thought the team was getting better under Pittman.
A. This draft, as far as only one Arkansas player coming off the board, had nothing to do with Sam Pittman. What we saw is the result of four years of average or below average recruiting and poor coaching under Bret Bielema and in particular Chad Morris. Arkansas’ presence in the draft will pick up as the Pittman years continue.
Q. Our last question is from Lanny who asks: Is it true that Joe Ferguson is your favorite Razorback and that you have some shoes with his number on them?
A. Yes. We have a picture of those shoes. I like to wear them when I’m having a bad day because it reminds me of what Joe always stressed. That you attack life. You don’t let it beat you down. You do it with discipline and guts. No whining. No excuses.
He came to Arkansas as a classic drop back passer but by the time he got to play after Bill Montgomery left Frank Broyles had begun to change his offensive philosophy. He wanted more of a running game with a run/pass quarterback. Joe spent his last few games at Arkansas on the bench. Instead of whining Joe went on to play 17 years in the NFL. Easily the best Razorback quarterback to ever play pro football. I met him when he was a quarterbacks coach under Houston Nutt. His philosophy about football needs be copied more by coaches these days. He believed that football is about teaching players life skills. The same things that make you a survivor in football will make you a survivor in life and look at his own life. He got cancer twice. His friends believed he was gone that second time. But Joe was tougher and meaner than cancer.