PTN’s “Ask Mike” – May 25th

Local Sports

It is time once again for our weekly “Ask Mike” Segment where our veteran analyst Mike Irwin answers your questions about Arkansas Athletics. Below is this week’s Q&A with Mike.

Our first question comes from hobhog who asks: Can the average football program afford to play football games with no fans in the stands? I’m a season ticket holder and not sure it’s wise to refund my money and expect me to reapply after encouraging me to sit at home watching on TV for a year. And i can’t imagine too many schools without big TV money would survivor that. Maybe if we say a prayer again before kickoff we could consider it a church service and allow attendance!

We have three months until September. I think by then we will be normalized to the point where it won’t be a big deal to be a part of a crowd. We can’t hide form this virus forever. You are right. Play a whole season with fans watching on TV and a bunch of them who have been attending games might just decide to watch on TV permanently. College sports cannot afford that. And for those who say who cares…It’s just sports. You take going to games on campus away from students and entire universities will be affected. Enrollments will drop. Kids will go to schools closer to home or get online degrees. Professors will be laid off.

Myriad-hog wants to know: Mike, in the event that college football is held without fans in attendance this year, how do you think universities will handle those that have already donated money and paid for their season tickets? Have you heard any talk of how they’ll handle this? Surely this has been a topic of conversation at higher levels even if you hadn’t heard anything about it yet.

That’s another reason why I think there will be fans at games. I cannot imagine universities as strapped for cash as they are as a result of cancelling campus classes giving that money back and that’s why they would have to do if they don’t allow fans as games.

Hang ten hog says: Here’s an off-the-wall question for you….when Chad Morris was hired, and knowing the qualifications (or lack thereof), what do you think Frank Broyles would have thought of him when ticking off the candidates to hire? I suspect that Frank would not have even had him in his top 5. If you were channeling Frank, who do you think he would have hired when Chad Morris was?

I agree with you. Morris was too unproven as a head coach. My best guess is that Frank would have hired Mike Norvell at Memphis or Mike Leach out of Washington State. Both wanted the job. Can you imagine somebody hiring Morris when those two coaches wanted to come here? That’s what happens when you don’t have a real AD in charge. But there is a real AD in charge and he hired Sam Pittman. I think it’s going to be a great hire.

Seats on the 50 says: I’ve been a hog fan since the 60’s and watched the Lanny Van Eman running Razorbacks with Dean Tolson and Martin Terry in Barnhill. This is my first post on any board. Ever. All I hear is how detailed Musselman is but if you watched last year’s games, there were very few times that we ever blocked out the opponent’s free throw shooter. This is a fundamental rule in coaching. One other thing, is Musselman’s reluctance to call timeouts early in the game when the opponents go on a big run. Mike Anderson had the same problem. I thought there were at least two losses that may have had different outcomes had timeouts been called earlier.

You’re a fan and fans can have any opinion you want. I don’t think many share that opinion but Musselman referred to the kind of complaint you mentioned in a video he did online where he pretended to be a fan and sat in an empty Bud Walton Arena and yelled out stuff that he hears during games. Call a time out. Go to a zone defense. Its was hilarious. Look this guy won 19 games with a team with a short bench and a key players missing for six games the middle of the conference race. Musselman is a different kind of coach. A lot of his stuff is based on stuff NBA coaches teach. Players love that. It helps him recruiting. I think he’s gonna get Arkansas back into the top 10 but we’ll see.

Alabamahog asks: Was the poor APR performance in Chad’s first year the result of transfers and dismissals during the transition or a lack of attention in stressing and monitoring academic discipline by his staff?

Academic records are private by law so there’s no way to research your question but I refer to the bottom line or the buck stops here principle. Morris was in charge of the football program. The APR was bad. It was his fault. It is the worst two years in the history of Razorback Football. Nothing worked. Just think. Julia Cromer-Peoples called it her best hire. Gee. What was her worst hire?

Hog fan n tx wants to know: Has Dave Van Horn had any comments on the new proposal that extends the preseason practice to 9 weeks and delays the season until mid march? There are other parts to the proposal that could increase revenue and cut expenses, would these changes benefit Arkansas?

I don’t think he’s made a public comment yet but this proposal is the work of some top level college baseball coaches. It’s been a long time coming. Anybody with a brain can see the value of it. Baseball is a warm weather sport. This would help college baseball mirror the major league model with fewer games of course. If will help schools in the northern climates draw better because there will be fewer games played in the 40’s and 50’s. At Arkansas it would mostly eliminate those midweek games in February in march that have to be played in the afternoon because it’s too cold at night. Day games on weekdays are a crowd killer. Those of us in the media like it too because it will give up games to cover in June and July when normally there’s nothing going on. I hope this proposal is adopted. It will save college baseball at schools that don’t draw big crowds.

Swine american asks: Presuming the entire football season is going to be played; if you were Hunter Yurachek, what objectives would you set for Sam Pittman to achieve in order to conclude that his first year as our coach was satisfactory, if not a success?

I wouldn’t set objectives in terms of number of wins. I think Yurachek will be looking at things like how competitive the defense is. How many big plays do they give up? On the offensive side is the o- line better? Is there a clear cut starting quarterback? Can he run he offense? Are the players buying in?

Holman 24 wants to know: About how many will make it to volunteer practice with no school and covid, just ur thoughts please.

I think they’ll all come in. You may be confused by the term volunteer. Technically it does mean that if a player doesn’t feel safe he can decide to stay and home. But that term volunteer has always applied to summer practices and the truth is players want to play. They want to practice and they show up. For a sport like baseball since there’s bee no indication that the dorms are going to be open and freshmen are supposed to be dorms other arrangements will have to be made but I can’t imagine any coach telling a freshmen to stay at home. They’ll work this out.

Baconthesaddleagain asks: With the MLB Draft only being 5 rounds, how likely is it that Casey Opitz returns and is on the Razorback roster next year? If he returns, what does it mean for the two gradate transfer catchers we took on this month?

Both of them can play other positions. A.J. Lewis is a great athlete and can play almost anywhere. Robert Emery can play first or left field. Both are high 300 average type hitters. They’ll play. But I really think Opitz is gone and Dave Van Horn probably knows that.

Pigsfeat asks: Will the decision to have fans at ball games be up to the individual or the university? Is the real fear that someone will sue the university if they get sick after attending a game?

In terms of liability both. The universities will have to apply proper safety measures and the individual will probaby have to acknowledge certain risks. Look you can get the flu or any number of other communicable diseases from being in a crowd. I supposed there could be lawsuits. I don’t think they have a chance of succeeding unless it could be proved that the school in question did not observe proper safety proceedures.

Jhogg asks: Can you explain the importance of what coach Sutton meant to Razorback Basketball?

Some have mistakenly claimed that Eddie Sutton was the architect of basketball at Arkansas. There was good basketball played at Arkansas going back to the 1930’s under Glen Rose who was the first really good Razorback coach in that sport. Arkansas actually went to two Final Fours before Sutton got here. But what Eddie did was revive the sport. There had been one winning season in the previous eight years before he was hired. But the big thing is put butts into the seats. Barnhill Field House became Barnhill Arena crowds went from, two or there thousand to nine thousand plus. He also came along at a time when the NCAA tournament became a big draw on TV and Sutton took Arkansas to nine straight NCAA tournaments including a final 4. He gave the state big time national publicity in something besides football.

Jb carol wants to know: Will you share your impressions of the coaching search to replace coach Eddie Sutton compared to the coaching searches we see today, your feelings on the situation at the time and any cool stories?

I wasn’t here when Eddie as hired but Nate Allen told me that this was Frank’s first first big move as the AD. He had to play good money to get Eddie and he had to agree to renovate and expand Barnhill. Some fans were stunned Frank he would do that to support a sport that would compete with football. Remember that Frank was still the head football coach at the time. To me it was the beginning of a complete overhaul of the athletic department. Frank would hire John McDonnell for track and Tom Pucci for tennis. He built new tennis outdoor and indoor courts. He dd the same thing for track and he made big improvements in the baseball field for Norm DeBriyn. But it all started with hiring Sutton and the money he generated helped pay for those improvements in other sports.

Any cool stories?

I guess the best one for me is from the day Eddie asked me to put a wireless microphone on him at practice so he could show the fans what he was doing to improve he defense his players need to be playing. He went at it hard for about 30 minutes in practice. Then he stopped. Put his assistant coaches in charge and walked up toward his office. At first I thought he was going to the restroom so I took my headsets off. But when he didn’t come back I put them back to to see what was going on and to my surprise he was on the phone with Bobby Knight and both of them were complaining that basketball was becoming too much about offense. It was getting harder to get players to buy into defense. It was fascinating listening to these two future hall of fame coaches discuss the fundamentals of the game and what they each were doing about the issues they faced as coaches.

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