Another week brings more questions about Arkansas Athletics and our veteran analyst Mike Irwin tries to give you the best answers in our “Ask Mike” segment.
Q. Our first question this week comes from peakhog who says: The original upgrade to the Tyson Indoor Facility included new mezzanine seating and expanding the east side of the building. They resurfaced the track and have called it complete. Did the expansion get pushed back or is it really finished?
A. I would say it’s complete for the foreseeable future. With the revenue issues due to limited seating for football, basketball and baseball and the construction of a really nice facility for athletes on the south side of the outdoor track, I can’t see any more money going into track facilities for a while. Arkansas already has some of the best track facilities in college athletics. New lockerrooms for the men and women, essentially the same type operations facility that football, basketball and baseball have, is going to make what this school has for track even better.
Q. Lanny asks: What are you hearing on the NCAA Basketball Tournament for men and women? If played are the teams going to stay in a bubble as mentioned before?
A. There will be a bubble in the Indianapolis area for the men’s tournament and one in San Antonio for the women. Both of those areas have multiple arenas that can be used to play games. It’s the safest way to do this considering the COVID situation. Extensive travel will be eliminated. Believe me the women are getting the better end of the deal on this. There’s no comparison between central Indiana and central Texas in March and April as a travel destination.
Q.Swine American says: As a former Razorback Foundation Member I deeply resent that the New England Patriots have used my money to supplement their payroll when it comes to their employ of Bret Bielema. I know you are not a lawyer, but do you feel this is an argument that our foundation lawyers can or should make?
A. The Patriots claim that they paid Bielema fair market value for the work he did for them. The Foundation disagrees. They stopped paying his buyout money a long time ago claiming he violated the buyout terms of his contract. He says they still owe him 7 million dollars. They say they owe him nothing. Do I think they should make this argument? They already have and yes I would do it too. Will it work? I have no idea because as you pointed out I’m not a lawyer. But if I thought I could legally get out of playing seven million dollars to anybody, I would try it.
Q. HangTenHog wants to know: What are you hearing on the hill regarding the lingering financial effects of the pandemic? Clearly, there have been some retirements in staffing and such. But, do you see any near-term, lasting effects of the reduced revenue as a result of COVID? If so, what might they be?
A. I think Arkansas and other SEC school are in a lot better shape than most. Their TV revenue from football and basketball is helping. The one long term issue I’ll watch is the size of crowds post COVID. There are a lot of Arkansas season ticket holders in football and basketball who have posted on Facebook that they didn’t miss going to games. That watching on TV was far less of a hassle and they saved a lot of money. I’m sure this is true of fans of other schools. The question is, how much of this is talk? I still think Hog fans will show up if the various teams are winning at a high level. If their not, that’s where we could really see a difference, post COVID,
Q. oldhawg says: This comment was in a recent Hogville article: “Just a short time ago the men’s basketball team was being written off with rumors flying the players had quit on Eric Musselman.”
Truth or totally false rumors?
A. It’s true that it was a rumor. During Arkansas’ lopsided loss to Alabama Musselman could be seen in time-outs letting assistant coach David Patrick talk to the team. Coach Muss stood off to the side and did not participate. Supposedly this was out of frustration. When they got back home the rumor was that during practice the next day, when Musselman started coaching, some of the players told him to let his assistants take over. If he wasn’t going to coach them in games they didn’t want him coaching them in practice. Did this really happen? Without being there to see it in person I’d say no. Whatever the story was, Arkansas has now won four straight SEC games and is tied for third place in the SEC, a half game out of second. I’d say if there were any issues it’s behind them.
Q. Arkansas Redneck asks: How much will Arkansas pay ASTATE for the 2025 football game and if ASTATE wanted the game so bad, why is Arkansas paying?
A. Hunter Yurachek says the financial details are still being worked out. The game is still over four years away. He said he anticipates that the payout will be similar to what Arkansas has paid in the past to other Sun Belt conference teams. The same would be true of the ticket arrangement. I’m guessing that Arkansas will end up paying a little more to Arkansas State than is typical and will probably provide more tickets to the school. That’s because this game will almost certainly be a sellout. Arkansas will make more off the game so it will give a little more. That’s just speculation on my part. Why is Arkansas paying? Well Arkansas State may have wanted this game but they’re going to play it for free. No school would. This is really about making the warm Memorial Stadium Commission happy. They agreed to let Arkansas out of the Missouri contract so that no SEC games will be played in Little Rock. Arkansas had to give them something in return and they wanted the ASU game because it will sell out.
Q. sowmonella says: Why doesn’t the U of A just give up playing any games in War Memorial Stadium? The times have changed and Razorback Athletics has to accept it. Ole Miss in Jackson and Alabama in Birmingham have gone away. Why do we cling to the past?
A. Florida and Georgia still play an off campus SEC game every year in Jacksonville. There may be other schools that do this. I’m not sure. Arkansas does it because every athletic director going back to John Barnhill has believed that it’s important to have a presence in central Arkansas, the most populous part of the state. It generates fan support and helps recruiting there. The basketball and baseball teams play a game a year there. It looks like the football game is going to continue there too, at least for a while. The issue is War Memorial Stadium. While the basketball arena and baseball stadium in North Little Rock are up to SEC standards, War Memorial is not. They’ve made some improvements but expanding the size of it to play one game a year is not cost effective. In order to get the money for such an expansion Arkansas would probably have to agree to play two or three games there each year and that’s not going to happen. Sooner or later that contract will probably not be renewed.
Q. CowHog32 wants to know: Will there be teams on standby for the NCAA tournament in case a team has to drop out due to Covid? Obviously this would just be for the 1st round.
A. That’s a great question. As the teams gather in Indianapolis they’re going to be tested before they leave and after they get there. It would be a simple matter of adding the first team out on selection Sunday if COVID prevented a team from playing its first round game. But this is highly unlikely. Any team that makes the tournament is probably going to be in a bubble as soon as it is selected and maybe even before. Also, by that time I think the athletes involved will have been vaccinated.
Q. PorkSoda asks: Do we know why Julius Coates entered the transfer portal a month after announcing he was returning? Does it have to do with the change in DL coach? Can you shed some light on that situation?
A. From what I understand he did not mesh with the staff from the beginning. An off the field incident got him suspended. He worked it out and everything was supposedly fine. Then he announced he was leaving. I don’t think it had anything to do with his position coach leaving. I think the coaches were surprised by his decision. Andy Hawkins, who covers the Razorbacks, wrote an excellent piece on the transfer portal the other day. He basically said that coaches are getting paranoid because of the portal. It’s so easy to transfer these days that there’s no telling what will trigger a decision to leave. Sam Pittman admitted that the reason he held off so long in announcing his recent staff changes is because he wanted replacement coaches in house in case players at those positions would freak out and hit the portal. The transfer portal is not a good thing in my opinion.
Q. oldfart wants to know: Is the A State game a one-off at this time or is it scheduled to be recurring yearly?
A. One time only at this point. But Hunter Yuracheck, when discussing the game last week, hinted that it will be played more than once. My best guess is that after 2025, the Little Rock game will rotate between, UAPB, UCA and Arkansas State. I think once that game is played, the genie is out of the bottle. You can’t stop it. But I doubt it would be every played ever year.
Q. VBMark asks: Will the postponement of the A&M game help or hurt the Muss Bus?
A. I’ll be able to accurately answer that question tomorrow night. At first Musselman said that while it was regrettable that A&M had a COVID problem, the postponement of that game would give his injured players, guys like Justin Smith, Jaylin Williams and Desi Sills, more time to heal up. But by Friday he said he situation was looking better with them and he started talking about the problems that a one week layoff could cause. So really, who knows? I’m more worried about Kentucky than the layoff. Yes, they’ve had problems and currently have the worst overall record in the SEC. But they’ve played better in the SEC including wins over Florida and LSU. It’s all about how they play on certain nights. If they’re out of sync Arkansas should easily beat them. If they show up to play it could be a loss.
Q. UA71 says: Supposedly Frank Broyles’ rationale for not playing in-state schools was to avoid splitting fan base. Fans would have to choose sides. But I keep seeing reports now that it was about fear of losing to the other schools. What is your take on this?
A, It was both. He knew that if you started playing instate schools you would have to do it regularly. With schools like UCA, UAPB and Arkansas Little Rock, who have fans that are also Arkansas fans, you’d screw that up. With Arkansas State, they would gain support and Arkansas would lose some. Even if you were winning it would be a problem. Some fans love an underdog. Casual Arkansas fans, if the Razorbacks had a string of wins against Arkansas State, might switch sides. So win or lose it wasn’t good for Arkansas. But one of the biggest things he worried about was Arkansas State becoming a rivalry game for Arkansas fans. There’s nothing wrong with two teams in the same conference being rivals. Alabama-Auburn, Ohio State-Michigan, those are great games. But Frank didn’t want Arkansas fans to make an Arkansas State game bigger than a SWC game or SEC game. I think his concern on this issue was well founded.
Make sure to ask your questions each week by submitting them in the Ask Mike forum on Hogville.net or email the sports office at firstname.lastname@example.org and Mike will answer your questions.