Ask Mike: Lose One to Win One, Cal Looks at Foreign Players & Why Did Softball Struggle at Home?

By Mike Irwin
on 2024-05-20 17:09 PM

Q. Our first question is from mousetown who asks: Is there something wrong with me? Dave Van Horn says and does the things that make no sense to me and yet most fans are cool with it. Like saying, “sometimes you have to lose a game to win a game.” What does that even mean?

A. I assume you’re asking me to explain DVH’s statement after Arkansas got run ruled by the Aggies and not my opinion on if there is something wrong with you. I think most fans understand that he was saying, ‘we won the west. We’re gonna host a regional and super regional. I’m not gonna waste my pitching on a game that means nothing now that we’re headed to post season play.’ I’m not sure he cares that much about the SEC tournament either. We’ll see but I think he will use his best pitchers sparingly in Hoover.

Some get it. Some hate it but that’s pretty much always been his philosophy.

Q. Valleyhog10 wants to know: Do you agree that this could be DVH’s best job of coaching in several years? From a pure talent standpoint the talent is not as evident as in former years with regard to position players. The corner outfielders can’t hit and Diggs is a mess right now. The pitching has been above average although there are concerns with Tygart and Molina and injuries have hurt the bullpen depth. Dave has patchworked this team together into a Western Division championship.

A. For me it’s too early to evaluate his coaching performance this season. What happens in post season play will determine that. I like what he did two seasons ago. The Hogs didn’t get a regional. Had to go to Stillwater. Won there. Won a super at North Carolina and came within three runs of making to the championship series of the college world series losing to the eventual national champions, Ole Miss. That was his best coaching job so far in my mind.

So far, this season has been mixed. Number one for a long time, dropping to two and then three or four as the schedule got tougher. I think the hitting issues with this team ultimately falls on Van Horn. He recruited them. It’s his job to see that if there are issues, those issues need to be resolved. If this team gets it together at the plate once NCAA tournament play starts I’ll adjust my opinion of the job he’s done.

Q. RazorAlex88 says: I’ve been quiet about this baseball season but I must say that our chances of generating sufficient offense to make it to Omaha are pretty razor slim. 43-12 and 1st in SEC West is awesome, but quite a few of those games had squandered opportunities (many stranded on base).

A. There’s no way to predict what will happen in regional and super regional play. So much of it depends on which teams the NCAA selection committee puts in the Fayetteville Regional. We saw that last year. We also saw it in 2021. TCU and North Carolina State were red hot at the right time. They went to Omaha. Arkansas ended both seasons with a thud.

However, the Hogs are 33-3 at home this season. They lost one game each to James Madison, Florida and Mississippi State. Nobody beat them twice in a series. They’d have to lose two to get knocked of a regional or super regional.

Once you get to Omaha pitching becomes huge because of the ballpark. If you look at past winners of the CWS a lot of them have done it in low scoring games.

Q. razorbackhobbs says: I agree with Mike. The SEC Tournament is meaningless. What I really want to know is will y’all be doing a show on Memorial Day after the selection show? Also, who do y’all think gets sent to the Fayetteville regional?

A. Yes we will do a show. I have no clue about the Fayetteville regional. I think the NCAA Baseball selection committee generally does a terrible job of filling out the teams for the 16 regionals. I can only conclude that they are heavily influenced by ESPN which is more interested in creating interesting TV matchups than rewarding some of the top seeds for the job they’ve done all season. TCU getting sent to Fayetteville last year is a good example. The Frogs should have either hosted their own regional or been a two seed in one of the 9 through 16 regionals.

Q. sglies asks: What did your Texas Tech buddies thing about the job Mason Molina and Hudson White did in the game that won Arkansas the SEC West? Were they happy or resentful that one of their former players had such a key role for the Hogs?

A. I mentioned it on a private Facebook group that several of us belong to. The reaction was pretty much yeah, okay whatever. Tech has crashed and burned in baseball ever since the Arkansas midweek series. They got into the Big 12 Tournament on the basis of a rain out. The only way they are going to make the playoffs is if they win the Big 12 Tournament which is not going to happen. Tech fans pretty much consider White and Molina or be traitors. Imagine Peyton Stovall and Hagan Smith transferring to Texas Tech after last season. I doubt most Razorback fans would have warm and fuzzy feelings about that, especially if Tech were having a great season and Arkansas was looking like Ole Miss this season.

Q: WVHogfan wants to know: Is there a chance that we will drop from the top 8 teams hosting a regional if we go winless at the SEC conference tournament?

A. Not likely with Arkansas’ strength of schedule and its SEC West title. I think DVH will use enough of his pitching on Wednesday and Thursday to win those games and after that, who cares? If Arkansas wins two or even one game in Hoover they’re a top 5 seed.

Q. Hogman80 says: Softball season ended with another heartbreaking end to the season. Why do do think softball struggles so much at home, but takes care of business on the road. The opposite of what we normally see.

A. Razorback baseball teams have done that several times in the past. Two years ago Arkansas had to go to Stillwater for regional play. They won there. Won a super regional at North Carolina and almost beat eventual national champion Ole Miss twice in Omaha. Last year the Hogs won the SEC but got knocked out of their own regional. The only explanation that has ever made any sense to me is that some players feel extra pressure to perform in front of their own fans so they tighten up. On the road they play loose and become a better team.

Q.Hogdogger says: Sounds like Cal is looking overseas for players. Is it true that a foreign player can’t collect NIL. That would save us some money if it’s true.

A. They cannot accept NIL money due to the rules of a student visa. Per their Visa they can only earn money on the side working for the school where they are enrolled. NIL money is private and does not come from the universities. They could accept NIL money from their own country.

Cal is indeed looking at a couple of foreign players. We’ll see if he signs them. I think we mentioned that week that Arkansas women’s basketball coach Mike Neighbors is also going after foreign players and has already landed two of them. He reportedly has no NIL money available so what he’s doing in recruiting is necessary and really smart.

Q. RazorRunner asks: Now that the football transfer portal is closed, are you able to give an overall assessment of whether our transfers in vs. transfers out was a net gain or loss? I know some of the major losses were KJ, Rocket, the linebackers, and maybe Snaxx.

A. A net gain for sure. They landed an extremely talented quarterback out of the portal in Taylen Green, who is set to replace KJ Jefferson. When Jacolby Criswell left after spring ball Arkansas brought in another experienced QB, Blake Boda who Bobby Petrino recruited when he was briefly at UNLV. At running back Rocket Sanders has been replaced by Utah Transfer Ja’Quinden Jackson who had an excellent spring. Post spring, when Dominique Johnson left, Pittman and his staff added Rodney Hill out of Florida State. He’ll be a third year sophomore at Arkansas. He’s a former 4-star running back from that state of Georgia.

At receiver Arkansas lost Sam Mbake but gained one of the most interesting transfers ever in former Major league baseball player Monte Harrison. He was a highly recruited high school receiver out of St. Louis but signed a major league baseball contract. He will be a walk on at Arkansas because his college education is being paid for by Major League Baseball. He is 28 years old. He is tall and fast and will add a maturity level to the team that could be significant.

Arkansas lost virtually all of its experienced linebackers including Pooh Paul but Xavian Sorey Jr., a Georgia transfer, looked ready good in the spring. Non transfer sophomore Brad Spence nailed the other spot down in the spring. This is the only area that might end up being a wash with last year, but we won’t know until some games are played this fall.

In the secondary, you mentioned Snaxx Johnson. He got beat out in the spring by Doneiko Slaughter who is a transfer from Tennessee.

Four transferred out of a really bad offensive line group from last year. But five were added. They are experienced, highly regarded players . The offensive line I saw this past spring was night and day different from the one Arkansas put on the field in 2023.

Some in the Internet crowd have been complaining about Arkansas’ 2024 transfer class but I really like it and I watched these guys really closely this past spring.

Q. Pigsfeat says: SEC has review options in football and baseball. Who is the one/many person/persons that have the final decision? Does this person/persons make all calls? Do all universities have a say in who is chosen? Is the person/persons chosen completely unbiased?

A. Member schools have no say in who is chosen to do video reviews. The person I contacted at Arkansas said that member schools don’t expect to be consulted because the process for approval for 14 and now 16 schools would be lengthy and could get political. Those school trust the SEC to hire the right people. There are going to be some disagreements but as long as the SEC doesn’t get a lot of complaints from various schools about calls made by a specific reviewer, they’re not going to make a change. Generally the SEC office keeps any discussions about video review complaints private. I would estimate that these reviews are about 95%+ correct and as long as you’ve got that the SEC office is not going to make public statements about it’s review process.

Q. GA Hogs asks: Do Students on athletic scholarships retain their full scholarship if they are also receiving NIL dollars?

A. They do and some fans have made the point that if players are going to get paid like professional athletes let them play for their college expenses were are currently free. Tuition, books, meals, housing, travel expenses in emergency situations. Which bring up a point. How much is all that worth? It would vary based which university you are attending but an average figure would be around $60,000 and that’s for 20 house a week dedicated to the sport your playing. You’re working a 20 hour a week, part time job and getting $60,000 for it. A plan proposed by the NCAA for Division 1 would add $30,000 more to that in NIL money. That’s more than a lot of fulltime jobs pay for sure. Also you end up with a college degree which can greatly add to your career earnings. That sorta of blows up the argument that athletes are getting ripped off.

Q. Eddylynn says: Last week you mentioned going to back Texas to speak at the memorial service for a high school teammate who recently passed away. He must have been really special in your life for you to do that. Could you tell us about him?

A. Jimmy Earl Joyce broke the color barrier in my high school. He was a freshman football player in the fall of ’62, the first year that my high school integrated. We actually had two black athletes on that team. Jimmy and another player named Butch Woods.

They were both really fast receivers and defensive backs. There were maybe two guys on the team and a handful of men around town who did not want them wearing a Morton uniform. Two days into two-a-days (preseason workouts) Butch got into a fight with a white player who make a racially charged remark to him. The coaches broke up the fight. Butch walked off the practice field and never came back.

Jimmy stayed. He put up with a lot of harassment but he came to practice every day and did his job. He and I became friends. I was so mad at how he was being treated I wanted us both to quit the team in protest. He refused, telling me, “I came to play football for my hometown. Nobody is gonna make me quit.”

It took a couple of seasons but when the people who didn’t want him on the team finally realized how committed he was to winning football games and how proud he was to wear the black and gold in spite of the way he was being treated, they were ashamed of their opposition to him. His senior year he was named the ‘Most Outstanding Athlete’ at Morton High School. It was amazing how he won those people over. He went into the military during the Vietnam era and then came back to his hometown where he opened his own business and worked until his health went bad.

His son played on a state championship basketball team in 1985. It was the only 2-A team in the history of the state of Texas to beat the 4-A and 3-A state champions in the same year. That team, from a town of 2,500 people, was literally the best high school basketball team in the state that year regardless of classification.

It was the Texas version of the movie Hoosiers.

At his memorial service I was amazed at all the people who showed up with stories about how Jimmy had helped them. Cousins, nieces, nephews and friends of his family. The best part was getting to meet his grandson K.K. Meier who was a freshmen defensive back at Nevada last year. We talked about Taylen Green who played in that conference before transferring to Arkansas. K.K. mentioned Eric Musselman who was at Nevada before took the Arkansas job. We discussed the transfer portal and the impact of NIL in college football. It was an amazing experience.

(Last updated: 2024-05-20 17:09 PM)